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Enhancing Mechanical Performance of Polymers with Unique Aluminium Oxide Nanofibers

Technology Overview

A unique nanofiber form of pure aluminium oxide (alumina) was discovered and further developed as an industrial scale technology. Nano-alumina features high strength, high aspect ratio, large surface area and a faceted surface, which all together allow the nanofiber to increase the mechanical properties of polymer (e.g. epoxy) based systems. The increased performance will have great benefits for advanced material manufacturers and the end-users of those materials (i.e. composites, adhesives, sealants, coatings). Affected industries include Marine, Oil & Gas, Aerospace, Automotive, Electronics, Construction, Performance Sports Equipment and more.

This alumina nanofiber technology has been taken a step further by developing dispersion methods which enables homogeneous dispersion within the polymer matrix. This eliminates the current problems faced by nano-additive users, where additional processing steps or high increases in cost are required just to incorporate those nano-additives. This technology requires very low concentrations of the alumina nanofiber and no additional processing steps, where existing nano-additives require significantly higher loadings that can impact other aspects of the formulations (e.g. viscosity) negatively, thus demanding more complex chemistry in order to balance the system. In the current market environment, where most industry participants are looking for higher strength and lighter weight for their materials, this new alumina nanofiber technology has shown very promising increases in the performance of real-world products.

Technology Features & Specifications

The aluminum oxide (alumina) nanofiber has the following unique features:

  • 10nm diameter Solid structure (no micropores) with large surface area (155 m2/g)
  • High Temperature stability (up to 1200°C)
  • High aspect ratio (30:1 up to 90:1 in dispersed form)
  • High strength (12 GPa tensile strength; 400 GPa tensile modulus)
  • Dielectric (non-electrically conductive)
  • Thermally conductive (30 W/mK)
  • Naturally predispersed as-produced (no agglomeration)
  • Transparent when wetted (no negative effect on colored or clear systems)
  • Faceted surface (allows for mechanical interlocking within the matrix)

Potential Applications

Several immediate industry applications where the technology can have a very positive impact has been identified, and these include the following polymer-based product categories:

  • Abrasion resistant coatings or pipe liners for automotive, marine, wind energy, oil & gas
  • Crack resistant and corrosion resistant coatings for marine vessel and offshore oil & gas construction
  • Toughened composite components for automotive, aerospace, wind energy, high performance sports equipment, etc.
  • Strengthened and flexible composite components for automotive, aerospace, wind energy, high performance sports equipment, etc.
  • Fire resistant coatings for marine, oil & gas and construction industries
  • High Performance adhesives with better adhesive and cohesive strength for automotive, aerospace, wind energy and electronics
  • Dielectric films, adhesives and sealants for the electronics industry to reduce the impact of electro-magnetic impulse on sensitive components
  • Higher performance, lighter weight ballistic armour and structural composites for automotive, aerospace, personal protection, wind energy, etc.

Additional target applications currently being investigated are as follows:

  • Accelerators for Ultra High Performance Cement (UHPC), reducing curing times while increasing compression strength
  • Additive for more stable, high-capacity lithium batteries
  • Catalyst carriers for various gas phase change catalysis
  • Reinforcing additive for ceramics to prevent creep, shrinkage and micro crack propagation in high temperature ceramics.
  • Reinforcing and strengthening additive for thermoplastics

Customer Benefits

Advantages of the alumina nanofiber in polymers include increases in the following properties:

  • Impact toughness
  • Flexural strength
  • Fracture toughness (crack resistance)
  • Compressive, Interlaminar shear and Tensile strength
  • Tensile modulus & Elongation (elasticity) 
  • Abrasion resistance
  • Dielectric shielding (insulating from electric impulses)
  • Fire resistance (including burn-through rate and char resistance)
  • Thermal conductivity

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