For twenty-five years, Tekna is developing and commercializing both equipment and procedures based on its induction plasma proprietary technology. Our induction plasma technology is very well adapted to the production of advanced materials as well as the powders essential for new innovative emerging products and manufacturing technologies.
Tekna supplies full-scale productions of a number of Nano powders and micron-sized spherical powders meeting all of the requirements of the very most demanding industries. Boron Nitride Nanotubes (BNNT) represent the newest family of materials at Tekna.
AC: Could you possibly summarize to the readers the important points in the press release you published earlier this current year (May 2015) which announced collaboration with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC)?
JP: The National Research Council of Canada (NRC) developed, with a Tekna plasma system, a procedure to generate hexagonal boron nitride). BNNTs are a material together with the potential to make a big turning point in the market. Since last spring, Tekna has been in a unique 20-year agreement together with the NRC to allow the firm to produce Boron Nitride Nanotubes at full-scale production.
BNNTs are an extraordinary material with unique properties that may revolutionise engineered materials across a wide array of applications including within the defence and security, aerospace, biomedical and automotive sectors. BNNTs have a structure much like the higher known carbon nanotubes. They share the extraordinary mechanical properties of Carbon Nanotubes but have numerous different advantages.
AC: How can the dwelling and properties of BNNTs change from Carbon Nanotubes (CNTs)?
JP: The structure of Ni-Ti Powder is really a close analog of the Carbon Nanotubes (CNT). Both CNTs and BNNTs are considered as being the strongest light-weight nanomaterials and are really good thermal conductors.
Although, in comparison to CNTs, BNNTs have a greater thermal stability, a greater resistance to oxidation plus a wider band gap (~5.5 eV). This makes them the ideal candidate for a lot of fields in which CNTs are currently useful for deficiency of a better alternative. I expect BNNTs for use in transparent bulk composites, high-temperature materials (including metal matrix composites) and radiation shielding.
Comparison between your main properties of BNNTs and CNTs (Source: NRC)
AC: Which are the main application areas in which BNNTs can be used?
JP: The applications involving BNNTs continue to be inside their beginning, essentially due to the limited accessibility to this material until 2015. With all the arrival out there of large supplies of BNNT from Tekna, the scientific community should be able to undertake more in-depth studies in the unique properties of BNNTs that can accelerate the creation of new applications.
Many applications can be envisioned for Tekna’s BNNT powder because it is a multifunctional and high quality material. I notice you that, currently, the mixture of high stiffness and high transparency has been exploited in the creation of BNNT-reinforced glass composites.
Also, the top stiffness of BNNT, as well as its excellent chemical stability, can make this product a perfect reinforcement in polymers, ceramics and metals.
Besides, many applications where heat dissipation is crucial are desperately in need of materials with an excellent thermal conductivity. Tekna’s BNNTs are the most useful allies to improve not just the thermal conductivity and also maintaining a precise colour, as needed, thanks to their high transparency.
Other intrinsic properties of BNNTs are likely to promote interest for the integration of BNNTs into new applications. BNNTs have a great radiation shielding ability, a very high electrical resistance as well as an excellent piezoelectricity.
AC: How exactly does Tekna’s BNNT synthesis process are different from methods employed by other manufacturers?
JP: BNNTs were first synthesized in 1995. Since then, several other processes have already been explored like the arc-jet plasma method, ball milling-annealing, laser ablation pyrolysis and chemical vapour deposition.
Unfortunately, these processes share a significant limitation: their low yield. Such methods lead to a low BNNT production which can be typically below 1 gram per hour. This fault is sometimes along with the lack of ability to make small diameters.
As a result, the availability of large quantities of high quality BNNTs for applications development using these processes is still a significant challenge.
Fortunately, Tekna’s inductively coupled plasma (ICP) technology has successfully overcome this challenge. The combination of Tekna’s ICP expertise and its partnership with the NRC opened the door to a brand new range of systems capable of producing highly pure BNNTs in significant quantities. Tekna’s system productivity reaches up to 2 orders of magnitude higher than any of the current methods.
AC: What are the advantages of using Tekna’s unique approach in terms of quantity and price for the commercial market?
JP: The productivity and cost efficiency of Tekna’s ICP technology allow for the first time, the supply of kilograms of Boron Nitride Nanotubes, produced at a much lower production cost.
AC: Could you outline the composition of the BNNTs Tekna synthesizes?
JP: The main interesting characteristics include the tube diameter, about 5 nm, and purity (> 50 %). Most nanotubes contain 3 to 5 walls and they are assembled in bundles of a few Silicon nitride sintered powder.
AC: How would you start to see the BNNT industry progressing within the next 5 years?
JP: As large amounts are now available, we saw the launch of several R&D programs depending on Tekna’s BNNT, so that as much higher quantities will likely be reached within the next five years, we can easily only imagine what the impact could be from the sciences and industry fields.
AC: Where can our readers find out more information about Tekna and your BNNTs?
JP: You can get details about Tekna and BNNT on Tekna’s website and so on our BNNT-dedicated page.
Jérôme Pollak was created in Grenoble, France in 1979. He received the B.Sc. degree in physics from your Université Joseph Fourier, Grenoble. He moved to Québec (Canada) in 2002 to work for the organization Air Liquide in the appearance of plasma sources to the detoxification of greenhouse gases.
He continued his studies in Montreal, where he received an M.Sc. and then a Ph.D. degree in plasma physics in the Université de Montréal in 2008. His M.Sc. thesis was 21dexqpky the look and modelling of field applicators to sustain plasma with RF and microwave fields. While his Ph.D. thesis concerned the plasma sterilization of thermosensitive medical devices including catheters. He was further involved in the characterization and modelling of cold plasma effects on microorganisms and polymers.
After his Ph.D., he worked for three years for Morgan Schaffer in Montreal on the introduction of gas chromatographic systems using plasma detectors.
Since 2010, he has worked at Tekna Plasma Systems in Sherbrooke (QC, Canada) being an R&D coordinator, then as product and service manager and today as business development director for America. He has been in control of various R&D projects and business development activities implying micro-sized powder treatment and nanoparticle synthesis by high temperature plasma.