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Research Project Awarded by Government
Release date:05/05/2010
Nanolab has done numerous research projects funded by private companies or by the government agencies. Below are synopses of our research projects funded by the government agencies. You can find more details at
Titles of awarded research projects:
1.Ultrahigh Loading of Carbon Nanotubes in Structural Resins for Advanced Composites
2.Advanced Composites with Nanoscale Reinforcement
3.Lightweight Ballistic Armor for Military Aircraft
4.High Strength, High Modulus Nano-Composite Missile Structures
5.Functionalized Nanotubes for High Performance Composites
6.Large quantity production of Carbon Nanotubes
7.High Volume, Low-Cost Production of High-Purity Carbon Nanotubes
8.High Toughness Ceramics Containing Carbon Nanotube Reinforcement
9.High Toughness Ceramics Containing Carbon Nanotube Reinforcement
10.Nanostructure-Enhanced Bulk Thermoelectric Materials
11.Nanostructured Thermoelectric Composites
12.Nanostructured Thermoelectric Composites
13.Nanoscale Antennas
Proposal Title Ultrahigh Loading of Carbon Nanotubes in Structural Resins for Advanced Composites
Contract Number N00014-08-M-0324
Performance period 7/03/2008 - 5/07/2009
Abstract Over the past ten years, it has become clear that the high mechanical, thermal and electrical properties inherent to carbon nanotubes are not easily manifested in nanocomposites. The nanoparticle content that can be achieved in epoxy resin is limited to <5 wt% with traditional compounding equipment, due to the exponential increase in viscosity as nanotubes are added. Despite these low contents, significant improvements have been demonstrated for numerous properties. The goal of this project is to develop new methods to incorporate nanotubes at high loadings into nanocomposite resins, based on a scientific analysis of the impediments to the mixing of nanomaterials. NanoLab will team with Dr. Jandro Abot at the University of Cincinnati, to combine our expertise in nanotube synthesis, functionalization, & processing, with Dr. Abot’s expertise and unique equipment for mechanical testing and rheology. In the proposal, we review the geometric arrangement of nanotubes in fluids, and demonstrate that viscosity buildup is unavoidable in turbulent flows. We also propose a number of methods to formulate highly loaded composites, and will screen these in the Phase I effort.
Proposal Title Advanced Composites with Nanoscale Reinforcement
Contract Number FA9550-04-C-0120
Performance period 9/15/2004 - 6/15/2005
Abstract Advanced fiber composites are fabricated by automated 3D weaving and braiding processes. These weaving processes use tows of micron diameter fibers, to create preforms for resin infiltration. The interaction between the resin matrix and the fibers can be potentially increased by creating nanoscale features on the carbon fibers. NanoLab is expert in the synthesis of carbon nanotubes and their applications in composites. In the proposed work, we plan to develop a process where nanotubes can be grown on 3-D woven or 3-D braided performs, as well as individual fibers and cloths. We will then infiltrate sample composites, and perform representative mechanical tests, in order to validate the possibility of achieving improved mechanical performance, particularly higher penetration resistance under foreign object impact.
Proposal Title Lightweight Ballistic Armor for Military Aircraft
Contract Number N68335-05-C-0285
Performance period 5/09/2005 - 11/09/2005
Abstract Many Navy aircraft platforms face the compromise between complete crew protection and diminished mission capability. NanoLab proposes a novel, lightweight aircraft armor solution that is easily manufactured, repairable and cost competitive. This is accomplished using a composite approach to the ballistic strike material, in which ceramic spheres of boron carbide are arranged in a polymer matrix material. Boron carbide has been used in aircraft armor applications for over 4 decades due to its high strength to weight ratio, but it suffers from high cost and low repair-ability. In the Phase I effort, we will develop pressure-less sintering techniques to reduce the cost of this critical material, and incorporate it in a unique form that allows additional defeat mechanisms, mold-ability, and repair.
Proposal Title High Strength, High Modulus Nano-Composite Missile Structures
Contract Number W31P4Q-08-C-0068
Performance period 12/4/2007 - 6/4/2008
Abstract Over the past ten years, it has become increasingly clear that carbon fiber composites can replace more common engineering materials such as aluminum in weight critical, structural components, such as those found in missile systems. Nanoscale materials, such as carbon nanotubes, can impart superior mechanical properties to these composites, and thereby allow composites to replace more components. However, they require careful optimization before the properties inherent in nanomaterials are manifested in the bulk composites. In the proposed Phase-I investigation, NanoLab will apply our expertise in nanotube catalysis, growth, and chemical functionalization to chopped carbon fibers and the preparation of composites with them. NanoLab will work in this Phase I effort to identify the optimal length, site density, and functionalization scheme to optimize the properties of chopped fiber based, epoxy filled carbon composites, with the goal of matching the properties of aluminum alloy 7075 at a lower density.
