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Nanotechnology Prevalent Among 2009 R&D 100 Competition Winners

Written by Jeff Morse, Ph.D
January 26, 2010

R&D 100 Logo Nanotechnology was a common theme contributing to many of last year’s R&D 100 competition winners. The competition, sponsored by R&D Magazine, considers technologies transitioning from research laboratories to commercialization, and selects winning submissions based on several figures of merit including intellectual innovation, market application, and technical maturity. This years winners included a range of micro and nanotechnologies covering a range of categories such as energy and power, electronics, microscopy, analytical instruments, nanomaterials, processes, and nanomanufacturing. While many were specific nanotechnologies, others were enabled through incorporation of nanoscopic elements. Examples of this year’s field of competition are described below, and additional information can be found at R&D Magazine.

Energy Devices

The field of energy and power included solar photovoltaics, lithium ion batteries, and advanced fuel cell catalysts.

Nanocrystal Solar Cells: Developed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, Calif., and Solexant, San Jose, Calif., these ultra-thin solar cells are based on dense nanocrystal films but without any organic materials. They have an efficiency potential of about 25%, matching that of silicon cells. In a nanocrystal solar cell, the two flat semiconductor layers are replaced by two types of nanocrystals whose light absorption and transport properties can be highly controlled in the design and synthesis of the material. More...

High Capacity Lithium Ion Batteries: Li-ion batteries, which feature much larger energy capacities, are now being used for heavy-duty applications such as electric or hybrid vehicles. Internal short-circuits, leading to thermal runaway, is a common safety concern, especially among heavy-duty, high-power applications. STOBA Battery Technology, pioneered by the Industrial Technology Research Institute, Hsinchu, Taiwan, employs a self-terminating hyper-branched oligomer in its battery architecture to minimize this risk. More....

Advanced Fuel Cell Catalysts: In order for fuel cells to be accepted on a commercial basis, there is a pressing need for new ways to optimize the efficiency of platinum (Pt) usage. Realizing the limitations of commercially available materials based on solid platinum nanospheres, researchers at Sandia National Laboratories took their R&D in a new direction. NanoCoral Dendritic platinum nanostructures for renewable energy applications are the first shaped Pt nanostructures, offering an opportunity for improving the cost and efficiency of fuel cells. More....

Nanomaterials

Advanced materials R&D has led to new high strength materials, enhanced flow properties for polymer-based processing, replacement of toxic thermoplastics used in PVC products, nanocomposites having unique thermal properties, and ordered block co-polymer systems having unique mechanical properties.

Nanomaterials increase wear plate toughness: The NanoSteel Company, Idaho Falls, Idaho, developed the Super Hard Steel Wear Plate for mining, processing, and industrial applications, by going small. By utilizing its proprietary nanomaterial platform, the company refined the microstructure of its nanomaterial products to create steel alloys that are harder, stronger, and tougher than conventional steel materials. More....

Nanostructures help polymers go with the flow: POSS Flow Additives from Hybrid Plastics, Inc., Hattiesburg, Miss., are a family of high temperature, nanostructured chemicals used as alloying agents to increase the flow of thermoplastic polymers, especially for high performance, high temperature thermoplastic polymers. These flow aids are based on POSS nanostructured chemicals, which have a hybrid organic/inorganic structure that combines a thermally robust silsesquioxane core with a compatibilizing organic shell. More....

Olefin polymer an alternative to toxin-laden PVC: Flex Olé TPO Polymers from Dynamic Modifiers LLC, Atlanta, Ga., are a family of environmentally sustainable, custom engineered thermoplastic olefin (TPO) resin systems that can be used to replace flexible polyvinyl chloride (PVC) compositions without disruption to the existing polymer extrusion. The Flex Olé polymers are fully recyclable, meet or exceed the performance requirements of PVC, and avoid the use of a variety of toxins common in various applications of PVC, including dioxins and pthalates. More....

Battle against damaging heat finds new hero: CarAl heat transfer material, developed by Applied Nanotech Inc., Austin, Texas, and Advanced Material Technologies Co. Ltd., Fuji-shi, Shizuoka, Japan, overcomes technical impasses of conventional heat transfer materials in its combination of heat diffusivity, high heat conductivity, low density, and thermal coefficient of expansion similar to electronics packaging materials. The CarbAl material does not expand and contract as much as traditional heat sink materials so it is not a thermal mismatch and does not create related stresses. More....

Alternating blocks put polymers on performance path: A new catalytic block technology developed by The Dow Chemical Company, Freeport, Texas, has opened the door to a new type of block copolymers with predictable, controllable chains of various type of blocks. The INFUSE Olefin Block Copolymers (OBCs) feature chains with alternating blocks of “hard” (highly rigid) and “soft” (highly elastomeric) segments that are created and assembled via a patent pending shuttling process. Because the alternating block types provide highly differentiated material properties along the chain, the traditional relationship of flexibility and heat resistance in the polymer is disrupted to a beneficial effect. More....

