National Nanomanufacturing Network

New Paper-like Material Could Boost Electric Vehicle Batteries

National Nanomanufacturing Network - February 26, 2015 - 7:55am
Researchers create silicon nanofibers 100 times thinner than human hair for potential applications in batteries for electric cars and personal electronicsResearchers at the University of California, Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering (http://www.engr.ucr.edu/) have developed a novel paper-like material for lithium-ion batteries. It has the potential to boost by several times the specific energy, or amount of energy that can be delivered per unit weight of the battery. This paper-like material is composed of sponge-like silicon nanofibers more than 100 times thinner than human hair. It could be used in batteries for electric vehicles and personal electronics. The findings were just published in a paper, “Mihri Ozkan (http://www.ee.ucr.edu/%7Emihrilab/), a professor of electrical and computer engineering, Cengiz S. Ozkan (http://www.engr.ucr.edu/%7Ecengizlab/), a professor of mechanical engineering, and six of their graduate students: Zach Favors, Hamed Hosseini Bay, Zafer Mutlu, Kazi Ahmed, Robert Ionescu and Rachel Ye. The nanofibers were produced using a technique known as electrospinning, whereby 20,000 to 40,000 volts are applied between a rotating drum and a nozzle, which emits a solution composed mainly of tetraethyl orthosilicate (TEOS), a chemical compound frequently used in the semiconductor industry. The nanofibers are then exposed to magnesium vapor to produce the sponge-like silicon fiber structure. Conventionally produced lithium-ion battery anodes are made using copper foil coated with a mixture of graphite, a conductive additive, and a polymer binder. But, because the performance of graphite has been nearly tapped out, researchers are experimenting with other materials, such as silicon, which has a specific capacity, or electrical charge per unit weight of the battery, nearly 10 times higher than graphite. The problem with silicon is that is suffers from significant volume expansion, which can quickly degrade the battery. The silicon nanofiber structure created in the Ozkan’s labs circumvents this issue and allows the battery to be cycled hundreds of times without significant degradation. “Eliminating the need for metal current collectors and inactive polymer binders while switching to an energy dense material such as silicon will significantly boost the range capabilities of electric vehicles,” Favors said. This technology also solves a problem that has plagued free-standing, or binderless, electrodes for years: scalability. Free-standing materials grown using chemical vapor deposition, such as carbon nanotubes or silicon nanowires, can only be produced in very small quantities (micrograms). However, Favors was able to produce several grams of silicon nanofibers at a time even at the lab scale. The researchers’ future work involves implementing the silicon nanofibers into a pouch cell format lithium-ion battery, which is a larger scale battery format that can be used in EVs and portable electronics.Source: UCR Today (http://ucrtoday.ucr.edu/27263)