Proposal Title Functionalized Nanotubes for High Performance Composites
Contract Number N00014-06-M-0319
Performance period 8/1/2006 – 5/31/2007
Abstract Carbon nanotubes, have extraordinary mechanical properties, but these properties are difficult to manifest in composites, due to their limited interfacial bonding, and therefore the inability to transfer loads from a polymer matrix. Chemical functionalization of the nanotube surface is required to improve the interfacial load transfer, but functionalization may degrade the tensile properties of the nanotubes. NanoLab will investigate, together with Dr. Ruoff of Northwestern University, functionalization methods that provide improved bonding with common structural resins, while leaving the nanotube structures as intact as possible. Together, we will learn a great deal about the effects that functionalization will have upon the mechanical and physical properties of CNTs. During the Phase I effort, NanoLab and Northwestern will:

1. Functionalize single wall and multiwall carbon nanotubes.
2. Determine their functional group concentrations.
3. Perform mechanical tests on INDIVIDUAL functionalized carbon nanotubes.
Next, using the functionalization protocols that are least injurious to the nanotubes properties, we will employ vacuum assisted resin transfer molding to form epoxy-nanotube composites. Finally, Northwestern will document the mechanical properties of the infiltrated composites.

BENEFITS: The potential commercial application area for carbon nanotube based composites is huge. Carbon nanotubes are rapidly becoming affordable and available in large quantities, and will soon take their place on the composite designer’s shelf. Nanotubes have impressive strength, toughness, and low density, making them exceptionally valuable for composites such as wings, fuselages.
Proposal Title Large quantity production of Carbon Nanotubes
Contract Number DAAD17-02-C-0004
Performance period 12/04/2001 – 21/04/2003
Abstract Carbon nanotubes have enormous potential for applications in composites, batteries, and nanostructured devices. However, these applications will not become feasible until the material is produced in kilogram per day quantities. Compounding the problem is the material's high cost, presently $500/g. Apart from the simple supply and demand economics, the cost is driven by three factors: expensive capital equipment, low process yields and laborious purification procedures. In the Phase I effort, NanoLab developed and demonstrated a semi-continuous process that results in multi gram per hour yields of high quality multiwall carbon nanotubes, overcoming the two major hurdles to large scale commercialization of carbon nanotubes: yield and purity. The main Phase II goal will be to develop a fully continuous process, that will produce large quantities of high quality carbon nanotubes: multiwall, single-wall, powders, and arrays. Based on our effort thus far, we expect to achieve yield of more than 5 kilogram per day, at less than $2 per gram pricing by 2004, for multiwall nanotubes. In addition, we will improve the control over the application driven variants of nanotube morphologies, through experimenting and theoretical and numerical process modeling. We will develop the market for nanotubes and their applications.
Proposal Title High Volume, Low-Cost Production of High-Purity Carbon Nanotubes
Contract Number DAAD17-01-C-0025
Performance period 1/12/2001 – 12/10/2001
Abstract Carbon nanotubes have tremendous potential in many applications, but are limited by their high cost. The cost is driven by two factors, the low process yield and the laborious purification procedures required by current synthesis techniques, DC discharge and laser ablation. However, nanotubes produced by the Chemical Vapor Deposition process have both high yield and purity, as well as control over nanotube diameter and length. Further, straight, aligned nanotubes can be grown on a substrate, a key advantage for device fabrication. NanoLab is the exclusive licensee of the CVD nanotube growth process developed by Dr. Zhifeng Ren and patented by the University of Buffalo. Dr. Ren, now at Boston College, has performed the fundamental research on this process, as highlighted in the National Nanotechnology Initiative. Therefore, the program goal is to design and implement a high output pilot facility for carbon nanotube production. The key development will be a CVD belt furnace, where nanotubes can be continuously harvested. In Phase I, we will demonstrate a semi-continuous process for nanotube production, based on an extension of the existing CVD technology. After validating the semicontinuous production, we will design a full scale production unit for large quantity nanotube synthesis.The advent of production quantities of carbon nanotubes will enable new applications that become viable when the cost is lower. Field emission displays, sensors, and other devices can be effectively produced using this process, as well as bulk materials for composites and high volume applications.
Proposal Title High Toughness Ceramics Containing Carbon Nanotube Reinforcement
Contract Number DAAD16-03-C-0020
Performance period 12/17/2002 – 11/10/2003
Abstract Boron Carbide (B4C) was chosen for use as a ceramic ballistic protection system due to the beneficial combination of low density and high elastic modulus. These properties contribute to the performance characteristics of high hardness and high sonic value that defeats the incoming projectile. However, the brittle nature of the ceramic component limits the envelope of practical applications. Previous studies have shown a 20% increase in fracture toughness for ceramic matrix components by the addition of carbon nanotubes. Preliminary testing has shown that mixing conditions have a significant effect on the uniformity of the hot pressed composite. The mixing method, however, did not have a significant effect on the bulk density of the samples. The work herein proposed by NanoLab, Inc. will study the dispersion of carbon nanotubes in B4C powder and provide hot pressed test specimens for physical and mechanical property testing. Results will be used to identify samples for armor penetration testing. The addition of carbon nanotubes to boron carbide ceramic armor is expected to increase the fracture toughness of the composite, which will increase resistance to low speed impact defects. The result will be a more effective protection barrier for both personnel and equipment. Replacement due to non-ballistic impact should also be reduced.
