Microbor to Establish First Large Scale Manufacturing Plant for Cubic Boron Nitride Nanopowder, an Ultra-Hard Material, Allianz ROSNO Taking 10% Stake

RUSNANO and Microbor, ZAO have reached agreement with Allianz ROSNO Asset Management for the latter’s participation in the Microbor Nanotech project. Allianz ROSNO will take a share of about 10 percent. The fund, created with the involvement of the Moscow Government, the Ministry for Economic Development of the Russian Federation, and private investors, has been an investor in Microbor since 2007.
In 2009 RUSNANO approved investment in the project of Microbor Nanotech, ZAO. Its total cost is $30.7 million (930 million rubles).
Microbor Nanotech, a new generation manufacturer of composite materials, will establish large-scale manufacturing of cutting instruments using an ultra-hard material—cubic boron nitride nanopowder—in the framework of Microbor, ZAO.
“We welcome the decision of Allianz ROSNO Asset Management to enter the project. RUSNANO always responds favorably when financial investors take an active role in a project,” RUSNANO Managing Director Alexander Kondrashov said.
The full production cycle will be established within the project—from synthesis of cubic boron nitride nanopowder to manufacturing the cutting instruments from the material. To date, only world-leading manufacturers produce instruments from cubic boron nitride. No company has undertaken commercial production of instruments from cubic boron nitride nanopowder.

“The expertise and international relationships that Allianz ROSNO Asset Management has acquired are going to be extremely helpful for the project’s realization,” said Microbor Nanotech Director Alexander Timofeev.
The parties expect to complete the investment during the first quarter of 2010.
According to Allianz ROSNO Asset Management Deputy Director Dmitry Vasyutinsky, execution of the agreement for participation in the project fund and the company’s later departure from the fund demonstrate that the Russian market for investments in high-technology projects can operate on internationally accepted practice.

Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology of A*STAR Shows Hot Roller Embossing Technique Cost Effective for Production of Microfluidic Devices

Microfluidic devices are used in a variety of life science applications but, because they are typically disposed of after a single use to avoid cross-contamination, finding a cost-effective, high-throughput method for their mass-production is vital. Now, Lip Pin Yeo from the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology of A*STAR and co-workers have completed a feasibility study of the ‘hot roller embossing technique’— a method to fabricate polymer-based microfluidic chips1.
Fig. 1: The embossing of a ‘Y-mixer’ depicting the principle of fabrication of polymer-based microfluidic devices using the hot roller embossing technique.
Image Credit: © 2010 L. P. Yeo
Microfluidics are typically based on either silicon, glasses or polymers. According to Yeo, approaches based on silicon or glass are costly because the raw materials and associated manufacturing costs are expensive. Polymers, however, are widely available at low cost and are easy to process.
Commenting on the choice of fabrication method, Yeo says: “The setup cost of a roller embossing facility is much lower compared to conventional silicon and glass microfabrication facilities.” The technique is analogous to gravure printing. Two rollers are used to imprint the required pattern of microchannels on a polymer substrate that is sandwiched between them (Fig. 1).
While it is a simple method conceptually, the fidelity of the mold-to-substrate pattern transfer is strongly dependent on a multitude of process parameters, making the search for the optimum regime of operation tedious. Yeo and co-workers tackled this problem using a design-of-experiment (DOE) method, a statistical framework that is able to predict the optimal design from only a limited number of experimental runs.
The variable ‘input’ parameters in the DOE were the substrate preheat temperature, the embossing-roller temperature and the pressure applied during embossing. The output parameter to be optimized was the normalized embossing depth—the ratio between the depth of the polymer microchannel and the height of the mold protrusion—where a value of 1 signifies a perfect mold-to-pattern transfer.
The researchers conducted experimental runs with different input parameters and used the DOE method to elucidate the optimal operating regime yielding the best mold-to-pattern transfer, which they then verified by test experiments. “By operating the roller embossing process using the optimal conditions, an averaged normalized embossing depth of 0.85 can be achieved for low pattern-density mold designs,” explains Yeo. The ratio of 0.85 is in close agreement with the value predicted by the DOE.
Functional testing of fluid flow and mixing of the optimally fabricated microfluidic devices also yielded encouraging results. However, the method will benefit from further improvement. “The crucial issues will be to maintain uniform temperature and pressure distribution during the embossing process,” says Yeo.
The A*STAR affiliated authors in this highlight are from the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology
  1. Yeo, L.P., Ng, S.H., Wang, Z.F., Xia, H.M., Wang, Z.P., Thang, V.S., Zhong, Z.W. & de Rooij, N.F. Investigation of hot roller embossing for microfluidic devices. Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering20, 015017 (2010). | article

Eindhoven University Receives Grants to Explore Nanotechnology for Microelectronics and Bone Growth

Two Eindhoven University of Technology researchers will receive a Vici grant from NWO, the Dutch organization for scientific research. With his grant of $2 million (1.5 million Euros), Nico Sommerdijk will explore the mechanisms of bone growth. Erwin Kessels will work on new nanotechnology that will be used in products.

Erwin Kessels (l) and Nico Sommerdijk.

In 2009, associate professor Nico Sommerdijk published an article on biomineralization that made the cover of the respected journal Science. He found that certain nanoclusters are the most important building blocks in the growth of shells and bones.
With the NWO grant, Sommerdijk (department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry) will now focus on the formation of bone. He explains, “So far we have been working with calcium carbonate, the material shells are made of. We will focus now on calcium phosphate, the material bones are made of. We hope to be able to understand and mimic the process of bone formation and growth by replacing the biological molecules with polymers.”
One of the goals of the project is to be able to make bone replacement materials. But Sommerdijk is already looking beyond that. “By understanding the processes of nature, we may be able to come up with totally new materials that no one has previously thought of.”
For his research, Sommerdijk uses a unique electron microscope, of which there is only one in the world; the TU/e cryoTitan, manufactured by FEI Company. This machine can make 3D images on the nano scale of processes in fluids, by freezing the samples extremely quickly.
Production on an atomic scale
Nanotechnology is widely regarded as one of the most promising future technologies. But little nano research is aimed at preparing this technology for real production. Erwin Kessels, associate professor in the department of Applied Physics of TU/e, will use his Vici grant to close the gap between lab research and the industrial production of, for instance, solar cells and new nano-electronics.
An example of such a gap is carbon nanotubes, says Kessels. “Research has shown that they are suited for all kinds of electronic applications. But producing nanotubes with the exact right properties is a process that we cannot control well enough yet. Usually a large number of nanotubes are made, from which the suitable one is selected.” While that may be enough for research purposes, it is certainly not enough for industrial production. Kessels says, “We still need a lot of research before we will be able to take a demo version to an industrial and reliable production process.”
Kessels’ work is about the growing of ultra thin layers, just a couple of atoms in thickness. The state of the art in the microelectronics industry is that layers are deposited that completely cover a surface, from which tiny patterns are then etched. Kessels hopes to omit that step, and to deposit nanostructures without etching at all. A first case may be a transistor made of a carbon nanotube, to which the electrodes are attached directly. At the same time, the 36-year old researcher wants to control the material properties on an atomic scale, for maximum performance of the products made this way. For instance, products like solar panels with a higher efficiency.
NWO Vici grants are aimed at researchers who received their PhDs a maximum of fifteen years ago. The Vicis enable grantees to start their own research groups. In 2009 the TU/e also had two of thirty Vici grants. In 2008, three Eindhoven researchers were granted Vicis.