Flexible Nanosensors for Wearable Devices

National Nanomanufacturing Network - February 26, 2015 - 7:44am
Researchers from UPM have developed a manufacturing method of aluminum optical nanosensors on versatile substrates that can be used for wearable devices and smart labels. A new method developed at the Institute of Optoelectronics Systems and Microtechnology (http://www.isom.upm.es/eng/index.php) (ISOM) from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (http://www.upm.es/internacional) (UPM) will enable the fabrication of optical nanosensors capable of sticking on uneven surfaces and biological surfaces like human skin. This result can boost the use of wearable devices to monitor parameters such as temperature, breath and heart pressure. Besides, it is a low cost technology since they use materials like standard polycarbonate compact disks, aluminum films and adhesive tapes that would facilitate its implementation on the market.Researchers from Semiconductor Devices Group (http://www.upm.es/observatorio/vi/index.jsp?pageac=grupo.jsp idGrupo=260) of ISOM from UPM have not only designed a manufacturing method of optical nanosensors over a regular adhesive tape but also have shown their potential applications. These flexible nanosensors enable us to measure refractive index variations of the surrounding medium and this can be used to detect chemical substances. Besides, they display iridescent colors that can vary according to the viewing and illumination angle, this property facilitates the detection of position variations and surface topography to where they are stuck at a glance. Nanosensors consist of dimensional nanohole arrays (250 nm) which are drilled into an aluminum layer (100 nm thick). In order to cause sensitivity to the surrounding mediums and iridescence effects, these nanostructures confine and disperse light according to the will of the engineer who designs them. The creation method for flexible nanosensors consists, firstly, on manufacturing sensors over a compact disc (CDs) of traditional polycarbonate, and secondly, transferring these sensors to adhesive Scotch tapes by a simple stick-and-peel procedure. This way, the nanosensors go from the CD surface to the adhesive tape (flexible substrate). The stick-and-peel process can be watched at: http://1drv.ms/1Jgf6Hd (http://1drv.ms/1Jgf6Hd) This new technology uses low cost materials such as polycarbonate CDs, aluminum, and regular adhesive tapes. The usage of noble metals to develop these types of sensors is common, but it is difficult mass production due to the high cost. Aluminum is 25,000 times cheaper than gold and has excellent electrical and optical properties. Besides, CD surfaces provide adherence to aluminum that is strong enough to manufacture the sensors over the CDs and weak enough to be transferred to the adhesive tape. This research is led by Dr. Carlos Angulos Barrios, a researcher from ISOM and Professor at the Department of Photonics Technology and Bioengineering (http://www.tfo.upm.es/) (TFB) of the School of Telecommunications Engineering (http://www.etsit.upm.es/index.php/en/), and also led by Víctor Canalejas Tejero, a PhD student of ISOM. The results were published in the Nanoscale journal ("Compact discs as versatile cost-effective substratesfor releasable nanopatterned aluminium films" (http://pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/2015/NR/C4NR06271J#!divAbstract) ).Source: Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (http://www.upm.es/internacional/UPM/UPM_Channel/News/03db4bb9a70cb410VgnVCM10000009c7648aRCRD)

