Flexible CNT Antennas from Rice U

Antennas of flexible nanotube films an alternative for electronics

HOUSTON – (June 10, 2019) – Antennas made of carbon nanotube films are just as efficient as copper for wireless applications, according to researchers at Rice University’s Brown School of Engineering. They’re also tougher, more flexible and can essentially be painted onto devices.

The Rice lab of chemical and biomolecular engineer Matteo Pasquali tested antennas made of “shear-aligned” nanotube films. The researchers discovered that not only were the conductive films able to match the performance of commonly used copper films, they could also be made thinner to better handle higher frequencies.

Metal-free antennas made of thin, strong, flexible carbon nanotube films are as efficient as common copper antennas, according to a new study by Rice University researchers. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

Metal-free antennas made of thin, strong, flexible carbon nanotube films are as efficient as common copper antennas, according to a new study by Rice University researchers. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

The results detailed in Applied Physics Letters advance the lab’s previous work on antennas based on carbon nanotube fibers.

The lab’s shear-aligned antennas were tested at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) facility in Boulder, Colorado, by lead author Amram Bengio, who carried out the research and wrote the paper while earning his doctorate in Pasquali’s lab. Bengio has since founded a company to further develop the material.

At the target frequencies of 5, 10 and 14 gigahertz, the antennas easily held their own with their metal counterparts, he said. “We were going up to frequencies that aren’t even used in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth networks today, but will be used in the upcoming 5G generation of antennas,” he said.

Bengio noted other researchers have argued nanotube-based antennas and their inherent properties have kept them from adhering to the “classical relationship between radiation efficiency and frequency,” but the Rice experiments with more refined films have proved them wrong, allowing for the one-to-one comparisons.

To make the films, the Rice lab dissolved nanotubes, most of them single-walled and up to 8 microns long, in an acid-based solution. When spread onto a surface, the shear force produced prompts the nanotubes to self-align, a phenomenon the Pasquali lab has applied in other studies.

Bengio said that although gas-phase deposition is widely employed as a batch process for trace deposition of metals, the fluid-phase processing method lends itself to more scalable, continuous antenna manufacturing.

The test films were about the size of a glass slide, and between 1 and 7 microns thick. The nanotubes are held together by strongly attractive van der Waals forces, which gives the material mechanical properties far better than those of copper.

The researchers said the new antennas could be suitable for 5G networks but also for aircraft, especially unmanned aerial vehicles, for which weight is a consideration; as wireless telemetry portals for downhole oil and gas exploration; and for future “internet of things” applications.

Rice University alumnus Amram Bengio holds a flexible nanotube film antenna. The antenna, which has proven as efficient as those made of copper wire, can essentially be painted onto devices. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)
Rice University alumnus Amram Bengio holds a flexible nanotube film antenna. The antenna, which has proven as efficient as those made of copper wire, can essentially be painted onto devices. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

“There are limits because of the physics of how an electromagnetic wave propagates through space,” Bengio said. “We’re not changing anything in that regard. What we are changing is the fact that the material from which all these antennas will be made is substantially lighter, stronger and more resistant to a wider variety of adverse environmental conditions than copper.”

“This is a great example of how collaboration with national labs greatly expands the reach of university groups,” Pasquali said. “We could never have done this work without the intellectual involvement and experimental capabilities of the NIST team.”

Co-authors of the paper are Rice graduate student Lauren Taylor, research group manager Robert Headrick and alumni Michael King and Peiyu Chen; Damir Senic, Charles Little, John Ladbury, Christian Long, Christopher Holloway, Nathan Orloff and James Booth, all of NIST; and former Rice faculty member Aydin Babakhani, now an associate profess or of electrical and computer engineering at UCLA. Pasquali is the A.J. Hartsook Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, professor of chemistry and of materials science and nanoengineering. Bengio is the founder and chief operating officer of Wootz, L.L.C.

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Department of Defense and a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship supported the research.

 

Source: Rice University News & Media

Carbon Nanotube Tapes up to 5 cm wide!

This video demonstrates the array of carbon nanotube tapes that DexMat currently produces. Strong, conductive, and flexible tapes or films up to 5 cm wide are currently available and even wider tape formats are currently under development.

These tapes have tremendous potential in applications ranging from EMI shielding in cables/electronics, to thermal interface materials, to heating elements or conductive materials in clothing or e-textiles.

