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Flexible Pilot Scale Manufacturing of Cost-Effective Nanocomposites through Tailored Precision Nanoparticles in Dispersion

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - CO-PILOT (Flexible Pilot Scale Manufacturing of Cost-Effective Nanocomposites through Tailored Precision Nanoparticles in Dispersion)

Reporting period: 2016-07-01 to 2017-12-31

The CO-PILOT project addresses the field of nano-composites which has witnessed remarkable progress (compound annual growth rate of 18%) in recent years with many different types of nano-composites exhibiting radically enhanced properties for a wide range of industrial applications. However, the further growth of this field is hindered by the fact that most new nanoparticle developments cannot be demonstrated on a real life scale in nano-composite products, because the pilot facilities and knowledge to do so are not available or accessible.

The CO-PILOT project aims to develop an open access infrastructure for the production of high quality (multi-)functional nano-composites on a pilot scale.
In CO-PILOT this infrastructure will be prepared for access (‘open access’) beyond the project. It will be able to produce 10 to 100 kg nano-composite product, characterize it and validate its performance. This is sufficient to make management decisions to progress to the next step of new nano-composite product development. Based on the consultation of SME nano-composite producers, CO-PILOT has chosen the following range of industrial nano-composite applications:
- flame and smoke inhibiting polymer materials
- acid scavenging for anti-corrosion and polymer stabilization
- heat isolating plastics
- light-weight flame inhibiting composites
- UV protective polymer coatings
- high refractive index, visually transparent polymer
- low-refractive index polymer
- anti-glare polymer coatings
- magnetic recoverable catalyst nano-composite beads.

CO-PILOT's overall objectives are:
1. Ensuring high-quality nanoparticle production with the assistance of online nanoparticle dispersion quality monitoring.
2. Develop a centrifuge module to address the adequate and automated downstream processing of the nanoparticle dispersions;
3. Testing and validation of the pilot line with the four selected industrial nano-composite types;
4. Develop an open access infrastructure for SMEs interested in the production of high quality (multi-)functional nano-composites on a pilot scale;
5. Plan for exploitation of the pilot infrastructure beyond the project.
The work carried out and main results are summarized below.

1.1.1 Ensuring high-quality nanoparticle production with the assistance of online nanoparticle dispersion quality monitoring.
* Design and assembly of prototype next generation online UNPS instrument for measuring nanoparticle size and laboratory scale tests performed
* Design and assembly of prototype DLS instrument for online nanoparticle size measuring and validation with a 10L pilot reactor. Transfer ongoing to the 100L pilot reactor.

1.1.2 Develop a centrifuge module to address the adequate and automated downstream processing of the nanoparticle dispersions.
* Design and assembly of prototype on-line centrifuge that is able to process 100L nanoparticle dispersion within 5-6 hours. Validation and demonstration for selected nanoparticle cases.
* Process safety analysis of the centrifuge during the nanoparticle processing, resulting in adaptations of machine and procedures.

1.1.3 Testing and validation of the pilot line with the four selected industrial nanocomposite types:
* Design of the basic pilot line concept for each nanocomposite case
* Pilot line process safety study resulting in adaptions to optimize the working safety
* Integration of the downstream centrifuge and the DLS analytical instrument
* First tests of 10L and 100L pilot line with the four nanoparticle production types
* Preparation of the nanocomposite integration equipment (e.g. extruder with aqueous nanodispersion addition) and first tests.

1.1.4 Develop an open access infrastructure for SMEs interested in the production of high quality (multi-)functional nanocomposites on a pilot scale.
* Setup and validation of the infrastructure:
o 10L reactor with analytical equipment at TNO
o 100L reactor with downstream centrifuge at ISC (to be extended with analytical equipment in the following months)
o Equipment for integration into polymeric nanocomposites at SKZ
o Nanocomposite quality assessment at TCD (electron microscope)
o Process safety assessment by IOM
* Intend of TNO and ISC management to cooperatively offer their infra-structure to the market. Plan to incorporate SKZ in the next stage.

1.1.5 Plan for exploitation of the pilot infrastructure beyond the project:
* Business- and exploitation plan developed;
* Other communications performed to make the Co-Pilot infrastructure known to the outside world and identify potential future clients.
* Identification of more than 60 organisations (mostly SME) that have interest in using the infrastructure on a commercial basis. Discussions with several of these organisations are ongoing.
Co-Pilot will offer an open access pilot infrastructure for nano-composite production that has progresses beyond the state of the art in the following aspects:
* it ensures high-quality nanoparticle production with the assistance of online nanoparticle dispersion quality monitoring;
* it contains an on-line centrifuge that allows quick and efficient (100L within 5-6 hours) downstream processing of nanoparticle dispersion after synthesis towards integration into nano-composites;
* it contains world reknown experts in the field of process (nano)safety and electron microscopic nanocomposite quality assessment;
* the infrastructure is validated for four nanoparticle case with respect to quality, quantity and safety;
* there will be a business plan describing the business-to-business high-TRL services that will be provided and the shared research programs that will be offered for lower-TRL subjects.

Co-Pilot is founded as a consortium of 13 partners in 2014. These partners together had about 20 persons working in the field of nanocomposites in 2013. In the period 2014-2017 it is growing into a major player in the field with about 40 persons dedicated working in this field. This thanks to the support of amongst others the European Union H2020 program.

From 2018 onwards Co-Pilot will be an open access facility for nanocomposite production working according to the principles of shared research. It offers to its members:
• a total package of production, technology, people, analytics, quality, logistics
• from Lab to Fab - filling the gap between current lab scale and industrial production
• low cost scale-up at 1/10th of the cost versus owned scale-up facilities

From 2018 to 2025 Co-Pilot is expected to grow to about 40 persons, annually attract over 250 direct business-to-business (high-TRL) service contracts and have at least 10 large industrial companies and 50 small and medium enterprises participating in the (lower TRL) shared research programs.

Essential element of this business plan is the presence of a SME instrument that will financially support SME companies in becoming a member of Co-Pilot. This is essential, because most SME’s in growth markets have no cash money available for this type of activities.

This Co-Pilot open access infrastructure will stimulate the growth of growing markets of polymer nanocomposites and nanocomposite coatings. Thereby it is expected to be responsible for the creation of 500 new jobs and 50 Mio € additional revenues for European enterprises each year.