NanoBCA Interview with Dr. Michael A. Meador, Director, NNCO

National Nanomanufacturing Network - February 26, 2015 - 7:32am
NanoBCA was fortunate to engage in a conversation with Dr. Michael A. Meador, the recently appointed Director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (“NNCO”) on February 10, 2015. Dr. Meador, who is technically on loan from NASA to NNCO for this assignment, has a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Michigan State University where he began his career thinking about matter at the molecular scale. While at NASA, Dr. Meador’s efforts included development of “game-changing” technologies from the TRL 4 to TRL 6 levels with a focus on specific technologies such as carbon nanotube based structural composites, nano-based sensors for chemical and biotech detection, among others. The following excerpt, from the NNCO website, outlines Dr. Meador’s impressive credentials and background with regard to nanotechnology. Dr. Meador, chair of NASA’s Nanotechnology Roadmap Team, was instrumental in developing the NASA-wide Nanotechnology Project, and has been responsible for project planning and advocacy, overseeing technical progress, developing external partnerships to advance and transfer technology, coordinating with other nanotechnology related activities within NASA, and interacting with program and senior agency management. He has also played a key role in representing NASA in the NNI’s interagency activities, including co-chairing its Nanomanufacturing, Industry Liaison, and Innovation Working Group. During his long career at NASA, Dr. Meador has held a series of positions with increasing responsibility, including over twenty years as Chief of the Polymers Branch of the Materials Division at NASA Glenn Research Center, where he expanded the research portfolio of the branch from research in high-temperature stable polymers and composites for aircraft engines to include work in battery electrolytes, fuel cell membranes, and nonlinear optical and sensor materials. He also initiated the first nanotechnology program at NASA Glenn. Dr. Meador has been recognized as the NASA Glenn Small Disadvantaged Business Program Technical Advocate of the Year and NASA Small Business Program Technical Personnel of the Year. He has also received the NASA Equal Opportunity Employment Medal for his work to increase the involvement of faculty and students from minority serving institutions in NASA materials research, and last month was awarded the NASA Exceptional Service Medal for leading NASA's Nanotechnology R D activities and representing the agency as a proactive member of the NNI. NanoBCA How long have you been a devotee of the science of nanotechnology? Dr. Meador Dating back to my graduate studies, I have long been aware of the great potential of working with matter at the molecular level. I carried this interest with me to NASA where, as Chief of the Polymers Branch at the Glenn Research Center, I launched one of the first research efforts with NASA focused on the development of nanomaterials technologies. Around 1999 or so, NASA started a long-term relationship with Dr. Richard Smalley of Rice University to focus on scaling up his HiPCO process to produce single wall carbon nanotubes so that we could have a sufficient quantity to evaluate as an additive for polymers. We were fortunate to be a part of that activity. The scale up approach developed under this activity led to Carbon Nanotechnologies Inc. So, I guess you can say that I have been involved with the science of nanotechnology for over 30 years. NanoBCA From a career perspective, what led you to become the Director at NNCO? Dr. Meador Over the course of my career, I have been involved in all aspects of nanotech research and development at a variety of levels within NASA from managing activities in my branch to more recently managing a NASA-wide project in nanotechnology. For the past four years I also served as NASA’s principal representative to the NSET, which gave me a broader perspective on nanotech R D at the Federal government level. It seemed like a very natural progression to aspire to a position like this at NNCO where I could give back, in a leadership role, and utilize my unique career experience with regards to nanotechnology. Personally, it is very exciting for me to be in a position to help push the NNI forward, especially now that it is at a crossroads in that it is coming out of a research and development focused effort to a more defined commercialization effort. NanoBCA The 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act was signed into law on December 3, 2003. What do you see as the major successes of this Act and what needs to be done going forward? Dr. Meador If not for National Nanotechnology Initiative (“NNI”), which preceded and was then reauthorized by the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, certain industries would not have been created, or at a minimum, would have been created at a much later date. That alone is a very significant accomplishment of the NNI. For instance, the quantum dot industry would not be where it is today if not for the NNI. As you know, Sony announced a new TV recently at the Consumer Electronics Show that will incorporate quantum dots produced by QD Vision, Inc. to enhance picture quality. QD Vision won the 2014 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award (http://www2.epa.gov/green-chemistry/presidential-green-chemistry-challenge-winners) from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is the highest domestic honor in the field, recognizing chemical technologies that incorporate the principles of green chemistry into chemical design, manufacture, and use. So, it is clear that the quantum dot industry is making an important impact on our economy, and our environment, and it is an industry that is here to stay. Another example is the carbon nanotube sector, with companies like Nanocomp Technologies, Inc. that are producing materials that not only reduce weight but also greatly improve strength in all sorts of products. Moving forward, we are honing our focus on supporting and expanding success stories like these, particularly as they relate to the commercialization of nanotechnologies. To that end, Dr. Lisa Friedersdorf, NNCO Deputy Director, and I have plans to visit all NSET agencies to talk about their agency’s vision and the NNCO’s vision and to try to establish a plan to more effectively work together to achieve the collective goals of the NNI. We recently visited the NIST Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology, which is truly a world-class facility. This is yet another example of the success of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act and reflects the tangible return on investment from that piece of legislation. So, I think there are a number of examples where nanotechnologies have definitely established a presence in the marketplace, but there is much more that we can do to facilitate the commercialization of nanotechnologies. NanoBCA What is your plan to further impact commercialization? Dr. Meador Success will come from good communications and a focused effort to have NNI agencies work directly with industry to identify and address any roadblocks to commercialization. To that end, the NNCO has initiated a webinar series to highlight problems that industry is facing with regards to nanotech commercialization. This has proven to be a great communications vehicle to provide information, especially to small- and medium- sized business, on topics like insurance and regulations that could help them be more successful in their commercialization efforts. These webinars are scheduled to occur once every other month and are designed to be easily accessible to the broadest audience. NanoBCA One of the challenges that we see regularly at the NanoBCA, is to address the question of whether or not the over $20 billion, that was invested by the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, was worthwhile from a taxpayers’ perspective. Is this a question with which you are confronted? Dr. Meador Yes, this is a very important question that needs to be addressed loudly and clearly and provide a compelling justification for the past and continued investment in the NNI. Fortunately, I have benefitted from sitting on NSET through the critical years and have had a front row seat to witness the impact of this investment. As I mentioned before, there are tangible examples of the return on investment that can be seen in the establishment of new industries and new products which also, not insignificantly, mean new jobs. Also, there has been the establishment of critical new infrastructure, like the NIST Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology. However, it is critically important that the news of these returns be communicated clearly to all stakeholders, which includes the taxpayer, the media and the broader community beyond just those in industry and government who happen to be concerned with nanotechnology as a part of their daily function. That is the challenge that faces us today at NNCO. To address that challenge and to do a better job of communication, NNCO is taking action on several fronts, some of which are quite simple yet very effective. I have already mentioned our webinar series. We are also developing our YouTube channel and reaching out to stakeholders in government and industry to contribute video content that highlights their work. Our goal is to create a buzz about the great potential of nanotechnology commercialization. We are also reaching out directly to students and have established several contests that they can participate in to highlight their research projects (and even art projects). The winners of these contests will be duly recognized at national events. Which brings me to my final point on this matter, which is that we are expanding and improving the quality of our events across the board with the intent of improving the overall impact of our communications. NanoBCA Have you noticed, as we have at NanoBCA, that critics often have misconstrued the literal mandate of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act and perhaps not appreciated that the investment was designed to be on infrastructure and R D, as the name of the Act itself suggests? Dr. Meador Since the inception of the NNI, participating agencies within the Federal government have invested over $20B in nanotechnology related R D. So, I think it is a fair question to ask what the impact of that investment has been on the US economy and job creation. In fact, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (“PCAST”) in its last two reviews, and the National Research Council (“NRC”), in its last review, have both called for a clear set of metrics to measure the success of the NNI. We are carefully considering how to develop these metrics by utilizing reports, such as the series of reports over the years by firms such as Lux Research on total revenues generated by nanotech products, as well as other studies which measure the impact of emerging technologies in other ways. Some of the inputs are not just on revenue data, but also on foundational impact such as the establishment of new technologies, sectors and even industries. The bottom line is that we all need to work together to create a better understanding, among the broadest audience possible, of the true impact of nanotechnologies on our society.

