Skip to main content

Processing and control of novel nanomaterials in packaging, automotive and solar panel processing lines

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - OptiNanoPro (Processing and control of novel nanomaterials in packaging, automotive and solar panel processing lines)

Reporting period: 2017-04-01 to 2018-09-30

Within the Key Enabling Technologies, nanotechnology and related industries is a powerful economic growth engine. Fulfilling the needs of many sectors, nanocomposites can enhance physical performance of polymers, including light-weight vs. standard fillers, mechanical reinforcement, thermal stability, surface tailoring, gas barrier properties, and even provide antimicrobial effects.
Nevertheless, despite intensive research activities, significant effort continues to be required in order to deploy the full potential of nanotechnology in the industry. Actually, the major challenge in terms of nanocomposites still consists in obtaining a proper functionalisation/ dispersion of the nanoparticles. Therefore, further progresses regarding processing are needed, particularly when processes are to be transferred to an industrial scale.
Developing optimised materials and processes, the OptiNanoPro project focussed on the introduction of nanotechnology in production lines via different surface and bulk approaches. Inline dispersion and monitoring systems were also delivered to ensure the constant quality of the resulting materials with enhanced properties for packaging, automotive and organic photovoltaic (OPV) applications.
During the last 3 years, 15 European project partners, positioned along the supply and value chains of the 3 target sectors, have collaborated to jointly demonstrate the integration of the novel nanomaterials in existing production lines taking into account performance improvements as well as nanosafety, environmental, productivity and cost-effectiveness issues.
Different processes were used to convert the novel polymer formulations nano-enhanced in surface and/or bulk in semi-industrial pilot lines, reaching TRL 7 in general:
• High Energy Ball Milling for preparing ready-to-use nanoparticles masterbatches increasing nano-safety during their later handling
• Compounding
• Injection moulding
• Electrospray nanodeposition
• Coating and lamination.
Systems supporting the new processes were also delivered:
• Monitoring systems to ensure constant thickness/uniformity of barrier coating and polarity of functionalized surfaces
• Ultrasound systems to optimize in-melt dispersion.
In terms of products, besides the semi-finished materials along the supply chain, the following end products have been significantly advanced in their route to the market:
• Barrier laminated and injected packaging based on both bio-based or standard plastics with reduced oxygen permeation by up to 50% to better protect food and cosmetics
• Easy-emptying packaging (tubes, pouches, jars) allowing decreasing up to 50% the residual packed product wastes at packaging end of life. Super hydrophobic solutions were upscaled for both flat and injected packaging (world first 3D electrospray system). Amphiphobic counterparts were limited to laboratory scale.
• Self-cleaning OPV laminate to increase energy harvesting (5-8% higher currently but further research needed to improve materials weatherability)
• Automotive parts with up to 20% weight reduction to reduce fuel consumption.
The different materials were characterized in depth and compared with conventional counterparts. New test procedures were also developed to characterize the novel easy emptying and self-cleaning functionalities. Environmental and cost life cycle as well as food contact assessments were also performed.
In order to maximise the project impact, 25 key exploitable results have been defined including new knowhow, products, services and solutions. Exploitation and business plans are now available for the most advanced results and 2 patents were filled.
3 external technology and applications training events were organised reaching more than 100 companies and stakeholders and an online training was also prepared. A nanosafety assessment report was delivered. A comprehensive programme of dissemination activities has been completed (with among others, 5 peer-reviewed publications and a number of materials available through the project website). The project also received 2 innovation awards.
"In terms of progresses beyond the state of the art, nanotechnology resulted in improved properties as well as socioeconomic impacts in all targeted sectors.
The nano-enhanced materials developed in the project provided improved gas barrier as well as liquid repellent properties resulting in easy-to-empty features. Functionality enhancement can also be used for increasing renewable bio-sourced compounds and coatings materials’ barrier performance as greener alternatives to fossil‐fuel derived materials while safeguarding the shelf life of packed products. Another challenge in the packaging sector is the reduction of product waste especially for tubes and pouches which are often difficult to empty fully due to their shape. Such a target was reached by easy-emptying features applied by electrospray ensure that food or cosmetic products are ""repelled"" to allow the complete emptying of packaging. It can additionally increase the consumer satisfaction and significantly minimize the environmental impact of packed goods when reducing residues by up to 50%. The new materials can also contribute to improve the packaging recyclability.
Likewise, self-cleaning nanodeposits applied by electrospray can make the solar cells less susceptible to fouling and degradation in the electrical yield due to dirt collecting on the surface of the panels to enable higher effectiveness during their lifetime Improving OPV materials can bring a major advance to the growing solar energy sector as greener energy option. Indeed, life-cycle emissions for photovoltaic systems are in the range of 10 times less carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour than natural gas and coal. The LCA results show that the self-cleaning layer leads to lifecycle improvements in terms of climate change, damage to ecosystems, damage to human health and resource depletion, if the layer increases the average electrical yield of the panels by more than 0.5%.
The project finally provided light-weight nano-reinforced and flame retardant materials. Since weight reduction is one of the major factors for reducing the environmental impact of transport, the use of plastic and composite parts instead of metallic ones increases. Almost 90 % of a car environmental impact can be ascribed to fuel consumption and emissions of air pollution as well as greenhouse gases. OptiNanoPro door panels with 15% lower weight than conventional ones improve fuel efficiency of the vehicle and reduces break and road wear. Looking at the entire lifecycle of the panels, it can be concluded that they are not only more than 10% more environmentally friendly in the considered impact categories, but also 4% cheaper when the reduced fuel use is taken into account in spite of slightly greater initial costs. Recyclability rates greater than 85% required by end of life vehicles directives can also be matched by the developed thermoplastic nanocomposites."
Applications of the OptiNanoPro innovations
Toolbox for nanoenhanced materials innovations in surface or bulk