Advanced Nanotube Application and Manufacturing (ANAM) Initiative

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Engineering

Abstract

Carbon Nanotubes (CNTs) offer extremely useful functional material properties via their strength, electrical and thermal conductivities, and could revolutionize a number of applications - if they could only be produced in large quantities with bulk properties comparable to individual CNTs. The mass production of CNT materials requires trade-offs between throughput, functionality, cost and ease of assembly, which have yet to be optimised. The Advanced Nanotube and Manufacturing (ANAM) Initiative brings together a world-leading group of material scientists, manufacturing and application engineers to effect the scaled up production of functionalized CNTs by developing fundamental insights and new approaches to manufacture CNT materials. This Initiative will provide pathways to large scale CNT production which can be directly deployed in the UK industrial sector.

The overall aims of the ANAM Initiative are to
1. Increase CNT film, fibre and mat production capacity in order to supply commercial quantities;
2. Advance the functionality of mass-produced CNT materials; and
3. Develop prototypes using CNT-based advanced functional materials to serve UK industrial needs.

The research covered by this Initiative will be conducted as an integrated effort between target industries and the academic investigators, focused on the mass production of CNT materials tailored to emerging industrial applications in the UK. The Initiative will simultaneously bolster our scientific understanding of CNT reactors, including complex fluid, particle, chemistry, molecular and thermal dynamics, while providing a pilot system for development of in-situ analysis techniques applicable to a variety of nanomaterial reactor systems.

Initiative research will be organized into themes focusing on high throughput, advanced functionality and material applications. The high throughput theme will investigate methods of achieving increased production with focused efforts on scaling CNT hot-wall reactors to high-Reynolds number flow, as well as innovative new approaches via atmospheric plasma CNT systems. The advanced functionality theme will develop novel methods of imparting the functional behaviour required by specific end-users. Initial efforts will seek to maximize inherent CNT anisotropic electrical and thermal conduction, specific strength and catalytically activated surface area phenomena. Advances in the physical and chemical nature of CNTs will be engineered by alignment of CNTs via charge-mediated gas-phase self-assembly procedures (physical), and new in-situ CVD coating processes (chemical). Industrial consortium input will lead the material applications theme in proposing CNT functional material projects, such as light-weight, electrical conductors for motors and high-surface area, high-activity catalysts. Material requirements identified in the materials applications projects will serve as constraints to the optimization work within the high throughput and advanced functionality themes, focusing the plethora of possible directions to those of use to UK industry.

The ANAM Initiative's impact will serve to enhance the capabilities of UK industry in incorporating CNT materials within end-use products to achieve novel advanced functionality. Dissemination of findings will occur at bi-annual consortium meetings and a monthly seminar series. All intellectual property will be offered to the consortium members, while publication rights will be maintained by the academic institutions. The generated knowledge will translate research outcomes to world-leading UK produced high-value goods.

Planned Impact

The ANAM Initiative is structured to deliver high-impact research that adds value to UK industry manufacturing and product development. The consortium of industrial partners, steering and focusing the research, is the essence of the project. The consortium contains a mix of CNT production and end-use CNT applications companies. The connection to CNT production allows manufacturing advances realised by the research to be quickly and smoothly transferred into industrial scale manufacturing techniques and knowledge which, in turn, will create a centre of CNT manufacturing excellence within the UK. The aim of this Initiative is to develop the UK's CNT technology capability such that the UK becomes the undisputed global leader in CNT applications.

End-user industrial partners, representing a variety of sectors such as aerospace, automotive and consumer appliances, will be able to select and create projects designed to enhance their current product offerings through incorporation of functional CNT materials. By tailoring the research to the real needs of industry, the potential economic impact of the research will be greatly increased and the time taken to bring the technology to market reduced. In constructing prototypes specific to each of these diverse industrial partners, the Initiative will create credible proof of concept demonstrators in a multiplicity of sectors.

