Sometimes the decisive step in the development of a technology is the transition from the lab to manufacturing. If it’s a good or great idea it usually means there will need to be a lot of it. Take nanomaterials, for example. Nanorods and nanocrystals are often combined with other materials to achieve some useful property. Labs all over the world are churning out a wide variety of such nanocomposites. It’s relatively easy to produce micrograms of almost anything, kilograms of it – not so easy. That’s what gives significance to a new process developed by Berkeley Laboratories, Molecular Foundry (California, USA) that makes manufacturing of many different combinations of nanomaterials much easier.
The key to the process is using an organic ligand, an ion or molecule that binds to metal atoms, to coat an underlying nanomaterials in the form of nanorods or nanocrystals.
The ligands are then replaced with chalcogenides (typically compounds with sulfur, selenium, or tellurium) for example, copper sulphide. The end result is a nanocomposite that combines the underlying shapes and structures with the properties of the material bonded to it.
So far the research team has identified 20 materials that can be composited in this way. They expect to find many more so that the process becomes a ‘mix and match on demand.’
Another important point in favor of this process, besides relative simplicity, is that it is scalable. In manufacturing terms that means a little or a lot can be manufactured by the same basic process (with obvious allowances for handling and processing large quantities). This is what will make many nanomaterials commercially viable.
[Source: Lawrence Berkeley Labs]