Affordable nanocrystalline materials find worldwide applications in industry
Nanophase Technologies Corporation
Nanophase Technologies Corporation was founded to commercialize an Argonne technology that makes materials from particles less than one-thousandth the diameter of a human hair.
Nanophase Technologies Corporation (NTC) was founded to commercialize an Argonne technology for making materials with unique properties from particles less than 50 nanometers (two millionths of an inch) in diameter. The challenge for NTC was to bring the synthesis process up to a commercial scale in volume and cost. Initially, materials were produced in volumes measured in grams per day and at a cost of thousands of dollars per gram. Now, production is measured in tons, and the company's materials are positioned in the economic mainstream of substantial markets.
Because the particles in nanophase materials are so tiny, they slip by each other with great ease. This property of superplasticity has allowed NTC to develop a commercially feasible means to form nanophase materials into structural ceramic components, to tolerance, by using heat and pressure alone. This process eliminates a very costly machining step.
NTC conducted this work in collaboration with two major industrial firms, under a grant awarded through the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Advanced Technology Program. Under the program, technology has been demonstrated for the closed-die isothermal forging of a superplastic ceramic to final shape in 11 minutes. In contrast, shaping by conventional means requires up to several hours.
NTC has recently begun engineering and marketing materials for specific applications. The shaping capability described above is now actively being marketed to critical industrial applications, and other strategically targeted applications for dispersed and consolidated materials are being pursued.
NTC has begun test-marketing its iron oxide for use as a cosmetics ingredient, and the worldwide market launch of NTC's titania as a sunscreen ingredient is scheduled to follow.
These activities are the result of NTC's recent agreement with a global market organization for the distribution of NTC's materials in cosmetic and skin-care markets worldwide. The agreement covers more than 300 countries.
NTC currently is bringing on-line its first commercial-scale production facility, located in Burr Ridge, IL. Argonne's basic research on nanophase materials was supported by DOE's Office of Energy Research, Basic Energy Sciences, Division of Materials Sciences.
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