SBIR Funding Furthers DexMat CNT Technology

Source: Original article appears in the December 2018 issue of the Wire Journal International.
The feature on DexMat is on pages 48-50.

DexMat SpaceCom 5 Minute Pitch

November 28, 2018. Out of the original 17 semi-finalists, DexMat was selected as one of 5 finalists to pitch at the 2018 SpaceCom Entrepreneur Summit in Houston, TX, for the opportunity to win the $100,000 Entrepreneur Challenge. As a runner-up, DexMat won $20,000 in Google Cloud Credits.

Click here for more information on the SpaceCom Entrepreneur Summit.

DexMat Named as SpaceCom Entrepreneur Challenge Semi-Finalist

HOUSTON – SpaceCom – The Space Commerce Conference and Exposition, where NASA, aerospace and industry come together to connect, announces the finalists of the SpaceCom Entrepreneur Challenge. Taking place at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston November 27-28, this challenge is the culmination of the SpaceCom Entrepreneur Summit (SES). The Entrepreneur Challenge began with 56 startup applicants. Through the first round of judging, that number was narrowed to 23 and now 17 semi-finalists who will present during the first day of the SpaceCom Entrepreneur Summit, Tuesday, November 27.

The semi-finalists include:

  • Arlula
  • Benchmark Space Systems
  • Cemvita Factory Inc.
  • Devali Inc
  • DexMat, Inc. 
  • EXOS Aerospace Systems & Technologies
  • Finsophy Inc.
  • Hedy-Anthiel Space Systems
  • Lazarus 3D Inc.,
  • Lucid Drone Technologies, Inc.
  • LunaSonde, LLC
  • Molon Labe LLC
  • SaraniaSat Inc.,
  • Solstar Space Company
  • STARK Industries LLC
  • Sugarhouse Aerospace
  • Swift Data LLC

At the culmination of day one, five finalists will be selected to present during a pitch competition. The winner will then be selected after the final round of pitches during the general session November 28 at 1:30 PM. During this presentation, members of the audience and a panel of judges will select the grand prize winner. These finalists are eligible to win the below prizes provided by Google Cloud for Startups:

  •  $100,000 in Google Cloud credits to the competition winner
  • $20,000 in Google Cloud credits for runners up
  • $3,000 in Google Cloud credits for every qualified entrant in the competition

Additional prizes include:

  • Guaranteed extended meeting with an investment firm
  • Speaking role at SpaceCom 2019
  • A booth at SpaceCom 2019

Source: https://spacecomexpo.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/SES-Finalists-Press-Release.final_.pdf

DexMat Carbon Nanotube Yarn: Will it Burn?

This video highlights the high temperature stability of CNT yarns compared to copper wire by applying a 1430 C butane torch to both materials. The copper wire lasts about 5 seconds before melting, while the CNT yarn survives the torch for more than 30 seconds without any visible damage.  The high thermal stability and superior thermal conductivity of the CNT material is most likely the reason that it is able to survive exposure to the flame from the torch.  The impressive thermal properties of CNT fibers and films make them highly promising for application in flame retardant materials such as those used in firefighter suits.

Carbon Nanotubes Could Provide the Military With Battery-Power in Textiles

Carbon Nanotubes Could Provide the Military With Battery-Power in Textiles

The carbon fibers can be spooled into strong, conductive thread. Like spider silk, it is stretchy and strong. Credit: Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services
Carbon nanotubes could lead to clothing that can double as a battery, a discovery that could be particularly useful for the military.

A team from the University of Cincinnati—in a partnership with the Wright-Patterson Air force base—are working to take advantage of the properties of carbon nanotubes in developing new applications for soldiers in the field.

“The major challenge is translating these beautiful properties to take advantage of their strength, conductivity and heat resistance,” UC professor Vesselin Shanov, who co-directs UC’s Nanoworld Laboratories, said in a statement.

Graduate student Mark Haase has worked with Air Force researchers over the past year to find applications for carbon nanotubes using X-ray computer tomography to analyze samples.

“This pushes us to work in groups and to specialize,” Haase said in a statement. “These are the same dynamics we see in corporate research and industry. Engineering is a group activity these days so we can take advantage of that.”

The researchers used chemical vapor deposition to grow the carbon nanotubes on silicon wafers the size of a quarter under heat in a vacuum chamber.