Carbon nanotubes show feasibility for practical devices

National Nanomanufacturing Network - February 19, 2015 - 4:38am
While carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have long attracted interest for nanoscale electronics, practical deployment of the technology requires a level of device consistency that is still a long way from being achieved. Now researchers at IBM in the US have identified the main source of device variability in CNT transistors and ways of reducing it. In recent years, silicon transistors have been fast approaching their minimum size. Short channel effects and increasing chip power density may halt the trend in constantly decreasing transistor sizes described in 'Moore’s Law'. Fortunately, there is an alternative. "The goal of our research is to develop carbon nanotube transistors into a practical technology that can replace silicon in future generations of high-performance microprocessor chips," says Qing Cao (http://researcher.ibm.com/researcher/view.php?person=us-qcao), who led the IBM research team behind these latest results. Carbon nanotubes have excellent short channel control, a low resistivity between the CNTs and metal contacts, and transport behaviour that allows much lower power consumption for the same on-current density. However where they have fallen short so far is in the uniformity between CNT devices. "Ultimately we want to integrate billions of nanotube transistors into functional circuits," says Cao. "To do this, we need good consistency from one transistor to the next, so they can all work together at the same voltage." Their latest study demonstrates that the device variability does not originate from the nanotubes themselves, and that it may be reduced by improved deposition processes and better materials for the dielectric components.Finding the root of the problem The researchers fabricated hundreds of bottom-gated field-effect transistors, each made from a p-channel single-walled CNT with a 10nm HfO2 layer deposited as the gate dielectric. Systematic experiments with the devices identified the amount of variability from device to device. The measurements also confirmed that variation in carbon nanotube diameter was not a dominant source of variability in device performance. The IBM team then built pairs of devices, where the same nanotube was used as the channel for both transistors. Observations of the performance of device pairs revealed that the dominant source was random, and so likely material-related rather than a systematic process-related contribution. Further analysis indicated that trapped charges fixed at the oxide/air interface were the prime suspect. "I think the results show that it is possible to build practical circuits based on nanotube transistors, but we still need to reduce the variability by several-fold," Cao tells nanotechweb.org. "We have identified the major source as the oxide surface, not anything intrinsic to the nanotubes, so we think we can make it happen with a better fabrication process." He suggests that the variability may be reduced by better control over the nanotube source and the deposition process. "The current nanotube solution isn’t really electronic grade, so we may introduce charges on the oxide during the nanotube deposition process," says Cao. He also suggests that using high quality dielectrics with no free surface near the nanotube may also help. From working to working well Cao describes how far CNT electronics has come in the past few decades. "In the beginning, it was an achievement just to make a few good transistors," he says. The fabrication techniques for these devices are now so advanced that it is possible to fabricate a large enough number of high-quality semiconducting nanotubes to study their random behaviour. He adds, "As it gets closer to becoming a practical technology, the device variability becomes an increasingly important issue." Next the team will work to try and find where the trapped charges come from, and whether they are mainly from dangling bonds at the oxide surface, damage to the oxide during the fabrication process, or residue left by the nanotube solution do that they can eliminate them. Full details are reported in nanotechweb.org (http://nanotechweb.org/cws/article/tech/60243)

