26.08.2021 - Innovation, Photonics & Smart materials, Technology

Nano Ray-T installs the first vertical carbon nanotube reactor

A reactor produced by the science-intensive startup Nano Ray-T allows the “growing” of vertical carbon nanotubes that could be used to develop future technology. Latvia’s first reactor is currently located at the Faculty of Chemistry of the University of Latvia.

Nano Ray-T and the Faculty of Chemistry of the University of Latvia are implementing a joint ERDF project Development of Innovative Binder-Free Anode Electrodes for Lithium-Ion Batteries. It was therefore decided that the reactor will be located here. “This is a big event. Now we will be able to develop new technologies in Latvia and to promote Latvia in this field on a global scale. The reactor allows us to develop new technologies where these vertical carbon nanotubes can be used. Of course, they can also be used in existing ones,” says Marija Korabovska, head of Nano Ray-T. She points out that there is no such reactor anywhere else in Latvia. As far as she knows, there is none in the Baltics either. The plan is to sell the reactors to other interested parties.

Carbon nanotubes are usually irregularly shaped and visually resemble black powder. Vertical nanotubes can be used as a valuable composite material.

“Vertical nanotubes are a hundred times harder to grow because they need to be shaped precisely. This is a complex technology,” says Korabovska.

The vertical carbon tubes “grown” in the reactor developed by Nano Ray-T can be used to produce screens, X-ray tubes, etc. The reactor is currently producing at laboratory volumes. This is around three to four square centimetres per hour. These are intended for research and tests. 

“If we need larger volumes, we can build a bigger facility,” says Korabovska.

Nano Ray-T produces not only the reactors, but also the material itself: vertical carbon nanotubes. Currently, the anode material used in batteries is carbon-based, but Nano Ray-T’s carbon nanotubes are ten times smaller and can therefore increase the battery’s capacity. Nano Ray-T is able to produce the material, but so far potential buyers have rather little knowledge of its use. The market therefore requires concrete application examples. One of the uses of vertical carbon nanotubes is to incorporate them as anode materials into lithium-ion batteries. This scenario is expected to increase battery capacity by more than five times.

“If we charge our phones once a day now, later we will be able to charge them every five days,” says Korabovska.

The material can also be used in other batteries, such as pacemakers. If its battery lasts five years now, it could last ten or 15 years in the future. In addition, the company also plans to work with large battery manufacturers.

“I believe that carbon nanotubes are the future of technology. In ten years, they will be used in 80% of the materials,” says Korabovska.

Last year, the company, together with the Institute of Solid-State Physics at the University of Latvia, developed the first laboratory prototype for a lithium-ion battery with vertical carbon nanotubes produced by Nano Ray-T. “The laboratory prototype is already four times more powerful,” says Korabovska. Tests with different combinations of other materials are still to be carried out to find the best option.

The next step is the industrial prototype. The company hopes that the industrial prototype will help attract investment to produce the material in Latvia in larger volumes, or that a larger company will show interest in buying the technology.

Nano Ray-T has been invited to participate in the K-Startup Grand Challenge accelerator programme in South Korea.

“We have been selected among the top 60 in a competition of 2,400 startups. South Korea invests a lot of money in technology development, so we see this as a good opportunity,” says Korabovska.

It will be a nearly four-month on-site acceleration programme, starting in mid-August.

This is not Korabovska’s first experience in South Korea. She already won the G-Fair Korea 2019 startup competition in 2019, wrote Labs of Latvia. The company that won the competition is closely linked to Nano Ray-T.

Nano Ray-T was established in 2014 as part of the Ignition Event of the science commercialisation platform Commercialisation Reactor that aims to build teams of scientists and potential entrepreneurs that then turn into startups. For potential entrepreneurs, the platform provides access to scientists who have created an invention for which a market application has not yet been found.

“Our scientists have more than 30 years of experience working with nanotechnologies, so we can produce any kind of nanotube,” says Korabovska. 

Others are producing similar tubes. But she stresses that it’s one thing to produce them. But knowing how to use and modify them is a different story. Nano Ray-T is looking for applications and combining nanotubes with other chemical elements to be used in different technologies.

Korabovska set up Nano Ray-T with four scientists.  There are currently six people on the team. So far, 200 thousand euros have been invested in the company.

Source: labsoflatvia.com

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