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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R025983/1
Title: Design and green manufacturing of functional nanomaterials
Principal Investigator: Patwardhan, Professor SV
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
CMAC EPSRC Centre CMCL Innovations Glantreo Ltd
INFINGENT Innovations AB Polytechnic University of Turin Tridiagonal Solutions Inc.
Department: Chemical & Biological Engineering
Organisation: University of Sheffield
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 01 November 2018 Ends: 31 October 2024 Value (£): 1,011,132
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Chemical Synthetic Methodology Civil Engineering Materials
Manufacturing Machine & Plant Physical Organic Chemistry
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
07 Feb 2018 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 7 and 8 February 2018 Announced
04 Jun 2018 Manufacturing Fellowship Interview Panel June 2018 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form

Inorganic nanomaterials are widely used in diverse applications such as oil refining, food, coatings, cosmetics, textile, transport, healthcare and electronics and communication, with a global market worth 20 billion EURO. A recent inventory has documented >1800 consumer products that contain nanomaterials and many more non-commodity products such as industrial catalysts and separation media. However, there are limitations in terms of the sustainability of and the attainable product quality from current manufacturing.

Industry uses wet (chemical precipitation) and dry (flame or plasma) processes for manufacturing nanomaterials. Despite the advances in the latter, it has been shown that the wet processes are lot more efficient than the dry processes. Anastas and co-workers performed a sustainability analysis for wet processes, which revealed that nanomaterials manufacturing is significantly wasteful when compared to the production of bulk chemicals. This creates an enormous burden on the environment and results in unsustainable manufacturing.

Further, some of the key properties of nanomaterials cannot be obtained with existing manufacturing methods. Lab-based methods exist for synthesising nanomaterials of desired properties, however, these methods are very wasteful and uneconomical to scale-up. Hence such high value materials remain at small scales and commercially inaccessible.

A World Technology Evaluation Center report, commissioned by the USA's National Science Foundation, explicitly recommended that achieving green manufacturing by 2020 is the "holy grail" and that future research should focus on emulating natural designs to develop scalable processes for manufacturing nanomaterials [Ref. Roco et al., Nanotechnology Research Directions for Societal Needs in 2020, NSF and WTEC, 2010]. I have developed fully synthetic novel bioinspired approaches to nanomaterials, with rapid reactions (takes only 1-5 minutes) at room temperature in water, producing almost no waste, yet providing superior control of product properties. This method can reduce the energy usage of the reaction step by ~95% when compared with a traditional precipitation process and the materials would as cheap as the lowest grade commercial counterparts, yet provide significantly better quality and properties. However, the bulk of research on bioinspired synthesis has been performed at small scales. The bioinspired method cannot be scaled-up yet because there is a critical gap in our knowledge on its scale dependence.

This fellowship aims to apply bioinspired routes to deliver sustainable ("green"), low cost and scalable technologies for manufacturing high value functional nanomaterials. I will develop scale-up rules by modelling and experimentally measuring mixing mechanisms. I will design process chemistry to produce bespoke nanomaterials and demonstrate pathways for larger-scale manufacturing. This fellowship has a great potential to take the UK to the world leading stage in sustainable manufacturing of bespoke nanomaterials.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Organisation Website: http://www.shef.ac.uk