Nanotechnology discoveries move from lab to marketplace with CNT fabrication process

National Nanomanufacturing Network - February 12, 2015 - 4:50am
A recent agreement between The University of Texas at Dallas and Lintec of America is expected to propel scientific discoveries from the University’s laboratories into the global marketplace and create jobs in North Texas. UT Dallas’ Office of Technology Commercialization (http://www.utdallas.edu/research/otc/) has licensed to Lintec of America a process developed over several years by Dr. Ray Baughman (http://www.utdallas.edu/chairs/profiles/baughman.html), the Robert A. Welch Distinguished Chair in Chemistry, and his colleagues at the University’s Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute (http://nanotech.utdallas.edu/about/index.html), which he directs. The patented process transforms tiny tubes of carbon — 10,000 times thinner than the width of a human hair — into useful large-scale structures, such as sheets and yarns, that are super-strong and extremely light. The carbon nanotube materials have unique thermal, mechanical and electrical properties, making them potentially suitable for use in areas such as wearable electronics, electronic displays, solar panels, sound projectors, batteries and harvesters of waste energy. Lintec of America is a subsidiary of Japan-based Lintec Corporation (http://www.lintec-global.com/), a leading manufacturer of pressure-sensitive adhesives. The company’s advanced materials and industrial products are used in items ranging from electronic devices and computer displays to building and automotive materials. Lintec recently opened the Nano-Science Technology Center (http://lintec-nstc.com/) in Richardson. Less than 5 miles from the UT Dallas campus, it is devoted specifically to the manufacture and commercialization of the carbon nanotube structures. Dr. David E. Daniel, president of UT Dallas, said the whole process — from lab to marketplace — exemplifies how research universities impact the economy and society. “One of the important roles a research university plays in the community is to translate the creativity and human talent developed on campus into the private sector,” he said. “This agreement is an example of UT Dallas doing exactly what it should be doing — fostering an ecosystem of hugely creative faculty who educate and train exceptional students, who then contribute significantly to business and add value to society.” Additionally, two UT Dallas alumni are leading efforts at the Nano-Science Technology Center: Dr. Kanzan Inoue MS’01 PhD’05 is managing director of the facility, and his wife, Dr. Raquel Ovalle-Robles MS’06 PhD’08, is the chief research and intellectual properties strategist. Both worked in the NanoTech Institute with Baughman and Dr. Anvar Zakhidov (http://nanotech.utdallas.edu/personnel/staff/zakhidov.html), professor of physics. Inoue said proximity to the University and access to its intellectual resources were primary factors in locating the new facility in Richardson. “The Nano-Science Technology Center was created to bridge the gaps between laboratory research, pilot production and ultimately full production processes,” he said. “Individual carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are much lighter, stronger and more thermally conducting than metals or diamond. However, applying CNTs in practical applications requires scalable and controllable processing methods for assembling them into products without losing the unique properties of individual CNTs.”Inoue also said that a critical factor for the controllable device fabrication is the ability to assemble CNTs in different forms, such as free-standing or on a substrate.“The technology developed at UT Dallas delivers an efficient and elegant solution to these key issues,” he said. “The electrically conducting CNT sheets that we can now make are lighter than air, transparent and much stronger per pound than steel.” Lintec has been an industrial affiliate of the NanoTech Institute for many years, and Baughman said the pairing of the UT Dallas science and technology with the company’s manufacturing capabilities was a natural match. “Lintec has expertise in technologies that will be critically important for economically manufacturing carbon nanotube sheets and converting these sheets into a wide range of products,” said Baughman, a National Academy of Engineering member who joined the UT Dallas faculty in 2001 after a 30-year career in private industry. “They invested in UT Dallas technology because they saw potential for valuable end products and because their manufacturing capabilities are particularly well-suited for upscaling the production of these materials to industrial levels.” Baughman said the licensing agreement will enable “teaming” that eliminates barriers between scientific and technological breakthroughs and products, which is an important goal of the NanoTech Institute. “I’m very happy that Lintec decided to open its new facility in Richardson in order to be close to and work collaboratively with our NanoTech Institute, and that they are creating jobs in Texas,” he said. “I’m also delighted that the leaders of this new business venture are UT Dallas alumni from our institute. I know how brilliant they are and look forward to their accomplishments.” Source: The University of Texas at Dallas (http://www.utdallas.edu/news/2015/2/9-31409_Nanotech-Discoveries-Move-from-Lab-to-Marketplace-_story-wide.html?WT.mc_id=NewsHomepageFeature)

