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NIST Technology Innovation Program (TIP) Advances Public-Private Partnerships with Strong Investment in Nanomanufacturing and Nanomaterials

Written by: 
Jeff Morse, Ph.D

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The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced in December 2009 over $31 million in funding through its Technology Innovation Program (TIP) for nine new cost-sharing projects that will support innovative, high-risk research in novel nanomaterials or nanomanufacturing technologies that address critical national needs. TIP is focused on developing new materials based on nanotechnology—advanced composites and “superalloys,” or smart materials—and expanding the capacity to incorporate these materials into new products. The acceleration of advanced nanomaterials and nanomanufacturing is a critical strategy to advance the growth and competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing.

Several key issues of nanomaterials production and nanomanufacturing were specifically cited in the NIST white paper; "Accelerating the Incorporation of Materials Advances into Manufacturing Processes" including:

  • The cost of manufacturing carbon nanotubes is a barrier to widespread use in products;
  • Improved control and measurement of feature sizes could lead to enhanced materials properties and device functions not currently possible (or even considered feasible);
  • Robust and reliable production methods can eliminate waste at the atomic scale.
  • New instrumentation and measurement tools and techniques are needed for real time process control and evaluation;
  •  Reduced manufacturing byproducts, wastes, and impurities would facilitate acceptance and adoption in commercial applications; and
  • Scalable, cost-effective manufacturing of newly discovered materials is needed.

While the new projects funded by NIST TIP included research for sensing and repair materials for infrastructure (bridges, water, dams, roads, etc.), specific projects advancing nanomaterials and nanomanufacturing garnered almost half of the total funding. These projects include advanced electrode materials and scaled manufacturing for batteries, scaled volume production of nanomaterials, including carbon nanotubes, graphene, carbon nanofibers, and composite nanoparticles.

Key to the NIST TIP investment is the requirement that the awards be matched by private funding sources achieving a long-term commitment of nearly $65 million in new nanomanufacturing research over the next two to five years, thereby ensuring a degree of long-term economic impact as the technologies transition to commercial products and applications. The merit-based awards are also considered for their economic impact on future markets, their stage of development, and their potential for transformational impact in the manufacturing value-chain.

The strategy of TIP is to establish efforts to drive economic growth and solve national problems by developing new, transformational technologies and materials that will play a critical role in developing the manufacturing sector across the country. In this context, the NIST TIP represents a near-term opportunity for collaborative research and development of critical technologies and materials in nanotechnology. Furthermore, these key nanomanufacturing challengesare being addressed through public-private-partnerships wherein federal funding fosters interactions between industry, government, and academia, bringing together the necessary expertise and capabilities that otherwise may not be available.

Additional information on the 2009 TIP competition award winners can be found in their December 2009 Press release announcing the TIP awards.

The following Technology Innovation Program 2009 R&D Awards represent investments made in nanomanufacturing through emerging materials and processes.

Production of Low-Cost, High-Quality Metallic and Semiconducting Single Wall Carbon Nanotube Inks
Brewer Science, Inc. (Rolla, Mo.) (Lead)
Southwest Nanotechnologies, Inc. (Norman , OK)
Project duration: 3 years
Projected TIP contribution: $6.527 M    Total project cost (est.): $13.910 M

Develop technologies for the cost-effective production of high-purity, high-quality, metallic and semiconducting carbon nanotube “inks” to enable commercial production of a wide variety of high-performing electronic devices for energy, flexible electronic and sensor applications.

Functionalized Nano Graphene for Next-Generation Nano-Enhanced Products
Angstron Materials, LLC (Dayton, Ohio)
Project duration: 3 years
Projected TIP contribution: $1.494 M    Total project cost (est.): $2.988 M

Develop processes for mass-producing chemically modified or “functionalized” nano graphene for next-generation products, particularly for the energy industries.

Transformational Casting Technology for Fabrication of Ultra-High Performance Lightweight Aluminum and Magnesium Nanocomposites
The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System (Madison, Wis.) (Lead)
Eck Industries, Inc. (Manitowoc, Wis.)
Nanostructured & Amorphous Materials, Inc. (Houston, Texas)
Oshkosh Corporation (Oshkosh, Wis.)
Project duration: 5 years
Projected TIP contribution: $4.863 M    Total project cost (est.): $10.092 M

Develop a novel casting technology, based on ultrasonic cavitation dispersion of nanoparticles in metal melts, for large-scale production of aluminum and magnesium matrix nanocomposites.

High-Speed, Continuous Manufacturing of Nano-Doped Magnesium Diboride Superconductors for Next-Generation MRI Systems
Hyper Tech Research, Inc. (Columbus, Ohio)
Project duration: 3 years
Projected TIP contribution: $3 M        Total project cost (est.): $6.05 M

Develop a practical, industrial scale continuous manufacturing process for magnesium diboride superconducting wires and other wire products requiring a hollow metal tube around a powder-based core.

PRINT® Nanomanufacturing: Enabling Rationally Designed Nanoparticles for Next-Generation Therapeutics
Liquidia Technologies, Inc. (Durham, N.C.)
Project duration: 3 years
Projected TIP contribution: $2.971 M    Total project cost (est.): $5.942 M

Scale up to practical commercial volumes a novel nanoparticle manufacturing process based on nanoscale molding to produce engineered nanoparticles of specific sizes, shapes and materials for therapeutic applications.

Silicon Nanowire Production for Advanced Lithium-Ion Batteries
Amprius, Inc. (Menlo Park, Calif.)
Project duration: 2 years
Projected TIP contribution: $3 M        Total project cost (est.): $6 M

Develop a unique, high-throughput, continuous manufacturing process for producing a novel, nanostructured silicon-based anode material for lithium batteries.

High Volume Production of Nanocomposite Electrode Materials for Lithium-Ion Batteries
A123Systems, Inc. (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Project duration: 3 years
Projected TIP contribution: $2.864 M    Total project cost (est.): $6 M

Develop a new composite nanomaterial for lithium-ion battery cathodes for significantly increased battery performance together with improved manufacturing techniques to lower overall costs.

High-Risk, Low-Cost Carbon Nanofiber Manufacturing Process Scale-Up
eSpin Technologies, Inc. (Chattanooga, Tenn.)
Project duration: 3 years
Projected TIP contribution: $3 M        Total project cost (est.): $6.006 M

Develop a commercial-scale manufacturing process for producing self-supporting, non-woven fabrics of both natural and activated carbon nanofibers.

Development and Scale-Up of Nanocomposites with Sub-10nm Particles
Pixelligent Technologies, LLC (College Park, Md.) (Lead)
Brewer Science, Inc. (Rolla, Mo.)
Project duration: 3 years
Projected TIP contribution: $4.089 M        Total project cost (est.): $8.178 M

Develop new processes and technologies for scaling up the production of high quality nanocomposites, by incorporating nanocrystals with precisely controlled size, shape, and surface chemistry into a polymer matrix for demanding and high-volume industrial applications.