Plasma-based production of nanocomposite materials – patent granted

Elena Tatarova, Júlio Henriques, Luís Lemos Alves (Plasma Engineering Laboratory of group N-PRiME) and Bruno Gonçalves were granted the first patent for producing nanocomposite materials using plasma technology.

The patent 'Processo para a produção de materiais nanocompósitos em reator único utilizando tecnologia plasma' (ref PT115782) was granted by Instituto Nacional da Propriedade Industrial (INPI), and it was published in Boletim da Propriedade Inteletual nª 215/2021 in November 4 2021.

The field of the invention relates to a process that uses surface-wave-excited plasmas to produce high-tech nanocomposite materials (i.e. multiphase nanomaterials with dimensions of 1-100nm) with high added-value (more than €1000 per gram), in a single reactor, at production rates of 0.3 mg/s and higher.

One of the main novelties is the coexistence of three streams in the same reactor that, under the action of the intense microwave plasma, allow the efficient production of high-quality graphene nanocomposites, eventually doped with nitrogen, with metal oxide nanoparticles. The first stream is formed by a mixture of an inert gas and the precursor of the two-dimensional nanostructures; the second stream is formed by a mixture of an inert gas and the precursor of the doping component; and the third stream is formed by a mixture of an inert gas and the nanoparticles.

Metal oxides nanoparticles trapped or anchored on graphene suppress the agglomeration and stacking of layers of graphene sheets, serving as nanospacers and increasing the surface area. On the other hand, graphene acting as a two-dimensional conductive pattern, can improve the electrical properties and charge transfer channels of pure oxides, as well as suppress the volume change and agglomeration of metal oxides during the charge-discharge process. These nanocomposites exploit all the advantages of graphene, particularly in batteries and electrochemical supercapacitors, and are acclaimed as a new and promising class of advanced electrode materials.

The patent is an outcome of project PEGASUS (Plasma Enabled and Graphene Allowed Synthesis of Unique nanoStructures) that embodies the plasma-driven controllable design of matter at the atomic scale level to develop a disruptive technology and a proof-of-concept machine for the manufacturing of high-quality graphene and derivatives at a large-scale.