Advanced polymer materials are increasingly used in modern technologies and may help in tackling some challenging aspects or environmental issues in aerospace, automotive, energy, and other global industries. Going to nanoscale offers many possibilities, where nano-reinforced and nanostructured polymer materials provide interesting properties and solutions. The large potential of those materials is predicted in the applications ranging from improved engineering to energy-storage for instance. Modification of various polymer materials with the aim to enhance their physical and mechanical properties is one of the most important problems in this area. ANF Development OU (ANF) addresses key challenges in using nanomaterials for polymer modification: difficulty in accessing nanofiber, which would give effect at low loadings and at the same time can be industrially available at a low cost. Existing nanomaterials, which are currently used for this purpose, are either unavailable on large scale (single wall CNTs) or require high loads in a polymer (multi-wall CNTs, nano silicas, nano-clays).
ANF is the first-ever producer of Nafen™ nanofibers in industrial volumes, with production costs comparable to that of traditional materials. Nafen™ is a new and unique Aluminum Oxide nanofiber with the potential to unlock innovation across a number of major industry sectors. Nafen™ provides a unique combination of properties including the controllable diameter of 7 to 15 nm, the polycrystal length of over 150 millimeters, high tensile strength, vast surface area, chemical inertness, stability against radiation, and thermal stability up to 1200 degrees Celsius. Currently, ANF has developed several applications for Nafen™ nanofiber that include Nafen™-modified thermoplastics and Nafen™-modified composite bonding materials.
The overall objectives of the project are: (1) setting up a solid footprint within the groups of European thermoplastics and thermosets manufacturers and thus (2) enhancing many end products. Depending on the application, end customers will enjoy better products with lower costs and/or lower product weight. Alternatively, the same end products may have higher margins at lower selling price levels, which will ultimately benefit both manufacturers and the end users.
From the project results, it can be concluded that Nafen™ masterbatches and masterbatch-based products positively impact the mechanical performance of advanced materials, engineered plastics, and composites. The value-added benefits provided by very small loadings of Nafen™ in engineered composites, plastics, coatings, adhesives and bonding systems will potentially reset the performance level that manufacturers produce end products at. Previous commodity style products can assume a higher performance role and thus make everyday products much more valuable in markets they couldn’t compete in before. Use of Nafen™ masterbatches makes it possible to (1) achieve reduced weight in polymer goods by using less material or making more durable goods, (2) achieve fuel economy over the lifecycle of airplanes and vehicles, (3) replace traditional materials from their applications. Hence, interest in Nafen™ as a nano enhancer for polymers can be demonstrated by the fact that ANF is continuing to carry out the work with potential partners and existing clients to support further go-to-market steps as well as identify new prospective applications of Nafen™-based products.
Small things making a big difference
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 685213