The SWiNG (Supercritical Water in Nanomaterial Generation) process uses a new ‘nozzle’ reactor that ensures particles are created consistently at a specified size. This prevents blockages and the introduction of undesired by-products.
‘We use hydrothermal synthesis where you mix superheated aqueous streams, but mixing was a problem,’ said Dr Ed Lester, of the School of Chemical and Environmental and Mining Engineering. ‘Mixing is everything, it controls size and whether things are continuous. The big issue was how to make it continuous.
‘Our nozzle reactor gives symmetrical mixing which means there is no blocking or poor mixing so the process can work continuously.
Established with Lachesis funding, Promethean Particles expect their new technology to be adopted by companies requiring bespoke wet nanoparticles.
‘Nobody needs dry nanoparticles,’ continued Lester. ‘Everyone else makes powder products. As ours are produced in a liquid they are safer as there are no particles in the air and the production is greener as it is done in water. Also, the nanoparticles do not need to be redispersed before the customer can use them.
‘We have made over 25 products so far including hydroxyapatite for making artificial bones and hematite used as a pigment in lipsticks. This technology could mushroom our applications of nanoparticles. A lot of companies buy off the shelf nanoparticles because they are the only ones you can get but we can tailor the materials to give them what they want. The particles can even be organic.’
Lester said there has been keen interest from a range of companies, including health care and medical companies as well as a company he described as ‘one of the largest chemical suppliers in the world’.