Category Archives: Materials

Recent Lignin Announcements Show Repeated Mistakes, Not Progress

February 2017 had two noteworthy announcements pertaining to lignin-based materials: VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland announced the development of a reactive lignin product to replace phenol in phenol formaldehyde adhesives and the Institute of Textile Chemistry and Chemical Fibers (ITCF) Denkendorf announced its participation in the “LIBRE Project” (Lignin Based Carbon Fibers for Composites). However, lignin’s successful use in materials has faced challenges including processing, derivatization, lignin’s unpleasant odor and dark colors, and questionable cost and performance benefits ([see the report “Assessing Lignin-based Material Innovations“] client registration required). As such, we have given Lux Takes based on the probability of these announcements for overcoming these issues: Continue reading

CNT-Modified CFRPs Offer the Possibility of Sensing Structures to the Aerospace Industry

Researchers at the University of Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI), the University of Bristol’s Advanced Composite Centre for Innovation and Science (ACCIS), and aerospace company Bombardier teamed up to develop a carbon nanotube-based material that is to replace the polymer sizing in carbon fiber reinforced polymers (CFRPs) for aerospace applications. This research team grew carbon nanotubes (CNTs) on carbon fiber by using low temperature photo-thermal chemical vapor deposition (PT-CVD) and using a metallic interlayer between CNTs and carbon fiber to minimize substrate degradation. According to the research team, using CNTs to replace polymer sizing improved the mechanical integrity of the carbon fiber fabric, as well as enhanced electrical and thermal conductivity of CFRPs. Moreover, the use of CNT enables CFRPs to integrate electronic gadgets (such as sensors, energy harvesting lighting, and communication antennae) in the structure, while still maintaining structural integrity. The research team is now working to scale their technology for production using roll-to-roll systems. Continue reading

A Discussion With Avantium’s CFO Regarding Its Acquisition of Liquid Light

Bio-based chemicals developer Avantium (client registration required) recently announced that it acquired the IP portfolio and equipment, and recruited two to three full-time research employees, of Liquid Light (client registration required), a company that had previously focused on the electrochemical conversion of CO2 to monoethylene glycol (MEG) and other chemicals. Avantium’s primary technology converts glucose and fructose to furan-2,5-dicarboxylic acid (FDCA). Avantium then combines FDCA with MEG to produce polyethylene furanoate (PEF), a polyester with improved barrier and mechanical properties over polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Given the significance of this announcement, we reached out to Avantium’s CFO Frank Roerink to learn more about the acquisition and its implications on Avantium. Continue reading

Webinar – Better, Faster, and Cheaper: How Emerging Design and Manufacturing Tools Improve Materials Development

Developers face rising pressure to bring novel, high performance materials to market faster and cheaper. Yet, most materials fail to meet commercial expectations, and lengthy timelines limit attractiveness to investors. On average, materials R&D takes as long today as it did decades ago. Now, emerging design and manufacturing tools such as 3D printing, 3D scanning, material informatics software, and modeling and simulation software, are beginning to accelerate materials and part design times. Continue reading

Bio-Based Polymers to Be a Key BBMC Opportunity in 2017

2016 marked a shift in the bio-based materials and chemicals (BBMC) industry. Because of sustained low oil prices, changing consumer demand, and emerging regulatory drivers, we saw synthetic biology advance with machine learning and robotics, performance emerge as the main driver in enabling sustainability, and bio-based become the new foundation of personal care and cosmetics. In particular, bio-based polymers have stood out as a key opportunity for performance to drive sustainability in applications such as packaging. 2016 ended with a handful of announcements related to bio-based polymers. Lux highlights three of the most noteworthy announcements as the industry continues to pivot in 2017: Continue reading

Shape Memory Metals Used in Infrastructure for the First Time: An Important Case Study in Smart Material Commercialization

A new bridge being built in downtown Seattle is the first to feature shape memory metals in an infrastructure. The bridge, a small exit ramp in downtown Seattle, is supported by two reinforced concrete columns that feature the new materials. The project is a collaboration between the Washington Department of Transportation and researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno; the developmental work was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation among other government agencies. The bridge features nickel-titanium (NiTi) shape memory alloy rods in the top third of the columns, which are both superelastic and enable the recovery of the pillar to its original shape. The columns also use traditional steel rebar. The concrete used in the columns features a high loading chopped fiber reinforcement to enhance flexibility. The bridge is designed not just to survive earthquakes, but remain in service after an earthquake without the need for repairs. The bridge materials and design demonstrated recovery of up to 9% deformation in full-scale testing. Continue reading

In Pursuit of Profitability: A Case Study in Understanding the Growth Strategy Behind Two Graphene Market Leaders

Overview

In the last six months, graphene nanoplatelet (GNP) companies have raised over $18 million in financing. In that same time period, leading supplier XG Sciences filed for a self-underwritten initial public offering (IPO) and has sold $2.6 million worth of stock, while publicly-traded Haydale acquired two companies after raising approximately $3.5 million from additional stock offerings. These recent financing events suggest that GNP companies still struggle to profit from the technology, yet investor faith still remains in the greater market opportunity. To better understand the strategy and motivations behind two of the largest players driving the GNP space, Lux interviewed Philip Rose, CEO of XG Sciences, and Ray Gibbs, CEO of Haydale. Continue reading

MOF Technologies Commercializes Fruit Preservation Product and Challenges Expectations on Platform Material Timelines

What They Said

Start-up MOF Technologies (client registration required) recently announced it signed a deal with Decco, a producer of products for food storage. To learn more, Lux caught up with MOF Technologies CEO Paschal McCloskey. Paschal stated that Decco will use metal organic frameworks (MOFs) to store 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP), a gas used to regulate the ripening of fruits during storage. The MOFs enable Decco to sell 1-MCP as a sachet or gel that releases gas when exposed to water, easing distribution and use. Paschal claimed that MOF Technologies’ mechanochemistry platform enables it to produce the MOFs without solvents, which enabled the product to pass regulations in the United States.

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A Conversation With Anellotech’s CEO: Company Announces New Strategic Investor and Commissioning of R&D Unit

Last week, Anellotech publicly confirmed the official start of commissioning its “TCat-8™” research and development (R&D) facility in Silsbee, Texas, which began on September 1, 2016. In the same press release, the company also announced a $1.5 million equity investment from a new undisclosed strategic investor. Anellotech jointly designed the 25 meter-tall TCat-8 unit with its R&D partner, IFP Energies nouvelles (IFPEN), and will use the facility to validate Anellotech’s Bio-TCat® process, which catalytically converts biomass into BTX (benzene, toluene, xylene), for commercial scale-up. Three IFPEN engineers will join Anellotech’s team onsite at the TCat-8 facility for testing over the next two years. We spoke with David Sudolsky, President and CEO of Anellotech, for additional insight into the recent news. Continue reading