“Each particle has a nucleation point,” Haase said. “Colloquially, we can call it a seed. Our carbon-containing gas is introduced into the reactor. When the carbon gas interacts with our ‘seed,’ it breaks down and re-forms on the surface. We let it grow until it reaches the size we want.”

UC’s Nanoworld Lab set a world record in 2007 by growing a nanotube that stretched nearly two centimeters, the longest carbon nanotube array produced in a lab at the time. The lab can currently create nanotubes that are substantially longer.

They were able to stretch the little fibrous square over an industrial spool in the lab to convert the sheet of carbon to a spun thread that can be woven into textiles.

“It’s exactly like a textile,” Shanov said. “We can assemble them like a machine thread and use them in applications ranging from sensors to track heavy metals in water or energy storage devices, including super capacitors and batteries.”

This ultimately could lead to a much lighter load for soldiers in battle.

“As much as one-third of the weight they carry is just batteries to power all of their equipment,” Haase said. “So even if we can shave a little off that, it’s a big advantage for them in the field.”

The study was published in Materials Research Express.
Full article by Kenny Walter – Digital Reporter @RandMagazine here.

Electrical Interconnect Applications for Carbon Nanotubes in Military Aerospace Systems

Flexible, lightweight, and versatile CNTs are becoming a valuable material in conductor applications for the military and a host of other markets.

Carbon nanotubes are one of the most unique and interesting materials developed in the last decade. These products, widely known as CNTs, can be manufactured by various methods, but are most commonly made using chemical vapor deposition, a high-temperature manufacturing process used to create durable, solid, high-performance materials. The end result is a paper-like, ultra-thin sheet that can be further processed into a variety of forms suitable for a wide range of applications.

This material can become an electrically charged carbon sheet with some very special properties that are of great utility in conductor development. CNT sheets can be spun into fiber-like strands and twisted into various configurations that simulate copper stranding. An insulated jacket is then extruded on top of the carbon nanotube to create a wire. The resulting product is approximately one-eighth the weight of a typical copper conductor wire and has a strength-to-weight ratio 117 times that of steel. Additionally, because the material is fundamentally a type of plastic, it does not have the same fatigue characteristics as copper wire.

CNT technology can also be used to replace copper shields. By simply taking a thin CNT sheet and wrapping it around the wires to form a shield (see Figure 1), designers can achieve substantial weight savings over copper shields.

Challenges to CNT Adoption

Cost

CNT technology has had limited viability for use in many aerospace applications due to its higher initial costs. However, costs are coming down quickly. In the early development years of CNTs, the material cost around 500 times as much as copper. Today, the cost is closer to 10 times that of copper and, within the next five years, CNT is expected to command only a 20–30% price premium.

Electrical Conductivity

The electrical conductivity of CNT technology is vital to its overall success in electrical interconnect applications. In the early research and development phase, the resistivity of electrically charged CNTs was about 200 times that of copper. More recently, that value dropped down to only 20 times that of copper. Now samples from manufacturers are getting closer to 10 times the resistivity of copper. The current objective for leading developers of this technology is to bring it down to five times that of copper. If that happens, it will be a real game-changer.

EMI Protection

Lightweight shielding is very important to the defense industry, and CNTs show great promise here. Currently, CNT shields exhibit performance similar to copper at frequencies above 1GHz, but performance drops off significantly, especially at frequencies below 100Mhz. The weight savings over copper can be as much as 80%, though, so there is a trade-off that largely depends on an application’s EMI requirements. Solutions include using a combination of a CNT shield with a smaller-gauge copper shield, which could still reduce weight and perform reasonably well.

Termination

A lot of investigative work has been done on both crimping and soldering CNT material. To date, the crimp method shows the best results from a viability standpoint. Current mil spec standard tools and crimp contacts

have been tested and analyzed with mixed results. However, it has been determined that, with only slight modification to the crimp settings and a slight enhancement to {text missing in original article}

Connectors

Initial research into using CNTs to advance connector technology has focused on two primary areas: coaxial cables with RF connectors and mil standard 1553 data bus cables with dedicated discrete connectors. There are also efforts to evaluate CNTs with standard 38999 Series III connectors, as well as with miniature push-pull circular connectors commonly used in soldier systems. With the exception of the RF connectors, the preliminary results are encouraging, and show viability. However, this application may require some minor modifications to either the contacts or to the inserts. More research is still needed.

