methodology

Since the industrial revolution, materials have been scaled-up through a process known as the “stage-gate” – a linear approach with rigid timelines.

Conventional R&D is plagued by:

  • Trial & error experimentation
  • Poor uniformity with increasing quantities
  • High capital costs
  • Unsustainable practices

To cope with the highly unpredictable and complex nature of nanomaterials – scale-up requires a new tactic.

By using a more “agile” workflow, Accelerated Materials develops flexible and faster project plans 

This workflow is implemented with a combination of high intensity production technology, artificial intelligence and automated laboratories, described below

Technologies

 

The annular microreactor, recently developed at the University of Cambridge, utilizes a hydrodynamic condition known as “annular flow” to achieve rapid mixing with high and uniform shear rate distributions.

 

When materials are synthesized in a “bottom-up” fashion from liquid precursors, fine manipulation of shear rates enable control over the formation dynamics of nanomaterials, which include non-classical phenomena such as oriented attachment and two-step nucleation pathways.

 

Importantly, this reactor is continuous and resistant to clogging, which increases production throughput and stability. We have validated the ability of this reactor to produce high quality materials in a continuous fashion, In multiple case studies, from the synthesis of carbon quantum dots to pharmaceutical nanocrystals.

 

Within a single reactor we currently achieve production rates of up to 20 kg/day (on a dry solids basis). This means that a given synthesis can be methodically scaled from gram to kilogram quantities in a significantly decreased number of experiments and time.

Our passive regulating distributor technology utilizes propietary channel geometries to create highly uniform distributions of flows. In contrast to conventional scale-up procedures, which normally increase the size of a process vessel (“scale-out”), using a manifold to parallelize identifical process units (“number-up”) increases process uniformity, conserves process characteristics from the pilot scale, decreases R&D required for scale-up, and reduces capital costs.

Unlike off-the-shelf distributors, which either include expensive active control elements or do not compensate at all for downstream variation, our custom designed manifolds are low-cost and can be used in virtually any application with robust tolerances to downstream variations and lower pressure drops.

A technologist can spend days analysing a given data set.

We use in-house machine learning algorithms based on Bayesian optimisation and Gaussian process models, which automatically 

1) create statistical models from large data sets

2) predict areas of high performance and high production yields

3) suggest the best possible experiments to conduct next

Pairing algorithms with high throughput synthesis and analytical tools further accelerates our R&D, enabling us to gather maximum information in a minimal amount of time. In a recent study, we illustrated the ability to rapidly generate high performance nano-ZnO materials using our AI platform.

One effort we are pioneering at the Innovation Centre in Digital Molecular Technologies is the creation of an open-source python coding framework for quickly automating experiments, and pairing them with machine learning algorithms.

Materials

We have expertise in fabricating a variety of industrial and novel material classes. Below you can find a general description of each type – contact our experts for more information


Metal oxides are an incredibly diverse material class, which form structures including nanospheres, rods and sheets. AM’s reactor technology ensures tight control over both particle morphology, size and crystallinity, leading to better application performance.

We specialise in incorporating metal oxide nanostructures into:

  • Antimicrobial coatings (see ZARMOUR)
  • Catalysts
  • Battery electrodes


Metal organic frameworks (or MOFs) are a relatively new class of materials composed of organic ligands which “link” metal ions into a kind of molecular sponge. Their sponge-like structure enables them to selectively adsorb large quantities per unit mass.

One of the principal challenges in creating MOF products is their economical mass production. Our reactor technology increases the efficiency and quality of MOF production by orders of magnitude.

Promising applications for MOFs include:

  • High capacity gas adsorbents
  • Membrane separation
  • Electrochemical sensors

 

The delivery characteristics of many pharmaceuticals particles are affected by their crystallinity, size and shape. Furthermore, many pharmaceutical crystallisers are operated in batch, which have significantly lower efficiencies.

With both our distributors and reactor technologies, we provide a clear route to convert operations from batch to continuous at gram or kilogram scales.

 

Quantum dots are semiconductor nanoparticles with different electrical and chemical characteristics than their bulk forms. Their applications are steadily growing, with applications in products like electronic displays.

Many quantum dots currently used are made from toxic, heavy metals. Carbon quantum dots are more similar to activated carbon and graphene, which have lower cytotoxicity and emerging applications as biosensors.

Contact us to find out more about the carbon quantum dots we can supply.

Antimicrobial additives are widely used in coatings, packaging and construction materials to prevent:

  • Spread of infectious diseases
  • Corrosion
  • Building mold and degradation
  • Contamination of hygienic areas

Current antimicrobial additives for coatings carry downsides that limit their widespread usage and thus effectiveness for end-users. Conventional organic additives like thiazoles present high toxicity and face growing regulatory hurdles. Silver-based additives are less toxic, but use volatile and expensive feedstocks, limiting the ability to use them on large surface areas. Most nanoparticle solutions are prohibitively expensive, adding up to 40USD per litre of paint. Furthermore, the manufacturing of conventional and silver antimicrobials are inherently hazardous and generate particularly toxic by-products. 

Zinc oxide is a well-studied, abundant, low-cost and non-hazardous mineral. In its nanoparticle form, it can obtain enhanced antimicrobial activity against algae, bacteria and fungal species. This heightened activity is derived from the unique nano shapes that zinc oxide can form, its release of Zn2+ ions and electrical interactions with microbes. Unfortunately, precise fabrication of zinc oxide nanomaterials for antimicrobial applications to date has been expensive and difficult to scale-up to industrial production.

 

 

 

To meet this challenge, Accelerated Materials Ltd. has developed ZArmour, a unique, low-cost and highly effective antimicrobial zinc oxide. The method used to manufacture ZArmour at low cost was previously developed at the University of Cambridge in the Cambridge Centre for Advanced Research and Education in Singapore [link].

 

 

 

 

ZArmour is a water-based suspension of nanostructured ZnO particles that be simply added in to the coating formulation process to add enhanced functionality. In laboratory studies, adding ZArmour to a latex resin at a mass loading of 1-5% showed the ability to reduce the growth of E.coli by up to 97%, comparable with silver ion technology. Through external laboratory tests, ZArmour is both skin-safe (in suspension form) and non-cytotoxic (in latex coatings). Nanoparticle zinc oxide is also one of the few nanomaterials with EU REACH approval for in cosmetics, further indicating the safety of this material.

Patents and Publications

Pushing nanomaterials up to the kilogram scale – An accelerated approach for synthesizing antimicrobial ZnO with high shear reactors, machine learning and high-throughput analysis

Chemical Engineering Journal, 2021

Hydrodynamic assembly of two-dimensional layered double hydroxide nanostructures

Nature Communications, 2018

Scalable and precise synthesis of two-dimensional metal organic framework nanosheets in a high shear annular microreactor

Chemical Engineering Journal, 2020

Constant shear continuous reactor device

WO2019158932A1

 

Assembly of Two-Dimensional Metal Organic Framework Superstructures via Solvent-Mediated Oriented Attachment

Journal of Physical Chemistry C, 2021

Continuous synthesis of doped layered double hydroxides in a meso-scale flow reactor

Chemical Engineering Journal, 2019

 

ACcelerated Materials Ltd

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