Design and green manufacturing of functional nanomaterials

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Chemical & Biological Engineering

Abstract

Inorganic nanomaterials are widely used in diverse applications such as oil refining, food, coatings, cosmetics, textile, transport, healthcare and electronics and communication, with a global market worth 20 billion EURO. A recent inventory has documented >1800 consumer products that contain nanomaterials and many more non-commodity products such as industrial catalysts and separation media. However, there are limitations in terms of the sustainability of and the attainable product quality from current manufacturing.

Industry uses wet (chemical precipitation) and dry (flame or plasma) processes for manufacturing nanomaterials. Despite the advances in the latter, it has been shown that the wet processes are lot more efficient than the dry processes. Anastas and co-workers performed a sustainability analysis for wet processes, which revealed that nanomaterials manufacturing is significantly wasteful when compared to the production of bulk chemicals. This creates an enormous burden on the environment and results in unsustainable manufacturing.

Further, some of the key properties of nanomaterials cannot be obtained with existing manufacturing methods. Lab-based methods exist for synthesising nanomaterials of desired properties, however, these methods are very wasteful and uneconomical to scale-up. Hence such high value materials remain at small scales and commercially inaccessible.

A World Technology Evaluation Center report, commissioned by the USA's National Science Foundation, explicitly recommended that achieving green manufacturing by 2020 is the "holy grail" and that future research should focus on emulating natural designs to develop scalable processes for manufacturing nanomaterials [Ref. Roco et al., Nanotechnology Research Directions for Societal Needs in 2020, NSF and WTEC, 2010]. I have developed fully synthetic novel bioinspired approaches to nanomaterials, with rapid reactions (takes only 1-5 minutes) at room temperature in water, producing almost no waste, yet providing superior control of product properties. This method can reduce the energy usage of the reaction step by ~95% when compared with a traditional precipitation process and the materials would as cheap as the lowest grade commercial counterparts, yet provide significantly better quality and properties. However, the bulk of research on bioinspired synthesis has been performed at small scales. The bioinspired method cannot be scaled-up yet because there is a critical gap in our knowledge on its scale dependence.

This fellowship aims to apply bioinspired routes to deliver sustainable ("green"), low cost and scalable technologies for manufacturing high value functional nanomaterials. I will develop scale-up rules by modelling and experimentally measuring mixing mechanisms. I will design process chemistry to produce bespoke nanomaterials and demonstrate pathways for larger-scale manufacturing. This fellowship has a great potential to take the UK to the world leading stage in sustainable manufacturing of bespoke nanomaterials.

Planned Impact

This fellowship has the potential to make significant impacts to the scale-up knowledge, the quality and the cost of nano-products, waste-reduction and job creation. Given the large markets for nanomaterials, the impact will be high.

Industry will benefit from the green technology by producing high value nanomaterials at low costs. This will increase their competitive advantage and enable the establishment of manufacturing in the UK. Due to the high quality of nanomaterials, it is likely that there will be a large potential for entering new markets as well as exporting these nano-products.

The society will see improved sustainability of nanomaterials manufacturing by reduced energy and resource usage. Further, the fellowship outcomes have the potential to improve access to high quality products to the public at affordable costs. Considering the planned outreach and public engagement activities, the general public will have a better understanding and appreciation of these new green manufacturing technologies.
 
Description EPSRC Capital Award for Core Equipment
Amount £549,334 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/T024526/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2019 
End 05/2021
 
Description VVR 
Organisation Queen's University Belfast
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have initiated collaborations with an academic in the chemical engineering department on using specialised reactors/mixing devices. The team has visited for a seminar and discussions, including sharing results.
Collaborator Contribution The collaborator has visited us to discuss future steps and shared the design of their reactor. They have also offered time for use on their reactor to test our synthesis.
Impact No outputs yet.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Conference presentation at MC14 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A talk was given on "Bioinspired Green Chemistry to Design Sustainable and Scalable High Value Nanosilica" in the porous materials section at the RSC organised MC14 conference in Birmingham
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Invited presentation at the Nature-Inspired Engineering conference, Italy 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact An invited presentation on the topic of Discovery, applications and scale-up of bioinspired nanomaterials at the ECI conference.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Invited speaker at the KTN Emerging Technologies symposium on Nature inspired solutions, Edinburgh, 13 Feb 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This event was organised by the KTN and Heriot Watt University to build community in the area of nature inspired solutions. The talk and discussions sparked interesting future avenues, e.g. bidding for joint projects, building a UK-wide network.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Invited speaker at the PCTG symposium on Energising entrepreneurship in the chemical sector, 15/11/19 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A presentation on Bioinspired green nanomaterials: Journey from lab to manufacturing. A few industry delegates were interested in follow-up on our new technologies for commercialisation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Invited speaker at the RSC Process Chemistry Technology Group Launch Symposium, 19/11/2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was an invited presentation on the topic of From discovery to scale-up of bespoke green nanomaterials. The symposium was organised by the Royal Society of Chemistry's PCTG special interest group (SIG). As a result of this successful event and the match with the SIG's agenda, Siddharth was selected to work on the PCTG's committee.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.procchem.group/
 
Description Lydgate school visit 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact During this all-day school visit, we engaged with 120 Y6 students and their teachers in various activities relevant to bioinspired approaches to sustainable materials and manufacturing. As part of that, we included hands-on activities on energy storage, reactor engineering, nature inspired technologies, and manufacturing/process engineering.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://www.lydgatejunior.co.uk/BlogRetrieve.aspx?PostID=809820&A=SearchResult&SearchID=1628758&Objec...
 
Description Multiple presentations at the ACS conference, San Diego 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 6 presentations (including 2 invited) were given at the American Chemical Society's annual conference. The topics included:
Application of Bioinspired Green Chemistry to Design Sustainable and Scalable High Value Nanosilica
Magnesiothermic reduction to produce porous silicon for lithium-ion batteries
Green nanomaterials: Journey from lab to manufacturing
Bioinspired nanomaterials for water remediation
Scale-up of MOFs for Sustainable and Commercial Manufacturing
Understanding interfacial interactions to unlock the potential of bioinspired nanomaterials
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Seminar at Queens University Belfast, 15/05/2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was an invited departmental seminar.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Symposium on Bridging the gap between bio-inspired nanomaterial chemistry and sustainable manufacture 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The event combines a one day showcase and half day development workshop. The former will include oral and poster contributions from academia and industry both within and beyond the SynBIM project: reporting on recent progress and exploring the wider vision. The workshop aims to engage funders and R&D specialists from industry and academia to explore future opportunities, new directions and building collaboration.

The symposium included:
Bringing together stakeholders to drive the development of nanomaterials through discovery and scale-up
Giving emphasis to the full scope of experimental and modelling interests, and to both translational and fundamental research
Attendance and contributions from across academia, industry, government and the third sector are welcome
Poster sessions/prizes and flash presentations
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL http://www.synbim.co.uk/symposium.html
 
Description Visit to Jnana Probodhini School, Pune 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A presentation to Y9 school students about nanomaterials and bioinspiration.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019