Phoenix Solutions' Plasma Technology Enables Full-Scale Production of Nanoparticles
By Benjamin Tramm
There is nothing small about Phoenix Solutions Company's
approach to nanoparticle generation. As
the world's largest supplier of commercial thermal plasma systems, PSC's
plasma heating technology enables their customers to transition from pilot-scale
laboratory production to full-scale production of nanometric particles. Using their modular plasma torch technology,
Phoenix Solutions has partnered with the United States Army to develop systems
capable of manufacturing massive quantities of nanoparticles.
Their goal? To
manufacture ten tons of nanometric particles-per day!
Phoenix Solutions is a privately held family business having
its headquarters in Crystal, MN--less
than ten miles northwest of downtown Minneapolis. The company was founded in 1952 under the
name FluiDyne Engineering Corporation, with a focus on aerospace technology,
and particularly wind tunnels. Wind
tunnel testing often required heat, and FluiDyne developed expertise in
generating that heat using electric arc plasma.
In 1993, FluiDyne sold their wind tunnel business, but
maintained their heating system technologies, especially plasma. The company reformed as Phoenix Solutions Company. In 2000, PSC
bought Plasma Energy Corporation and has grown to be the largest supplier of
plasma technology in the world.
PSC has a test facility
located in Hutchinson, MN. The test facility gives PSC
the ability to install, evaluate and prove each system in operating conditions
prior to shipment-reducing the time to startup and ensuring that customers meet
their often demanding operation deadlines. The Hutchinson test facility
is also equipped to evaluate nanoparticle generation and gasification projects.
The core of PSC's
business is their plasma arc torches. The torches are currently available in three arc modes and five power
ranges. The arc modes, illustrated in
the drawing, include transferred, non-transferred, or a convertible mode that
is capable of switching between transferred and non-transferred operation. Some torches are capable of generating
temperatures as high as 16,000° K (about 28,340º F).
A wide variety of nanoparticles can be manufactured by
combining PSC's plasma torches with proper post-plasma reactors. For example, the plasma torches can be used
to vaporize raw stock. Once vaporized,
post-plasma processing can be used to recast the material into the desired
form. Rapid quenching is often used to
freeze the chemistry when it is in the desired state. Additional chemical processing can be
included as needed.
PSC has partnered with
the U.S. Army to develop a large-scale nanoparticle demonstrator capable of
producing up to ten tons of nanoparticles per day. To do so, PSC
is developing modular systems that will have the flexibility to generate a wide
range of materials. The idea is to
design a module, including a plasma torch and reactor, that generates as great
of quantities of nanoparticles as possible. Once completed, any number of modules can then be stacked together to
generate the full-scale quantities of nanoparticles that are required for any
particular customer. When the customer
is the U.S. Army, those quantities may be as much as ten tons per day, or
more. Such nanoparticles can be used in
a wide range of military applications, such as rocket fuels, munitions, and
materials for vehicular and personnel armor.
PSC's torches are not
only used for nanoparticle generation. In fact, approximately 80% of PSC's
technology is currently sold to Japan
where it is used for waste remediation, power production, and metallurgical
refinement. Waste processing systems
have the ability to handle diverse waste streams including incinerator ash,
municipal solid waste, biomedical and low/intermediate level nuclear
waste. The systems provide drastic
reductions in both volume and toxicity. The byproduct of plasma-processed inorganic
waste streams is a chemically inert glassy slag, which can be recycled into a
number of useful materials including roadbeds, architectural tile, and even
Their power production technology involves the use of
feedstocks such as municipal solid waste, corn stover and other biomass. Plasma torches are used to convert the
feedstock into a synthetic fuel that can then be used to produce
electricity. PSC's technology offers a
vision of the future where waste is channeled not to landfills but to power
Last summer, PSC began work on a project under a contract
with the Minnesota Department of Commerce. The project is intended to show that the cost of producing synthetic gas
from biomass feedstocks is competitive with the cost of producing commercial
natural gas. The project is part of
Governor Pawlenty's Next Generation Energy Initiative and is expected to be
completed later this summer.
To learn more about Phoenix Solutions Company, call (763) 544-2721 or visit www.phoenixsolutionsco.com.
By Shweta Sharma
Nano Tech 2009:
Interview with Phoenix Solutions' Sr. VP &
MN Nano interviewed Gary J.
Hanus, Sr. VP & CTO of Phoenix Solutions
Co. (Minneapolis MN)
about his impressions from the recent Nano Tech 2009. The conference was held in Japan
from Feb 18 to 20 with an impressive 47,000 attendees. Close to 600
companies and organizations representing 21 different countries were present at
MN Nano: Can you comment on any
one technology that left a lasting impression?
The Taiwanese pavilion with their CNT-FED (Carbon Nanotubes Field
Emission Displays) by TECO Nanotech Co. was very impressive. The Taiwanese pavilion was even presented
the "Special Award" to commend their showcase of diverse products that
MN Nano: What was your perception
on the community's general attitude towards establishing safety regulations for
the consumer market?
Gary: That is a very important question you
bring up. It was a bit disappointing to see such little coverage in this area.
The attendance from people setting the laws was also minimal.
MN Nano: With the current economic
slump and slowed down VC activity, what can you say about the financial growing
pains of the nanotech startups?
Gary: There is a lot of money out there,
the funds have not dried up, they are just sitting there. It's a matter of the
public psyche pulling itself out of this emotional international crisis. I am
not worried about funding.
MN Nano: Among the various technical sessions, which industry do you
think will be the forerunner in providing the commercialization platform for
was a large thrust, e.g. CNT transistors, CNT wires, CNT graphene composites.
