Manufacturing Ideas to Watch – Issue 8 (December 2017)

In this issue of Manufacturing Ideas to Watch: Nanopowder Thin Films, Manufacturing Affordable Hydrogen, Enabling Faster and Stronger Fiberglass Repair, Heat-free Soldering, Advanced Silicon Nanotextures, and Bioinspired Super Slippery Surfaces. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment!

Enabling Low-Cost Production of Nanopowder Thin Films

Image of 3 columns of spraying material
Image source: nGimat (PDF)

The NanoSpraySM Combustion Processing technology can produce nanopowder and thin films at low cost. At the heart of the technology is an innovative liquid atomizer that can produce an aerosol of controlled size down to sub-micron range at fast flow rates without any atomizing gas. The ability to produce small-size droplets with narrow size distribution is of critical importance in the NanoSpraySM Combustion Processing technology, where precursor solutions are converted to a fine mist that is efficiently combusted in nanopowder and thin film deposition applications. This technology can be adapted to a wide variety of manufacturing environments, such as continuous web, wafer fabrication, and high volume individual parts.
– Andrew Hunt, nGimat

Manufacturing Affordable Hydrogen For All

Image source: Da Li, Habib Baydoun, Bogdan Kulikowski, and Stephanie L. Brock, “Boosting the Catalytic Performance of Iron Phosphide Nanorods for the Oxygen Evolution Reaction by Incorporation of Manganese”, Chem. Mater., 2017, 29 (7), pp 3048–3054

Splitting water to store energy in the form of hydrogen, a safe and clean gas, holds a strong appeal, but finding the right catalyst is key. Platinum or iridium-based materials, the current commercialized catalysts, have low overpotentials (i.e., high efficiencies) and long life, but are prohibitively expensive and there is simply not enough of these noble metals to go around. Prof. Stephanie Brock’s research group is zeroing in on base-metal phosphides combining first row elements such as manganese and iron, abundant and inexpensive materials. Her team is working to understand what makes these catalysts “tick” in order to design materials with improved performance and long-term catalytic stability. These materials are also of interest for next-generation catalytic removal of sulfur from fossil fuels, thereby reducing key contributors to respiratory illness and acid rain from combustion emissions.
Stephanie Brock, Wayne State University

Enabling Faster and Stronger Fiberglass Repair

Image source: Iowa EPSCoR

Repairing damaged composite parts is not as simple as welding two metal parts. Currently, repaired composite parts are epoxied together, which takes a long time and has low joint strength. Prof. Hongtao Ding is investigating new ways to repair composite parts used in industries ranging from automotive and aerospace to gas storage and wind energy. His approach is to add glass particles to the damaged area and then use a laser to melt the particles to encase the broken glass fibers together. His most recent results are promising and show that the melted glass particles bond strongly to the original fibers.
Hongtao Ding, University of Iowa

Heat-free Soldering

The New Supercooled Paradigm: Liquid metal particles, when punctured or broken, turn into a solid metal – allowing manufacturers to solder on demand with no heat. Image source: SAFI-Tech

Supercooled metal inks developed by SAFI-Tech enable soldering without needing to heat. The technology consists of water-balloon-like micro- and nanoparticles of liquid metal solders in a metastable supercooled state. These particles can be mechanically broken or chemically triggered to release the liquid metal, which then rapidly solidifies. The technology enables electronics manufacturers to speed up production and to solve manufacturing issues caused by high temperature processes, such as component degradation and mismatched coefficients of thermal expansion. This same technology has additional applicability in multi-material additive manufacturing, metal casting, and metal repair, where materials processing compatibility could be improved by lowering processing temperatures.
– Ian Tevis, SAFI-Tech

Advanced Silicon Nanotextures Improve Photovoltaics, Biosensors, & Batteries

A Si PV cell with nanowire texture on the left and a conventional Si PV cell on the right. Image source: Advanced Silicon Group

Realizing the immense promise of silicon nanowires relies on the ability to control the arrangement and structure of the wires. Advanced Silicon Group has developed technology to create organized silicon nanowire arrays using metal-enhanced etching to texturize silicon. When modifying photovoltaic cells with these silicon nanotextures, solar energy capture can be enhanced by up to 1.5% (absolute). Unique capabilities of this technology include the ability to control the height, diameter, and density of the nanowires, reproducible uniformity over large surfaces, and a large-scale, low-cost industrial process. The technology also has emerging applications in biosensors, Li-ion batteries, and other fields.
– Bill Rever & Marcie Black, Advanced Silicon Group

Bioinspired Super Slippery Surfaces

Figure of slippery surface demonstration
Image source: Laboratory for Nature Inspired Engineering, Penn State

Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surfaces (SLIPS) consists of nano/microstructured substrates infused with a lubricating fluid, where the lubricant is locked in place by the substrate and forms a stable, defect-free, and inert “slippery” interface. This surface outperforms its natural counterparts and state-of-the-art synthetic surfaces in its capability to repel various simple and complex liquids (water, hydrocarbons, crude oil, and blood); maintain low contact angle hysteresis; rapidly restore liquid-repellency after physical damage; resist ice adhesion; and function at high pressures. Inspired by the insect-trapping Nepenthes pitcher plant, SLIPS will find important applications in fluid handling and transportation, optical sensing, medicine, and as anti-icing, self-cleaning and anti-fouling surfaces operating in extreme environments.
Tak-Sing Wong, Penn State University


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