Nanoscience company to produce super-strength carbons

Flinders University

Friday, 29 June, 2018

Nanoscience company to produce super-strength carbons

Exciting new applications for one of the world’s hardest materials will soon be commercialised by a newly formed nanoscience spinout company.

The Ig Nobel Prize-winning Vortex Fluidic Device (VFD), invented at Flinders University, will be manufactured for commercial sales by 2D Fluidics — formed through a collaboration between First Graphene and the Flinders Institute for NanoScale Science & Technology. The company will use the device to produce environmentally safe supplies of high-grade graphite at a price and scale viable for use in energy storage devices, coatings, polymers and other modern materials.

The VFD enables new approaches to producing a wide range of materials such as graphene and sliced carbon nanotubes, with the bonus of not needing to use harsh or toxic chemicals in the manufacturing process (which is required for conventional graphene and shortened carbon nanotube production). This clean processing breakthrough will also greatly reduce the cost and improve the efficiency of manufacturing high-quality, super-strength carbon materials.

“Nanocarbon materials can replace metals in many products … and the commercial availability of such materials by 2D Fluidics will make a big impact,” said Professor Colin Raston, who invented the device. “It also has exciting possibilities in industry for low-cost production where the processing is under continuous flow, which addresses scaling up — often a bottleneck issue in translating processes into industry.”

Professor Colin Raston with a laboratory prototype Vortex Fluidic Device.

Carbon nanotubes are minute, tubular cylinders of carbon atoms with extraordinary mechanical, electrical, thermal, optical and chemical properties. They have been described as having 200 times the strength and five times the elasticity of steel, with five times the electrical conductivity, 15 times the thermal conductivity and 1000 times the current capacity of copper — and with almost none of the environmental or physical degradation issues common to metals. The VFD and a laser have been used to cut the super hard carbon nanotubes at an average length of 170 nm using only water and a solvent.

2D Fluidics will use the VFD to prepare carbon nanomaterials for commercial sales, which will be used in the plastics industry for applications requiring new composite materials and by the electronics industry for circuits, supercapacitors and batteries. They will also be deployed by research laboratories around the world.

In addition, 2D Fluidics will be manufacturing the VFD, which is expected to become an in-demand state-of-the-art research and teaching tool for thousands of universities worldwide. According to Professor Raston, “The commercialisation of the device will have a big impact in the research and teaching arena.”

Flinders University began collaborating with First Graphene last year and has been supported by a $1.5 million Cooperative Research Centre Project grant through the Australian Government’s Advance Manufacturing Fund. First Graphene’s Managing Director, Craig McGuckin, said working with Professor Raston and his team over the past 12 months has resulted in decisive steps towards the commercialisation of the nanocarbon materials.

Top image caption: Raston Lab research associate Dr Kasturi Vimalanathan uses a carbon nanotube model to illustrate how the Vortex Fluidic Device can cut the super-hard nanomaterial using laser light and water or non-toxic liquids under continuous flow.

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