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
In the Advanced Materials space, 2015 was marked by the emergence of new production techniques (client registration required), new material design tools (client registration required), and new scandals (client registration required). Whether it was the launch of start-up Carbon 3D (client registration required) or Volkswagen’s fall from grace, these events generated significant media hype and corporate attention. Clients can expect these trends to continue in 2016 with increased momentum, but not every event creates a media frenzy. To guide clients in the new year, Lux highlights three trends for 2016 that may be flying under the radar:
- Carbon nanotube (CNT) products will – finally – make a splash. After years of hype and concomitant oversupply, the industry began a shakeout of undifferentiated players in 2013. The companies that have survived offer stronger technology and are beginning to offer products at scale (client registration required). For example, General Nano, producer of CNT sheets for aerospace electromagnetic interference (EMI) shielding, has scaled up production to around 100,000 m2/year (client registration required). What’s more, in 2015 it achieved a two orders of magnitude cost reduction, to between $10/m2 and $50/m2. At this price point, its sheets are a compelling alternative to incumbent metal meshes due to lighter weight and improved processing. General Nano now joins its main competitor, Nanocomp Technologies (client registration required), in offering nanotube sheet products at scale. However, it isn’t just CNT sheets finding success, as Molecular Rebar has licensed the use of its nanotube-rubber product for tires (client registration required), and Zyvex Technologies continues to add partnerships (client registration required). It’s no coincidence that all these groups are offering nano-enabled products, as this approach facilitates strong value propositions in target industries and captures more value than pure material plays. While clients should still expect plenty of struggles in the CNT space – it’s still flooded with lackluster start-ups (client registration required) prematurely scaling capacity – 2016 will begin bringing successes to balance out the failures to those developers marrying concrete technical value with wise business models.
- 3D printing start-ups and majors pivot to software and sensors for differentiation. 2015 saw the emergence of a wave of start-ups aimed at democratizing the 3D printing hardware space. From Cosine Additive in fused filament fabrication (client registration required) to Autodesk in stereolithography (client registration required) to MatterFab in laser sintering (client registration required), groups have differentiated themselves from major players by offering open material use and letting end users modify process parameters and hardware. At the same time, 3D printing majors’ control over materials and hardware has weakened dramatically, with rule-breaking groups like Stratonics gaining commercial traction. Open materials and hardware is the new baseline for innovators – going forward, new entrants and established players will need new angles for differentiation. MIT has given us a glimpse of one route – it used a cheap camera to implement a closed-loop feedback system, improving build quality dramatically without needing to add high end expensive hardware (client registration required). At the same time, improving printer quality and increasing printer size make the low-quality STL file format increasingly problematic – expect new standards and file formats as a differentiator, led by Microsoft’s .3MF format.