The Australian Research Council (ARC) has awarded Eden Innovations Ltd to and the University of Queensland (UQ) a fifth consecutive ARC Linkage Research Grant worth A$376,518 (US$274,436), payable over three years, to help fund the development on a new production method for carbon nanotube- (CNT) enriched thermoplastic composites.
Both Eden and UQ will also contribute to the total cost of the project. These ARC linkage research grants are highly sought after, and the process is extremely competitive.
The new project aims to develop a method to produce novel drawn polymer fibers incorporating aligned carbon nanotubes within the polymer. Such polymer fibers will show significant directional strength and stiffness and can themselves be used for reinforcing thermoplastics to make high performance, smart composites. The research partners will also focus on recyclability of the CNT-reinforced fibers. This development could have significant commercial and environmental benefits as existing thermosetting composites are not readily recyclable and require high levels (>30%) of reinforcing fibers.
The targeted outcomes of this project, if successful, will be a novel technology for making high strength and stiffness polymer fibers reinforced with Eden’s CNTs, expanding their potential use in thermoplastic composites. These new polymer fibers could also enable down-sizing of high-volume products that may well be suitable for use in high value automotive or aerospace products.
At the end of this new project Eden and UQ will have been continuously collaborating for more than 15 years. The earliest project resulted in the development of the underlying pyrolysis process by which Eden produces hydrogen and carbon nanotubes (CNT) or carbon nanofibers from natural gas, without producing CO2 as a by-product.
The subsequent projects have led to the development of EdenPlast, Eden’s CNT enriched polymer product.
EdenPlast can be produced with a large range of final CNT concentrations, either directly or from dilution of a high CNT concentration masterbatch. Significant increase in stiffness and strength is seen at very low CNT concentrations of <1%, whereas interesting secondary effects are observed as the CNT concentration is increased. The masterbatch production method for this product has already been developed and undergone multiple optimization and scale-up steps. A high CNT concentration masterbatch is currently being tested by a Japanese company.
Potential commercial applications for EdenPlast include the automotive and aerospace composites, packaging, battery cathodes, and non-corroding reinforcing materials.