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The Advanced Technology Institute at the University of Surrey, and its plasma processing partner CEVP, have won substantial project funding from the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) to help develop a tool for growing nanomaterials.
SEEDA’s funding injection of £215,000 – which raises the project’s development capital to £450,000 – will aid the commercialisation of a practical method of mass-producing revolutionary materials such as carbon nanotubes. As a result, industry will gain access to an affordable platform for manufacturing leading-edge products such as ultra-fast semiconductors, low-energy solid-state lighting, and super-efficient solar cells.
The funding will help the partners to commercialise a prototype tool called NanoGrowth, which uses the University’s patented production ‘recipes’ to provide a simple turnkey means of manufacturing highly bespoke nanomaterials. Whereas carbon nanotubes grown by chemical vapour deposition normally need to be processed at temperatures in excess of 700C, NanoGrowth uses a plasma-enhanced process which allows the growth substrate’s temperature to be lowered considerably. This opens up many potential applications, allowing carbon nanotubes to be grown with precision even on highly heat sensitive materials.
The funding from SEEDA will enable the University and CEVP to grow carbon nanotubes repeatably on 3 inch wafers, with the potential to scale up to 12 inch substrates. This scale of production opens the door to exciting high-value products based on nanomaterials, as well as sales of the NanoGrowth machine itself. All these products have global sales potential, and are based on patented research conducted by the University and its commercial partners.
“”SEEDA funding will help us transform the prototype NanoGrowth machine into a world-beating technology platform for nanomaterials””, said Professor Ravi Silva, lead investigator at the Advanced Technology Institute. “”We are already talking with multinationals about a range of high-tech products, and as well as developing the tool, we are actively examining routes to create a spin-out vehicle for this exciting technology.””
“”Developers are well aware of what the incredible mechanical and electrical properties of carbon nanotubes and related materials can bring to precision applications such as ICs and flat panel displays, but their aspirations have been frustrated by the limitations of current high temperature growth techniques””, said Ben Jensen of CEVP. “” We’ve already demonstrated that precision carbon nanotube fabrication is feasible at low temperatures and on a large scale – this SEEDA funding will help us bring the process to the commercial world.””
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