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Novel Conductive Composite Breaks the Mould

21 July 2004

Bac2 Electrode Materials has exploited the unique conducting properties of a novel polymer system to develop ElectroPhen, a low cost, mouldable, conductive composite material.

Composite conductive carbon materials used in industrial electrochemical processes such as water treatment, metal recovery and fuel cells, are generally regarded to be expensive to produce as high temperature carbonisation and graphitisation stages are necessary to transform polymer compositions into conductive carbon electrodes.

Conductive polymer composites that can be fabricated rapidly by means of injection moulding or compression moulding without the need for high temperature post treatment would be a major advance in fuel cell economics and in low cost electrochemical water treatment, according to Bac2.

Most polymers are electrically insulating, and so high loadings of conductive fillers have to be incorporated to achieve adequate electrical conductivity. This generally results in poor mechanical properties.

ElectroPhen is unique in that it produces conductive salts in-situ during the polymerisation reaction, and so is more conductive than other plastics.

During the Smart funded study at Portsmouth University, ElectroPhen was used to form shaped polymer composite electrodes in a low-cost room-temperature process. A prototype electrochemical cell was manufactured using ElectroPhen moulded electrode plates.

The prototype cell was used to electrochemically remove dissolved metal from a waste stream.

Metal recovery from effluent by electrochemical deposition is an alternative to conventional techniques to remove metal ions such as chemical precipitation and ion exchange. ElectroPhen was also used to generate hypochlorite electrochemically from salt water.

As hypochlorite is a universal disinfectant this leads to the possibility to manufacture low cost water disinfection systems. There is potential for a low cost water disinfection system for operations where microbiological problems exist and resources are not available to install expensive chlorination plants or to handle chemicals.

Examples are drinking water in developing countries, cooling waters and air conditioning systems (eg legionella).

Bac2 won 2nd prize at Innovention 2004 for the ElectroPhen development, and the company is now seeking to license ElectroPhen to companies in need of low-cost mouldable, conductive materials.