Customising the research to industrial requirements will be a continuous process. With bi-annual meetings, the industrial partners will participate in the shaping of the research agenda, and be privy to the latest findings relevant to CNT synthesis and applications across a range of industries. The collaboration across industrial sectors will provide a unique opportunity for industrial researchers and academics to connect innovations in diverse applications.

The Initiative will hold a roadmapping session at the project outset to ensure that the research criteria reflect the long term needs of the industry while accounting for recent developments. The exercise will allow the Initiative to plan its technological capabilities in concert with consortium's commercial and strategic goals.

As well as the obvious impacts for the producers and manufacturers, there are multiple opportunities for the Initiative's research to have significant wider benefits for society and for the UK economy. The research areas currently anticipated would see great economic and societal benefits; for example, replacing heavy copper films with cheaper and lighter CNT-based films within an aerospace application would not only have the immediately obvious manufacturing cost benefits, but also the fiscal, health and environmental benefits of reduced fuel usage, when used in automotive, would not only see cost savings, but also improve the reliability and safety of vehicles.

By founding the ANAM Initiative on an industrial consortium, impact has been given primary importance within the project. The societal and economic benefits will be significant; not only will the industrial partners gain from the world-leading technology, generating profits and employment, but in creating a global centre of excellence in the field of CNT applications, the Initiative will attract new R&D investment to the UK. The potential spin-offs of this research could see major new industrial sectors form and thrive within the UK economy, creating significant additional, non-financial benefits for the UK population, for example, improving health and well-being of the population or reducing the environmental impact of technologies. The Initiative will continue to find methods and avenues to enhance and increase the impact of its research to benefit the UK economy, society and environment.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Ulster University-
• Have developed a method for the one-step synthesis of luminescent carbon nanoparticles (NPs) via laser irradiation of a graphite target. This is a simple approach for the fabrication of carbon dots with tuneable photoluminescence (PL) that differs from the other preparation methods as no post-passivation step is required. Ulster has developed an injection system based on an aerosol (for pre-synthesized nanoparticles) or on an atmospheric pressure plasma (for in-situ synthesis/radical injection) is being developed for continuous supply of nanoparticles (NPs) to be embedded in forming carbon nanotube (CNT) mats/fibres of for CNT functionalization. The aerosol system is based on a commercial aerosol coupled to the furnace outlet. The plasma system is a custom-built RF (or low frequency) design with high versatility for the delivery of NPs or radical species..

• Have demonstrated an entirely new method of nanoparticle chemical synthesis based on liquid droplet irradiation with ultralow (<0.1 eV) energy electrons which leads to a number of important and unique benefits. In a proof-of-principle demonstration, small-diameter Au nanoparticles (~4nm) with tight control of polydispersity have been obtained.

Cambridge University-
• Have analysis of continuous synthesis of 100% CNT material via a floating catalyst chemical vapour deposition (FC-CVD) aerogel method. They have found that the process is not driven by injection conditions, occurs exclusively in reactor exit zone. The process is driven by re-nucleation of catalytic nanoparticles and pyrolysis species. C13 use reveals CNT formation is not influenced by C present in catalyst precursors.

• Extrapolating the properties of individual CNTs into macro-scale CNT materials using a continuous and cost effective process offers enormous potential for a variety of applications.

• Work has looked at correlating information on decomposition of reactants, axial catalyst nanoparticle dynamics and the morphology of the resultant CNTs and shows how these are strongly related to the temperature and chemical availability within the reactor. For the first time, in-situ measurements of catalyst particle size distributions coupled with reactant decomposition profiles and a detailed axial SEM study of formed CNT materials reveal specific domains that have important implications for scale-up. A novel observation is the formation, disappearance and reformation of catalyst nanoparticles along the reactor axis, caused by their evaporation and re-condensation and mapping of different CNT morphologies as a result of this process. Modelling of molecular dynamics and Langevine dynamics of CNT bundelling occurs at much faster timescales than CNT collision. Thermal plasma temperatures have peak at 3000 to 6000K. CNTs respond to magnetic fields, which can harnessed for alignment and control of aerogel. We have been reviewing all CNT floating catalyst CVD synthesis methods throughout the world to obtain reliable trends with a view to scale-up
Exploitation Route These findings will be used in the scaling of the process. Understanding the fundamentals science involved in the production of CNTs will allow better reactor design and a more efficient process to a system suitable for commercialisation. Materials applications in a range of industrial applications once scale-up is achieved.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Energy,Transport

