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Advanced facility accelerates commercial development of nanoscale materials

By Scott Jenkins |

Flame-spray pyrolysis (FSP) is a type of aerosol synthesis in which solid particles condense from the vapor phase after the combustion of droplets of solution. FSP has been used to produce industrially important nanoscale solids, such as fumed silica, alloy powders, metallic oxides, carbon black and others. However, FSP is limited practically to systems of one atom type because processes can only be optimized for a single crystal phase.

“The more atomic species that are involved, the more complex and difficult it is to get the exact crystal structure sought after in flame condensation process,” says Joe Libera, a research leader at Argonne National Laboratory (Lemont, Ill.; www.anl.gov). Libera and colleagues at Argonne’s Combustion Synthesis Research Facility have developed an FSP system that employs an array of instrumentation to gain insight into how solid particles form during the FSP process.

“In FSP, the condensation of solids happens very quickly and over short distances,” Libera says, “so characterizing how that occurs allows us to begin to control the properties of the resulting materials,” including crystallinity, particle size and shape, surface area, dopant concentration and others. The researchers are building a database of material outcomes based on different FSP process conditions, and are applying machine-learning approaches to arrive at non-intuitive insights, Libera says.

The Argonne FSP system is equipped with laser diagnostics to measure flame properties and spectroscopic and other instruments for measuring temperature, particle size and chemical species. The information will be used to accelerate process development for a wider range of multi-atom materials synthesized by flame-spray pyrolysis at commercial scales.

With funding from the U.S. Dept. of Energy, Libera’s group is working with engineers from Cabot Corp. (Boston, Mass.; www.cabotcorp.com) on using FSP to make next-generation cathode powders and the solid electrolyte material lithium lanthanum zirconium oxide (LLZO) for battery applications. The Argonne FSP facility is open to industrial companies, who can use it to develop new nanomaterials.

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