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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/V050923/1
Title: Advanced Hybrid Manufacturing Platform for Carbon Nanotube Devices (ADVENTURE)
Principal Investigator: De Volder, Professor M
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Engineering
Organisation: University of Cambridge
Scheme: Standard Research - NR1
Starts: 01 March 2021 Ends: 28 February 2023 Value (£): 252,479
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Manufacturing Machine & Plant Materials Synthesis & Growth
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have been pivotal in generating industrial interest in nanotechnology. Their success can be quantified by the production volume of CNTs, which is growing exponentially, and is currently estimated at 5000 ton/yr. In part, this success can be attributed to the physical properties of CNTs, some of which are unlike any other engineering material (e.g. Youngs Modulus of 1 TPa, a tensile strength of 100 GPa, thermal conductivities up to 3500 Wm-1K-1). Importantly, the above off-the-chart properties only apply to high quality individual nanotubes whereas most commercial applications require tens to millions of carbon nanoparticles to be assembled into one device. Unfortunately, the mechanical and electronic properties of merit typically drop by at least an order of magnitude in comparison to the constituent nanoparticles once integrated into an assembly. It is therefore critical to develop new manufacturing processes which enable enhanced assembly of CNTs and their integration in devices. Additionally, many applications require CNTs to be interfaced with electrodes for electrical connections, as well as with liquids for sensing, microfluidic and biomedical applications, which typically require various additional advanced manufacturing processes that have several complexities and limitations.

In this EPSRC Adventurous Manufacturing grant, we aim to develop innovative manufacturing techniques capable of creating structured assemblies of carbon nanoparticles with both integrated electrodes and microchannels. This requires the consolidation of manufacturing techniques that has never been attempted previously. It will allow control of structures over multiples length scales:

- At the nanoscale (<500 nm), we will use chemical vapour deposition (CVD) to synthesise large arrays of aligned CNTs and self-assembly to control their organisation.

- At the microscale (50 um - 500 nm), we will use multiple step lithography to define read-out electrodes and define where CNTs are synthesised.

- At the largest scale (1 mm - 50 um), we will use laser processing (short and ultrashort pulses) to define microchannels and the overall chip geometry.

While each of the above manufacturing techniques are well established, bringing these methods together enables the manufacturing of radically new devices. Maintaining compatibilities and alignments between different processes will create new research challenges which will be addressed in this project. Ultimately, this new set of manufacturing techniques form a platform technology that can be used to solve a multitude of engineering problems. We envision the outputs of this proposal to find applications in chemical sensors, biomedical applications, microfluidics and actuators As a demonstrator, this project will develop CNT based thrusters for space propulsion applications.
Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.cam.ac.uk