Proposal Title High Toughness Ceramics Containing Carbon Nanotube Reinforcement
Contract Number W911QY-04-C-0013
Performance period 11/10/2003 – 11/23/2005
Abstract In January 2003, the US Army Natick Soldier Center awarded a Phase I SBIR contract to NanoLab, Inc. The main contract goal was to improve the toughness of boron carbide armor materials, through the addition of carbon nanotubes. To reach this goal, NanoLab conducted studies to determine suitable blending and compounding techniques to obtain uniformly dispersed composite powders of nanotubes and boron carbide. After identifying suitable blending techniques, NanoLab was given access to the facilities at the Army Research Laboratory (ARL). The facilities at Aberdeen include a plasma pressure compaction unit. This unit, similar to a hot press, allows the rapid consolidation of ceramic powders into a sintered article, such as an armor tile. With the assistance of the staff at ARL, NanoLab investigated the processing parameters required to make fully dense boron carbide nanotube composites. Once these parameters were identified, NanoLab used characterization facilities at Boston College and Worcester Polytechnic Institute to analyze these samples. The analysis revealed that the toughness has been doubled, in comparison to the standard boron carbide. In addition, the high hardness of boron carbide is preserved. These results are based on indent tests, and sample preparation for ballistic tests are ongoing. The work undertaken in this program will yield tougher, more damage-resistant ceramic components for applications including armor and industrial products. The significant enhancement of the boron carbide toughness has immediate applications in blast nozzles and other high wear components that suffer from high brittleness.
Proposal Title Nanostructure-Enhanced Bulk Thermoelectric Materials
Contract Number N00014-05-M-0042
Performance period 12/13/2004 - 6/13/2005
Abstract NanoLab plans to synthesize nanoparticles of Sb2Te3, Bi2Te3,Bi2Se3, silicon and germanium using established and experimental techniques that are applicable to large scale synthesis. We will investigate the rapid consolidation of these nanoparticles to form nanocomposites of Si-Ge, Bi2Te3-Sb2Te3 (p-type) and Bi2Te3-Bi2Se3 (n-type), and test their thermoelectric properties.
Proposal Title Nanostructured Thermoelectric Composites
Contract Number W911NF-05-C-0116
Performance period 09/27/2005 - 09/26/2007
Abstract NanoLab, Boston College and MIT conducted a Phase I development effort in nanoscale thermoelectric composites. Our goal was to show that the high ZT obtained for quantum dot structures can also be obtained using scalable nanoparticle processes. The research focused on the synthesis of nanoscale lead selenide (PbSe) and lead telluride (PbTe). Next, densification procedures were developed with micron scale powders, then with nanopowders. We achieved near theoretical densities, but saw grain growth. MIT first tested parts made from micron scale powders, which showed expected values for thermal & electrical conductivity. Next, MIT tested parts made from nanoscale powders. For nanoscale PbSe, the electrical conductivity increased to 72,690 S/m. However, the thermal conductivity also increased to 2.12 W/mK, so ZT was ~0.32. We attribute the high thermal conductivity to sub-optimal thermal processing conditions. Similar work was conducted for PbTe, but the nanoscale PbTe had a lower electrical conductivity (15,469 S/m) than its micron scale counterpart (25,614 S/m). We achieved lower thermal conductivity (1.66 vs. 1.8 W/mK), but overall, the ZT stayed near ~0.2. Like PbSe, thermal processing optimization can improve performance. In Phase II, we plan to optimize the densification, then mass produce high ZT nanostructured
Proposal Title Nanostructured Thermoelectric Composites
Contract Number W911NF-04-C-0080
Performance period 7/21/2004 - 1/31/2005
Abstract Advances in thermoelectric materials are needed to broaden the application areas for these materials. Specifically, the figure of merit (ZT) for thermoelectrics must be increased. Some recent demonstrations show that nanoscale structures are the key to obtaining high ZT (>2). However, these superlattice structures are created one layer at a time, in expensive processes. In the Phase I effort, NanoLab proposes to develop a bulk analog of the superlattice structure, that retains the properties of the quantum dot superlattice structures. To accomplish this, NanoLab plans to synthesize nanoparticles of thermoelectric materials and incorporate them into a nanocomposite. We believe that we can create a large number of quantum confined structures (quantum dots) distributed within a semiconductor matrix will be a cost effective route to obtain high figure of merit (ZT). Even at today's costs, we can predict that the cost of a nanocomposite will be far less than a structure grown by molecular beam epitaxy (MBE).
Proposal Title Nanoscale Antennas
Contract Number W911NF-06-C-0117
Performance period 8/7/2006 - 2/03/2007
Abstract This effort will culminate in the demonstration of a new class of antennas, to allow the coupling of RF signals with nanoscale devices and sensors. An antenna for RF must be millimeters long, and nanoscale in diameter, if it is to interact with nanoscale devices. The aligned carbon nanotubes grown at NanoLab are synthesized in millimeter lengths, have good conductivity, and therefore should make excellent antennas. The work will entail the growth, characterization, and attachment of these antennas on test substrates, and their performance will be evaluated in collaboration with the University of Arizona.
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