Professor's research to help meet the high demand for carbon nanotubes
Friday, Sept. 29, 2017
MANHATTAN — Placidus Amama, Kansas State University assistant professor and Tim Taylor chair in chemical engineering, with a grant from the National Science Foundation, will take on challenges related to scaling up production of carbon nanotubes from industrial waste gas.
A carbon nanotube is an ultrasmall tube-shaped material with a unique combination of electrical, thermal and mechanical properties that has potential for use in tablets and phones, removing pollutants from water, hydrogen fuel cells in cars and much more.
Amama will use the three-year, nearly $300,000 grant from the NSF's Nanomanufacturing Division of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation for his project "Nanomanufacturing of Vertically Aligned Carbon Nanotube Arrays From Industrial Waste Gas Mixtures."
While significant progress has been made in the past two decades in scaling up production of carbon nanotubes via chemical vapor deposition, the process still faces key challenges due to poor yield, low nanotube nucleation density, variations in properties and the high cost.
Amama's project will pave the way for an industrial waste gas mixture from a process called Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, which is to be used as a feedstock for the scalable, low-cost and continuous production of high-quality nanotubes.
Chemical vapor deposition is often plagued by complicated optimization procedures due to the high sensitivity of its growth process to variations in feedstock composition and flow characteristics. The project will help develop the understanding required to couple the growth process to the waste stream of the Fischer-Tropsch synthesis process for scalable and controlled growth of nanotube arrays.
"Our results will help meet the ever-increasing global demand for nanotubes — currently at more than 1 kiloton per year," Amama said. "Use of this feedstock for nanotube growth will also minimize the amount of flue gases in oil refineries, thus enhancing environmental protection."
This study is expected to produce broad implications in multiple applications, including energy storage, catalysis and thermal management. By providing a platform for educating students on topics related to nanoscience and nanotechnology, the research is also expected to provide more career options for students.
Amama has previously been awarded an NSF CAREER award for his work in coupling carbon nanotubes and TiO2 to produce coatings for outdoor air purification. While his new project is about mass-producing carbon nanotubes using a waste gas, which can then be used to produce these coatings, both are contained in his research continuum.