Finnish Aalto University spin-off, Canatu, has secured €4.7m to commercialise its carbon nanomaterials for uses that include touch screen and haptic interfaces.
One new material, dubbed NanoBud, is a hybrid of carbon nanotubes and fullerenes.
‘We discovered it in 2005,’ explained chief executive, David Brown, ‘It has a high conductivity and you can attach a wide variety of chemical groups to it.’
Carbon nanotubes are largely chemically inert and do not bond well to other molecules. In order to bond they must be damaged to create reaction sites but these defects reduce the performance of the material.
With the NanoBud material, reactive fullerenes are combined with nanotubes without creating defects.
The properties of nanotubes – such as strength and conductivity – are maintained whilst achieving chemical reactivity.
The resultant NanoBud material not only has a tuneable electrical conductivity, high strength, low density and high thermal stability, but also boasts high reactivity, low work function and chemical functionality like fullerenes.
‘By combining the beneficial properties of both carbon nanotubes and fullerenes, we think the NanoBuds will reduce the cost of optical and electrical devices and as well as the environmental footprint,’ said Brown.
Canatu are also working on a Direct Dry Printing (DPP) technique that can attach the material to any substrate within seconds.
The company claims that its ability to deposit networks with longer, more crystalline nanotubes results in higher conductivity and transparency films. Other benefits include improved corrosion resistance and high flexibility compared to traditional metal and metal oxide based thin films.
The funding, which has been awarded by venture capitalists, Inventure and Infosto, and the Finnish development agency, Tekes, will be used to bring the current technology to full-scale production by 2012.