 
Description The findings from this award have directly lead to the award of IUK funding for the industrial scales-up of the plasma synthesis process. The award is jointly held with consortium members (Q-Flo and Tortech). The project will begin in March for 36 months. The award number is 2481.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine
Impact Types Economic

 
Title Continuous Production of Carbon Nanotubes with Microwave Plasma 
Description A microwave plasma reactor is being developed for continuous production of carbon nanotube (CNT) materials. The system is a surface wave plasma design with a microwave frequency of 2.45 GHz and a power range of 0.6 to 6.0 kW. It can handle a range of gases including nitrogen, hydrogen, argon, and helium, as well as precursor materials suspended in the carrier gas. Li, Ya-Li, Ian a Kinloch, and Alan H Windle. 2004. "Direct Spinning of Carbon Nanotube Fibers from Chemical Vapor Deposition Synthesis." Science (New York, N.Y.) 304 (5668): 276-78. doi:10.1126/science.1094982. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact In relation to a conventional furnace, the plasma system is able to deliver energy more efficiently since it heats the precursors and carrier gas directly rather than relying on thermal diffusion from the tube walls. In this way, the plasma system is a good candidate for scaled-up CNT production because a high throughput can be achieved with a small volume. Moreover, the temperature of the plasma is in the range of 5000 to 10000°C, and as a result, cheap, readily available powdered reagents can be used which would not normally vaporize at the temperatures achieved by a tube furnace. 
 
Title Dual-mode Thermal Conductivity Measurement Method 
Description The conventional transient thermal conductivity measurements typically involve relatively complicated data analysis and are contingent upon the accurate determination of specific heat capacity and density, which could be very difficult for novel nano-materials. On the other hand, the common steady state thermal conductivity measurements rely on the fact that the length of the heat flow is short and the cross section is large. So only adapt to thin thermal insulators. Then the convection and the thermal radiation can be neglect. However, this assumption may bring in vital deviation, because the relative high thermal conductivity and the large radio of surface area to the volume. Here we developed a dual mode thermal conductivity measurement method, in which high vacuum condition are introduced so that the convection influence could be mostly eliminated. At the same time, the temperature profiles of reference sample and tested specimen are detected using an infrared camera. Thanks to this modification, the temperature on the sample would not be affected by the relatively large heat capacity of the thermocouples. Meanwhile, the dedicated design of measurement stage as well as associate software guarantee a reliable thermal conductivity values of novel nano-materials with constructive uncertainties at various temperature operated. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Allows a rapid analysis of the thermal conductivity in small samples of nano-materials. This will allow a quicker feedback from preparation/ modification of CNT samples to inherent properties. 
 
Title Nanoparticle/radicals injection downstream of a furnace for continuous production of carbon nanotubes 
Description An injection system based on an aerosol (for pre-synthesized nanoparticles) or on an atmospheric pressure plasma (for in-situ synthesis/radical injection) is being developed for continuous supply of nanoparticles (NPs) to be embedded in forming carbon nanotube (CNT) mats/fibres of for CNT functionalization. The aerosol system is based on a commercial aerosol coupled to the furnace outlet. The plasma system is a custom-built RF (or low frequency) design with high versatility for the delivery of NPs or radical species. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact In relation to the CNT synthesis without the injection system, this set-up is able to deliver composite mats/fibers with different properties and potential application. In this way, the radicals or NPs are embedded in the CNT mats/fibers before this are fully formed so that CNT/NP or CNT-functionalization is achieved for a larger extent of the CNTs. A post-synthesis treatment with NPs or radicals would only lead to the treatment of the outer surface of the CNT bundles. 
 
