By Kitco News
Thursday July 30, 2015
Although nanotechnology is still in its infancy, according to on one technology research and development company, the trend towards smaller devices like Apple’s iWatch and the need for microprocessors, means that this sector will continue to be an important demand source for technology metals like gold and silver.
A little while ago we reported about Rochester Silverworks, a company born from the ashes of Kodak, still a well-known brand name even today. Another such company is Cerion – started in 2007 by a group of materials scientists and manufacturing engineers whose specialty, while at Kodak, was the dispersion of silver halide crystals for photographic film emulsions that offered faster speeds, and higher resolutions.
Tech Metals insider spoke with Bill Stewart, senior vice president at Cerion, to learn more about the company’s technologies.
“Nanotech, generally speaking, is still in its development stage in terms of many global applications. The benefits and utilization of nanomaterials are being explored by various industries”, explained Stewart. “However, with the continuing evolution of products, processes and materials with high-tech requirements such as microprocessors, catalysts and sensors, it is clear that the need for such materials will continue to expand.”
Cerion has already commercialized nano-based materials, including a diesel fuel additive that reduces soot emissions, and a silver-based textile biocide used by some of the world’s largest apparel brands. Other applications currently in development include silver inks and pastes for the electronics industry; next-generation chemical and environmental catalysts; a variety of functional coatings providing new and improved features to medical applications like bio-sensors and nanomedicines.
“Probably the most significant benefit in the area of silver is the dramatically lower melting temperature associated with nanoparticles. As a result, when you have applications associated with heat or conductivity you can often achieve significantly better end-product performance”, said Stewart.
“Sintering temperatures, for example in silver inks can be much lower, meaning reactions can take place at lower temperatures and use less materials as a result of the technology. Nano particles have a greater surface area than larger particles. Automotive catalysts with ceria-based nano-particles, for example, can break down harmful emissions such as NOx and SOx faster and at lower temperatures, which will be required as EPA emissions regulations get more stringent”.
Asked about Cerion’s position in this emerging market, Stewart said: “First and foremost, we are a materials company. We develop custom metals, metal oxides and mixed metals that enable better product performance; we can scale these materials to manufacturing quantities which is our biggest point of difference compared to other nanomaterial companies. Cerion’s strategy is to line up with industry partners with a desire to add the advantages of nanoparticles to their next generation products.”
Will Rochester see a renaissance built upon the skill and experience of a new group of entrepreneurs drawing from seeds planted by Kodak that didn’t see the light? An exciting prospect for the region, and for technology metals.