Engineers to develop process for sorting carbon nanotubes

Engineers at Archimedes Polymer Technologies (APT) and Brunel University have secured Technology Strategy Board funding to develop a new continuous flow process for separating and sorting commercially available carbon nanotubes and carbon nanomaterials.

Carbon nanomaterials are one of the most commercially relevant classes of nanomaterials, potentially having the broadest range of applications from composites to consumer mass electronics, energy storage, membranes, healthcare, and toxicity assessments. But for high-value applications, high-purity, uniform carbon nanotubes are essential.

For that reason, the engineers at the company and the university are aiming to prove the concept and efficiency of a flow process for separation and sorting of carbon nanotube products using a variable force field generated by a novel centrifuge, providing efficient mixing, separation and extraction.

The project will be led by Dr Wenhui Song at Brunel’s Wolfson Centre for Materials Processing in collaboration with APT and Dr Svetlana Ignatova and Prof Ian Sutherland from the Advanced Bioprocessing Centre at Brunel University.

Song said: ’Most commercial products inevitably consist of nanotubes in a range of sizes and contaminated by-products. But the size-shape-chirality polydispersity and purity of the nanotubes is a major technical barrier limiting their potential application in high-value markets. Another major commercial barrier is significant concerns about the potential asbestos-like toxicity of high-aspect-ratio nanostructures, which will be combated by this novel process technique.’

Chris Price, managing director of APT, said that the joint effort would be the start of a long-term relationship with Brunel University.