All these examples make the concept of carbon based semiconductors a soon-to-become reality. Green technology, a key buzz word in the press media, is definitely
gaining momentum. Topics covered ranged
from filter systems, soil remediation, carbon-di-oxide reduction to air and water pollution. Green nanotechnology was also the theme of the Nano Tech 2009.
MN Nano: Commenting on global nanotech maturity, will Europe & Asia
lead the US?
Gary: The US
most likely has rose-colored glasses on if we are under the impression that we
are leading the change. Germany
dwarfs all the global players in their per capita spending towards R&D in
the nanotechnology sector. I was attending to make those strategic connections
in the international nanometrics community, since 75% of our business is export and most of it is to Japan.
From a total of approximately 500 companies in the nanometrics spectrum only 5
Cima NanoTech's Commercially Viable SANTE
By Marianne Timm
The Self Aligning
Nano Technology for Electronics or
product line is the first
major commercial product line of Cima NanoTech (Cima). Cima is a start-up company headquartered in Saint
Paul, Minnesota with a subsidiary in Israel. The company has pursued strategic
partnerships to speed up commercialization and draw on high quality
manufacturing and supply chain experience. Those partnerships include a joint venture with Toda Kogyo of Japan,
a prominent nanoparticle manufacturer and an initiative with Toray Industries
of Japan, a chemical manufacturer.
The SANTE product
line is a line of transparent conductive coatings and films that allow for high
light transmittance and low resistivity. Many commercial electronics require transparent conductors to function,
such as solar cells and touch-screens. However,
currently-available transparent conductors fail to meet industry needs in the
areas of transparency, conductivity, flexibility, and cost.
In contrast, SANTE
coatings of comparable transparency are around 3 to 10 times more conductive, more
flexible, greener to produce, and less expensive than currently utilized
transparent conductors. For instance, a
leading competitive technology, indium tin oxide requires the use of indium -
an expensive and very limited resource. Cima
has chosen silver nanoparticles as the base material for SANTE coatings. Silver was chosen because it is highly
conductive, readily available, relatively inexpensive, and not prone to
oxidation in air. SANTE coatings,
however, have applicability beyond silver and may be extended to different
markets with other materials. Accordingly, SANTE coatings offer a superior
alternative to indium tin oxide coatings.
SANTE coatings are
formed by combining water, oil, emulsifier, and silver nanoparticles to create
a wet emulsion, which is quickly and easily spread to coat desired materials. The silver nanoparticles self align around water
droplets. Under controlled drying conditions,
as the two phases (water and oil) of the emulsion dry, water droplets coalesce
and grow in a controlled fashion while the silver nanoparticles remain
suspended at the edges of the water droplets. After the oil and water dry, only a matrix of silver particles is
left. The spaces, left by the evaporated
water and oil, provide high light transmission. Thus, a controlled geometry of a microscopic metal mesh can be generated
using this self assembly process. The
nanoparticles are then at least partially melted at low temperatures to densify
the matrix and increase conductivity.
geometry allow for several benefits. The
matrix or mesh structure provides a flexibility that is not found in transparent
conductive oxides, which allows curved surfaces to be coated with SANTE
coatings. Additionally, conventional
transparent conductive oxides are prone to have color in their absorbance and
may require color compensation. The open
pores of the SANTE coating matrix are spectrally neutral and do not require
color compensation. Likewise,
transparency is maintained all the way through to the IR regime, allowing some products,
such as solar cells, to reap possible benefits from a greater spectral
their unique properties are essential to this technology because silver
macroparticles cannot move around in the droplets of water to form a matrix,
cannot melt at low temperatures, and are too large to form a transparent
mesh. Therefore, this technology is only
possible by utilizing the unique properties found on the nano scale.
One of the reasons
the World Economic Forum recognized Cima as a top 10 Greentech company is because
product line is produced through an additive process with minimal
silver waste and improves photovoltaic solar cell designs. In contrast, the process for forming previous
coatings, such as lithographically patterned metal meshes, produces high
volumes of heavy metal and acidic or alkaline toxic waste.
SANTE technology can
be utilized in broad electrical applications. To date, the coatings have been applied to touch-screens, curved
surfaces, solar cells, plasmas televisions, electroluminescent lamps,
electromagnetic interference filters, transparent heaters, and E-paper. Cima is further researching applications for
fuel cells, batteries, capacitors, filters, OLEDs, and window films. Cima hypothesizes that several other
applications exist for SANTE coatings and is exploring these avenues
quick and easy production, low cost of materials, lack of waste, lack of color,
flexibility, and low resistance of SANTE technology makes it an exciting new
product in the field of nanotechnology.
To learn more about Cima NanoTech, Inc., call (651) 646-6266 or visit www.cimananotech.com
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Seminars at the Center for Nanostructure Applications
Check out the CNA calendar for upcoming seminar topics and dates.
University of Minnesota
NSTI Nanotech 2009
May 3-7, 2009
Now in its 12th year, this conference is expected to attract more than 5,000 Nano, Micro
and Bio technology executives, to promote advanced
research and best practices, and bring Nanotechnology from the
laboratory to the marketplace.
Euro Nano Forum 09
The topic of the EuroNanoForum 2009 is "Nanotechnology for a Sustainable Economy".
Prague, Czech Republic
Minnesota Partnership announces funds for
Posted March 6, 2009
The Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics is
awarding nearly $5.4 million in state-funded research support to six
Nanotechnology the topic of Global Technology Leaders roundtable
Posted Feb 1, 2009
Executives from five weapons and technology companies, some with
connections to the Tampa Bay area, discussed the future of
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