New PEN Inc. Surface Cleaning Product to Redefine Personal Health and Safety

National Nanomanufacturing Network - February 6, 2015 - 3:13am
Entry Planned Into $50 Billion Global Cleaning MarketIn direct response to the apparent failure of current cleaners and disinfectants to prevent the spread of illness, PEN Inc. (OTCQB: PENC) is developing a new category of cleaning products intended to clean and fortify surfaces at the nanoscale-level. Unlike traditional harsh pesticide-containing disinfectants, PEN products will incorporate natural elements and sustainable chemistry to keep surfaces safe. The company's aim is to revolutionize the $50 billion global market for industrial and institutional cleaning, which includes lodging, retail outlets, and workplaces. The product is also ideal for the $80 billion global household cleaning market."The news is filled with stories of people being sickened on cruise ship vacations, amusement park visits, and at other public venues," noted Scott E. Rickert, PEN's Chairman, President and CEO. "This PEN product aims to redefine personal health and safety, so consumers can stop worrying about germs and disease every time they touch a restaurant table, airplane armrest, bank ATM machine, or hotel room door." Dr. Rickert added, "Just as important, the patent-pending product will use only safe, sustainable ingredients -- no pesticides or harsh chemicals. In fact the primary ingredient, as listed on the label, is a food additive." Dr. Rickert also addressed the market opportunity. "I expect PEN's first product to expand into a family of products to tackle the problem of safe, healthy surfaces, worldwide. My vision for PEN is to harness the vast potential of nanotechnology to create innovative, breakthrough products for a global marketplace. In PEN we have both the R D expertise and the commercialization experience to begin the process of bringing this product to market." About PEN Inc. (OTCQB: PENC)PEN Inc. (PENC) is a global leader in developing, commercializing and marketing enhanced-performance products enabled by nanotechnology. The company focuses on innovative and advanced product solutions in safety, health and sustainability. For more information about PEN Inc, visit www.pen-technology.com (http://www.pen-technology.com/). Source: PEN Inc. (http://my.mwnewsroom.com/pennewsroom/New-PEN-Inc-Surface-Cleaning-Product-to-Redefine-Personal-Health-and-Safety--11G032156-001)