Plasma-Assisted Nanostructure Synthesis For Energy, Heat-Transfer, Catalytic and Chemical Reaction Devices

Period of Performance: 01/01/2014 - 12/31/2014


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Starfire Industries, LLC
2109 South Oak Street Array
Champaign, IL 61820
Principal Investigator, Firm POC


3D-nanostructured, large surface area materials are desired for a wide range of catalytic and chemical reaction devices, such as electrodes for fast-charging lithium ion batteries, compact catalytic converters for pollution control, high-speed crackers for petroleum reforming, high capacity filters and scrubbers for impurity control, high pumping speed absorbers for extreme high vacuum systems, diagnostic sensors, high density nucleation surfaces for heat-transfer and phase change materials, etc. Emerging research through DOE & apos;s SciDAC program has shown that helium bubble accumulation and migration toward the surface coupled with surface erosion seems to be the responsible mechanism. The resulting fuzz is actually in-situ generated nanotubes and nanorods from the base material protruding microns up from the surface that is highly porous with ~10% of the bulk density. Furthermore, it appears that the process is not limited to tungsten and can be extended to other metals (and possibly non-metals) over a range of temperatures. Our researchers have observed a fuzz-like interface after plasma exposure on copper, lithium, nickel and titanium at temperatures ranging from 50-250C. If true, there is potential for plasma-assisted material synthesis using low-temperature helium plasmas to engineer surfaces with extremely high-surface area for rapid chemical, heat-transfer and catalytic interaction density. The envisioned plasma-process could be a post-treatment or functionalization process on fabricated parts. This SBIR/STTR application intends to develop and commercialize processes to synthesize nanostructures on materials for high-value energy and chemical processing applications. The primary benefit to the public will be through improvement in material properties to push the bounds for temperature, energy storage, chemical reaction rate or other effect. The low-temperature plasma process could be used to across a range of energy production, storage or processing industries.