Manufacturers

The development of carbon nanotubes is truly a global effort led by several universities, including Rice University in Houston, that collaborate with CNT producers. Over the last few years, manufacturers in the US, Japan, and other countries have significantly scaled up production to help reduce costs to the point at which CNTs can become a viable multi-use product. These suppliers of CNT yarns and sheets are also working closely with several wire manufacturers to produce primary wire, cables, and RF coaxial cables.

Electrical Applications

One immediate application being evaluated by the defense industry is the replacement of copper-based 1553 database cables with CNT conductors and shields. The weight savings they offer can be upwards of several pounds, which is an especially significant advantage for space applications, as each pound of payload typically costs upwards of $10,000 to launch into space. Electrical testing has already been conducted to determine the signal integrity loss of CNT conductors and shields and has returned surprisingly good results, showing little signal loss degradation on lengths up to 10–15 feet, which will only improve as the conductivity of CNT materials continues to improve.

In addition to the space market, two helicopter manufacturers in the United States are conducting independent test studies to determine the viability of CNT materials for use in the rotary wing market.

A Bright Future for CNTs

CNT’s unique set of properties is helping the material find a place in applications across nearly every industry. CNTs are currently being employed in and evaluated for applications including optical power detectors, radar absorption, microelectronics, transistors, thermal management, solar panels, and even body armor. With this versatility, the future looks extremely bright for carbon-nanotube-based products.

Original story by by Tom Briere on June 20, 2017

Mil-Aero Industries Eye Carbon Nanotubes as They Target Cost Savings

Ultra-lightweight carbon nanotubes may replace copper wires.

Today’s aerospace and aircraft industries focus on size, weight, power, and cost (SWaP-C), and cost is now often figured for program or operational life, which may total thousands of dollars per pound. This gives tremendous impetus and justification to accept high-cost new technology to obtain weight savings.

Reducing F-35 by 20 Pounds Could Provide $230M Savings

Satellites have always paid extra to reduce weight since each payload pound may cost more than $5,000 to launch. Studies by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) show that the new F-35 has a $4,500 cost per pound over the aircraft’s operational program life

until 2070. (For comparison, the cost per pound for the F-22 is estimated at $3,500.) The F-35 has projected production of2,557 aircraft for the U.S. and nine for export customers scheduled through 2037. Therefore, a weight reduction of just 20lbs per plane could result in savings of $230,000,000! Even if this is off by 50%, the expected benefits already are driving new industry developments.

In addition to fighter aircraft, each ounce is also critical in future soldier wearables, UAVs, portable radars, vehicle communications, and other equipment to increase survivability, mission endurance, and success.

Interconnect weight savings are being obtained by incorporating higher contact density, composite materials, combinational multi-port connectors, and other approaches. However, a new technology involving carbon nanotubes (CNTs) is emerging and offers a lightweight alternative to copper wire and other conductive shielding materials. A carbon nanotube is produced as a layer of carbon atoms in a tubular configuration, in single- or multiple-walled versions.

CNTs are being mixed with polymers to create high-strength, lightweight composite materials. CNT fibers can be made into conductive sheets and tapes, which offer a myriad of potentials. Optimal performance may result from spinning CNT fibers into conductive threads (referred to as yarn) to potentially replace copper wires in harnesses, motor windings, and shields.

Another important gain is reliability. CNT fibers and yarn can withstand millions of bending cycles, while standard fiber/wire would have yielded many times. The minimum bending radius requirements of today’s cable is not applicable for CNT fibers and cables.

Market potentials for CNT technology are bringing new companies into the forefront. Nanocomp Technologies offers commercial CNT fibers created using a carbon vapor deposition (CVD) reactor and then formed into sheets or fibers that can be twisted into shields or primary conductors. Another supplier is Syscom Advanced Materials Inc., which provides a variety of metal-clad fibers.

DexMat Inc. in Houston produces CNT fiber using a wet acid process that draws multiple fibers that can be shaped into a shield or primary conductor, and future developments for  include flat tape. The company boasts a strong Ph.D. cadre from nearby Rice University where they have successfully fabricated coaxial cable inner and outer conductors by coating a solution of CNTs in chlorosulfonic acid to achieve a two-times better conductivity than seen previously. This may prove an attractive alternative to commercial coax cable using tin-coated-copper with comparable attenuation and greater mechanical durability with 97% reduced mass, according to the company.

