University of Surrey Wins Major Nano-materials Contract
The Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) at the University of Surrey (UniS), together with its regional partner, CEVP Ltd. of Newhaven, East Sussex, have won a £450K contract to develop a ‘NanoGrowth’ Machine. This tool will allow the commercial growth of nano-materials (including carbon nanotubes) at low temperatures, allowing the use of substrate materials which cannot withstand the high growth temperatures normally required. The development work is partly funded by the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA). SEEDA contributed £215K to this project, to help realise the potential of nanotechnology in the South East by enabling mass production of nano-materials, including carbon nanotubes, as an affordable platform technology.
The ‘NanoGrowth Machine’ is an exciting world first, offering simple ‘turn key’ operation to produce highly bespoke nano-materials, using recipes patented by UniS.
In general, Carbon Nanotubes grown by the method of chemical vapour deposition require substrate temperatures in excess of 700oC to allow controlled growth on a transition metal catalyst. The NanoGrowth machine allows for the energy to be coupled to catalyst particles via the plasma which allows the substrate temperature to be lowered considerably. This SEEDA contract will enable the ATI and CEVP to grow CNT reproducibly over 3 inch wafers, and the technology is scalable to 8 inch substrates. In addition to the potential for sales of the ‘NanoGrowth Machine’ itself, this technology enables the creation of an exciting range of new nano-material based high value ‘premium’ products, ranging from semiconductor interconnects to low energy solid state lighting to nano-composite solar cells. All of these products have large global sales potential and are based on UniS patented research being developed with commercial partners.
The lead investigator from the ATI, Prof. Ravi Silva said, "The SEEDA money will help us develop the prototype NanoGrowth machine into a world beating technology platform for nano-materials. We are already in discussions with major multinationals about a range of high-tech products. Together with developing the tool technology, the University of Surrey is actively examining routes to create a spin-out vehicle for this very exciting project".