A team from GEA Niro, a technology center in GEA Process Engineering, has developed a method to bind suspended nano particles in a granular form to minimize the risk of handling particles. The method makes it possible to produce finished products that exploit the properties found in nano-structured materials in a safe environment.
The work was done within the framework of the EU-funded development project SAPHIR, also known as the "Safe & Controlled Integrated Production of High-tech Multifunctional Materials and their Recycling" project. By using nano technology, industrialists hope to develop super-high-strength, lightweight industrial components as well as consumer-oriented innovations such as car windows that do not steam up; paint and dyed substances that do not fade when exposed to light; and fabrics that reject dirt and stains.
GEA Process Engineering’s involvement in the SAPHIR project has built on its process industry expertise. The technology used for immobilizing nano particles is inspired by the drying technology used by GEA Process Engineering for the granulation of pigments and carbide powder.
Until now, handling nano particles in a manufacturing process has been a problem because the particles are difficult to control. In their dry form, the nano particles have a low density, are electrostatic, and have airborne and surface properties that make them difficult to use on an industrial scale. Also, their impact on health and the environment are unknown, so it has been necessary to bind them into a liquid form for industrial use or storage.
"Our goal…was to utilize and further develop our proven technology in spray drying to produce granules that bind nanoparticles,” says Michael Wahlberg, the head of the GEA Process Engineering Test and Development Centre. “Preliminary results confirmed our own expectations. Our technology makes it possible to produce non-dusty granules in a very safe manufacturing process.”
With GEA Process Engineering's method, nano particles will become safer and easier to handle. In all likelihood, suggests the company, the granulation technique will find its greatest uses in contexts where a liquid form is not appropriate.