For some years now, nanoparticles have slowly become an ever more involved part of manufacturing polymers. Their versatile properties as a raw material means that they can strengthen a product, add or remove electroconductivity, increase or decrease thermal conductivity, stiffen or increase the flexibility of a product, add optical absorption or transparency, add fluorescence, or change the melting point of a substance.
However, one of the biggest challenges for manufacturers is ensuring that nanoparticles are effectively mixed into a polymer. If a nanoparticle additive is to work well, then it is vital that it is evenly distributed throughout a substance. If areas exist in a polymer where there are insufficient nanoparticles, then the desired properties may not be provided. If too many are clumped together then raw material is not effectively being used and beneficial properties may also be impaired.
To solve this problem a new process has now been developed. Called ‘volumetric nanostructuring’, the method allows for the even distribution of nanomaterials throughout a given substance.
As Lev Lyapeikov, the product development manager at AG CHEMI GROUP, explains, “The process of volume nanostructuring materials consists of several basic technological steps. Firstly, materials must be prepared by reducing the moisture content in the polymers concerned and by modifying the nanoparticles to be added, so that they can supply the required properties to the finished product.
“Then, the polymer is restructured with the necessary reagents, before carbon nanomaterial is mixed in with the aid of a technologically advanced, progressive deagglomeration process. And finally, the polymer is reverse restructured with reagents.”
The result, says Lyapeikov, is a thorough and even distribution of nanoparticles throughout the polymer which allows for the properties of both the nanoparticles and the polymer to reach their full potential.
Nanotechnology has often been hailed as a great frontier, and with good reason too. However, for a large part nanoproducts are still in their infancy. It is taking a series of technological breakthroughs, such as ‘volumetric nanostructuring’, to increase nanoparticles effectiveness to a level that gets the most out of them and drives costs down.
‘Volumetric nanostructuring’ does not slip off the tongue easily, but it may easily boost the nanoparticle market and boost manufacturing everywhere.