Electronics

Advanced low power processors incorporate high-k dielectrics within the 45nm process lines for next generation mobile computing.

Small processor enables mobile society: The Intel Atom Processor, designed to facilitate network communications on small devices, has enabled an array of new mobile devices such as netbooks and mobile Internet devices. Intel Corp.’s (Santa Clara, Cailf.) Intel Atom Processor, featuring Intel's smallest processor and built with the world's smallest transistors, gives device makers and software vendors the ability to innovate around a low-power design that enables users to take the Internet wherever they go. These chips are manufactured on Intel’s 45-nm process with Hi-k metal gate technology. More....

Analytical

Nano-enabled components provide improved performance in materials and chemical analysis.

Two techs in one yields high-flow, high ionization: With the Ultrasensitive Electrospray Ionization Mass Spectrometry Source and Interface, scientists from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Wash., combined a multi-nanoelectrospray ionization source (ESI) with a multi-inlet mass spectrometry (MS) interface. The union of these two technologies provides ionization efficiencies that were before only achievable from very-low-flow-rate, specialized separations. Now it can be used with common, higher-flow-rate analyses. The combination has a number of advantages, including 100% liquid chromatography effluent use efficiency as opposed to 5% for a conventional ESI source. More....

Microscopy

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Atomic force microscopy: (AFM) probes—components used to image and manipulate materials at the nanoscale—are prone to wear and are considered disposable. A new type of probe, NaDiaProbes, has reached the marketplace after development by Advanced Diamond Technologies, Inc., Romeoville, Ill., Univ. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa., and Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisc. The key innovation is a type of diamond—an ultrananocrystalline diamond—that takes advantage of the mineral’s properties by achieving extremely small grain sizes for extra hardness More....

Nanomanufacturing

Advanced Nanomanufacturing Processes offer a range of new ad unique capabilities including ultra-precision machining for production of future fusion targets, in situ control of carbon materials structural dimensions, controlled thermal processing for low temperature flecible substrates, and advanced nanoparticle production.

Nanoscale pore size control supercharges versatile carbon: Porous carbon (activated carbon or charcoal) is regarded as the most versatile porous material, with a variety of applications, ranging from gas storage to molecular sieves, catalyst supports, absorbents, electrodes in batteries, supercapacitors, and capacitive desalination. The performance of all of these technologies depends heavily on pore size, and, until the recent arrival of Tunable Nanoporous Carbon, no manufacturing methods were able to provide the control of the pore size. Starting with an inorganic precursor, such as silicon carbide, materials scientists at Y-Carbon, Inc., King of Prussia, Pa., and Drexel Univ., Philadelphia, Pa., etched the metal or metalloid from the carbide in a halogen environment, such as chlorine, at elevated temperature. In this process, as metal is extracted layer-by-layer from the rigid metal carbide lattice, atomic-level control of porosity is possible. More....

In flexible electronics, it’s all about protecting the paper. Most of the R&D in printed electronics has been toward developing functional materials such as inks. Great progress has been made in this area, but the reality of any cheap printing is that the substrate is either paper or plastic. At the temperatures required for curing or sintering functional inks, these tend to degrade or decompose. PulseForge 3100 with Pulse Thermal Processing is a solution to this problem, developed jointly by NovaCentrix, Austin, Texas, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tenn. The process technology is based on curing technologies capable of processing high-temperature functional inks and thin-film materials on low-temperature substrates. More....

Taking the chaos out of nanoparticle production. The ability to harness a larger portions of solar radiation will be crucial in the future, and will depend not on just revolutionary solar cell designs, but also on the creation of breakthrough nanomaterials. One such material, Precision Nanoparticles, was the result of serendipitous experimentation by a team of researchers at Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho Falls, and Idaho State Univ., Pocatello. Researchers were able to formalize a supercritical fluids-based technique, which can now produce affordable, uniform (+/- 0.2 nm) particles in a designated diameter and a wide range of sizes (less than 1 to 100 nm). The process does not require special handling such as cleanrooms, as is common with the materials currently used to manufacture solar cells and other products. More....

Traditional thin-film dip coating is set spinning: To study the properties of films produced by spin-assisted layer-by-layer (LBL) assembly, researchers from the Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich., invented the Spin-Grower Desktop Layer-by-Layer Assembly System, which enables rapid and automated synthesis of nanostructured thin films by spin-assisted LBL assembly. The conventional method of LBL assembly is by dip coating; a substrate is immersed in a series of oppositely-charged solutions. The Spin-Grower performs LBL assembly by spinning the substrate rapidly while alternating compounds are delivered one layer at a time. Layers can be created in a matter of seconds, thus reducing production times by an order of magnitude and creating the potential for thicker multilayer composites with new morphologies and properties. More....

Source: R&D Magazine

Last updated: March 15, 2012
 

DOI: 10.4053/fe351-100126

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