The future of carbon nanomaterials with Ilkka Varjos

Explore the world of carbon nanomaterials with Canatu. In an interview, Canatu CTO Ilkka Varjos takes us on a fascinating journey, discussing the complexities and rewards of carbon nanomaterials development. Discover how Canatu’s patented dry printing process for manufacturing carbon nanotube films results in better product performance, and the potential impact advanced carbon nanotubes will have on diverse industries.

Can you walk us through your experience with the development of carbon nanomaterials – the process, what’s easy, what’s hard?Canatu has developed a unique process for carbon nanotube manufacturing. We rely on the patented dry printing process, which eliminates the need of dispersing carbon nanotubes into the liquid.

The dispersion phase is detrimental to carbon nanotubes. It breaks them. By utilizing our dry printing process, we can preserve the integrity and purity of the carbon nanotubes resulting in better product performance.

Then, what is easy? I am not sure if there is anything particularly easy in making carbon nanomaterials. Perhaps you could say it’s easy to make the material for the first time in small scale in a laboratory. But it is difficult to scale up effectively and be able to tame the process so that you are constantly producing carbon nanotubes with the same quality and properties, 24/7, 365 days per year.

What are the most complex problems Canatu has solved till date?
We have successfully scaled CNT manufacturing process to an industrial scale and, at the same, improved the material properties significantly instead of just keeping the properties constant.

In addition, we’ve also tamed our process to produce consistent quality every time.

Thirdly, we’ve also been able to fully automate our unique process, delivering quality-checked carbon nanotubes on a substrate, ready to be further converted using standard industrial manufacturing tools.

How are quality control and consistency of nanomaterials is ensured?
Precise inline process controls are key, but what’s equally important here is having the metrology available. This enables you to not only see macroscopic, but also into the nanoscopic phenomena, allowing you to truly understand what’s occurring in your process and material.

While the process can be unique, you should still be able to rely on the industry best practices for process and quality controls, so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel if it already exists.

How are new carbon nanomaterials developed, from ideation to production?
It takes time and devotion. You need to have the best brainpower and use the best engineering practices. Nowadays, tools such as computer aided simulations exist, but this doesn’t mean you go from laboratory to large industrial scale, skipping steps in between. At least without significant, related risks involved.

What do you envision the future of the industry to be like, and what impact do you see it having on other industries?
I believe that carbon nanotubes and nanocarbons in general will have a transformative effect on the world. Currently, we have only just scratched the surface. I believe in a couple of decades there are not many areas of life that would not be somehow touched by the nanocarbon materials. 

In the past, carbon nanotubes led to incremental impact. Today, with our developed manufacturing process and ability to ensure consistent quality, their impact is transformative. And their transformative effects will touch countless aspects of our lives, shaping the future of various industries and enhancing our everyday.

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