Title adjoint-based data assimilation of a CNT furnace model 
Description Our research team has successfully applied adjoint-based data assimilation to thiophene decomposition in a carbon nanotube furnace. This technique optimally incorporates experimental data from the group into a model so that the model becomes more accurate and therefore more predictive. This is a necessary precursor for improvement of the design of the furnace. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Within the group, this tool improves our confidence in the physical models used by the group. This research tool is in development and has not yet had an impact beyond the group. 
 
Description BAE Industrial Collaboration 
Organisation BAE Systems
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The Universities of Cambridge and Ulster have been working closely with BAE Systems to understand their specific application requirements and needs and to use these in setting research priorities. This collaborative approach will ensure that the needs of the end-user are met. The research team are working hard to scale the process for making CNT fibres such that in-house testing can be done by BAE and other collaborators.
Collaborator Contribution A representative from BAE Systems has attended WebEx and face-to face meeting, at their own cost, to review the project. they have been forthcoming in providing information on their industrial applications for which the CNT fibre would be best suited and for which the specific advantages of CNT materials would be most valuable. This has helped researchers can set priories and targets for their research.
Impact The collaboration is in an early stage.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Magna Industrial collaborator 
Organisation Magna Services of America Inc
Country United States 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Working with the industrial partner to meet the application targets required by the collaborator
Collaborator Contribution Attending WebEx and face-to face meeting, at their own cost, to review the project. Providing commercial data specific to the company's application requirements and from which the researchers can set benchmarks and targets.
Impact The collaboration is in early stages and as yet has no outcomes.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Marshall Aerospace Industrial Collaboration 
Organisation Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Taking on board targets and requirements from Marshall in setting research priorities, this collaborative approach will ensure that the needs of the end-user are met.
Collaborator Contribution Representatives from Marshall have attended WebEx and face-to face meeting, at their own cost, to review the project. Providing commercial data specific to the company's application requirements and from which the researchers can set benchmarks and targets.
Impact The collaboration is in early stage.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Q Flo industrial Collaborator 
Organisation Q-FLO Limited
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The University of Cambridge have been working on the process for making CNT fibre, which will be scaled up for production by Q Flo
Collaborator Contribution Q Flo have been making process improvements which have been feed back to the University of Cambridge/ University of Ulster and to another industrial partner (Tortech Nanofibre) for them to implement in their research scale reactor systems.
Impact Process improvements through sharing of information between research at both University partners and Q Flo and Tortech Nanofibre
Start Year 2015
 
Description Siemens AG - In-house testing of Fibre CNTs 
Organisation Siemens AG
Country Germany 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Siemens undertook in-house testing of the CNT yarn produced by the University of Cambridge. Siemens is looking at using this material in one of their customer applications and were interested in the electrical properties.
Collaborator Contribution In-house testing. Sharing of results and applications to help direct the research programme towards specific industrial applications
Impact Research directed to look at specific applications and targets in this sector
Start Year 2016
 
Description Tortech Nanofibre 
Organisation Tortech Nanofibre
Country Israel 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution University of Cambridge has been working in collaboration with Tortech Nano Fibre to ensure any process improvements for the synthesis of CNTS is shared. University of Cambridge is testing CNT material made at scale by Tortech Nano Fibre for industrial application.
Collaborator Contribution Tortech Nano Fibre has been providing commercial scale samples for testing at the University and also for other industrial collaborators. Tortech will be implementing any process improvements that are found within the University research to their industrial scale synthesis of CNT materials.
Impact Process improvements.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Industrial Road Mapping Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact ANAM kick-off meeting and workshop in which a variety of interested industrial companies attend a road mapping event. The aim was to enable various industries to put forward their key desires and objectives for the application of carbon nanotubes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015