Usually, the outer conductor is the heaviest portion of today’s cables. In coax, the outer conductor provides both signal transmission and electromagnetic shielding. While shielding does not require high conductivity in the outer conductor, signal loss (i.e., signal attenuation) through the transmission line is significantly affected by the conductivity and architecture of the outer conductor. The new solution-coated CNT outer conductors offer near-term application potentials. Several connector companies are reportedly studying termination techniques.

Carbon Nanotube Materials Provide Shielding

TE Connectivity has been working to use CNT materials for shielding and data transmission cables. In a paper presented at the 2012 IWCS Conference, Dr. Stefanie Harvey, senior manager for corporate strategy, reported that they had achieved greater than 50dB shielding effectiveness in the GHz range, and their “data transmission cables using a yarn format perform comparably to MIL-STD-1553.” In the January 5, 2016 issue of ASSEMBLY, Dr. Harvey reviewed how replacing the braid in RG-58 cable would reduce weight from 38.8 grams per meter (g/m) to 11.5g/m, while replacing the center conductor with CNT yarn would further reduce weight to 7.3g/m for a combined weight reduction of 80%.

Composites are used to replace heavy copper wire with metal plated aramid fibers for use in wire and cable EMI shielding. EMI shielding made with plated aramid fibers can reduce weight by as much as 80%, leading to major weight reduction depending on the size of the aircraft or satellite. Aramid fibers are a class of strong, heat-resistant synthetic fibers, the best known of which is DuPont™ Kevlar®, used in ballistic-rated body armor.

Carlisle Interconnect Technologies (formerly Micro-Coax Inc.) provides a unique weight-reducing EMI/RFI shielding solution using their proprietary high-strength ARACON® brand metal clad fibers. Ron Souders, technical director, Carlisle Interconnect Technologies, advises that, for typical applications, switching to ARACON allows a weight savings of 80% when compared to traditional metal braided or woven EMI shielding products. This offers the conductivity of an outer metal coating with the strength, light weight, and flexibility of aramid fiber.

*Note: DexMat also provides products for shielding applications not mentioned in this article.

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Ron Souders further explained that the specific gravity of aramid fiber is only 1.44g/cc, compared to copper at 8.9g/cc, and that, even with the addition of metal coatings, the specific gravity of ARACON fibers ranges from 3 – 5g/cc. The tensile strength (measured in kilopounds per square inch, or Ksi) of the aramid core (350Ksi) is from three to 10 times higher than that of traditional or high-strength copper cores, which typically span 35 to 95Ksi. Since ARACON fibers behave like a textile, they are far more flexible and compliant than metal.

Industry Standardization is Underway

The benefits offered by CNT fiber, whether as EMI/RFI shielding, signal or coaxial cable, or other new components, have prompted the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) in Patuxent River, Maryland, to sponsor the establishment of suitable “Military Specification for Conductive Carbon Conductors used in Aircraft Wiring,” eventually with QPL sources. The proposed formal qualification program should stabilize components and materials for future use.

CNT technology also was included in a recent multiple-day RF coordination meeting held in February by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) at the Defense Supply Center Columbus (DSCC). Suppliers of basic CNT materials, wire, cables, cable assembles, and signal and RF/microwave connectors are now working on both application-specific and generalized products to achieve the weight reduction and reliability benefits offered by CNT and other metallized fibers.

Original story by David Shaff – April 28, 2017

DexMat Awarded Phase II SBIR: High Temperature Electric Wires

Abstract: Electric wires and cables constitute by far the largest weight portion of aircraft electrical power systems, as well as a large fraction of the entire aircraft weight. For example, a modern transport aircraft contains over 200 miles of wire, and an F-22 aircraft has about 20 miles of wiring. The increased emphasis and reliance on fly-by-wire technology and avionics for modern aircraft has resulted in wiring becoming a critical safety-of-flight system. Aerospace vehicles continue to increase in wire system complexity and volume as traditional mechanical systems, such as flight controls and flight surface control actuators, are converted to all electric systems. This Phase II Proposal involves a dual pronged strategy for developing high temperature CNT-based power cables: 1) Dexmat will seek to improve the underlying CNT yarn conductivity with and without dopants that do not require encapsulation (i.e., non-transitory dopants); 2) Improve the encapsulation process to enable the use of dopants that do require encapsulation.

Project Details: https://www.sbir.gov/sbirsearch/detail/1488599