A novel printer is able to combine elements to create new materials at speed
Spotted: Developing new, sustainable materials is vital to the drive towards net zero. However, the development process has traditionally been largely manual, with researchers needing to build not only prototype materials, but also novel testing apparatus. Working to speed up this process is VSParticle, which has introduced technology that reduces the time to develop a new material from 15 years to just one.
VSParticle, which was spun out from the Delft University of Technology, has developed a nano-printer that can rapidly create new materials using spark ablation technology, wherein a carrier gas flows past two electrodes. An electrical spark detaches – ‘ablates’ – a small amount of material from the electrode, which turns into a stream of nanoparticles. These nanoparticles combine together into larger particles and are then deposited onto a substrate to create a final sample.
By altering various elements, like the carrier gas composition, electrode material, and tube length and layout, users can control the sample produced. The printer enables freedom over the nano-composition of a material, allowing researchers to optimise the properties of a final material.
Already, 40 of the machines have been sold to research institutions, including labs in Israel, Japan, and Singapore. VSParticle has begun by focusing on green hydrogen and air sensor markets, as product breakthroughs in these industries often rely on developing highly specialised new materials.
The company recently raised an investment round worth €14.5 million, led by London-based Plural and with participation by Berlin-based BlueYard Capital. The funding will be used to scale up the technology and address the industrial market, where companies are increasingly looking to develop new materials in-house.
The drive towards sustainability is seeing the need for rapid development of a wide variety of new materials. In addition to nano-printing, Springwise has spotted other innovations in the archive, including a new type of plastic that can be recycled many times and the use of bio-waste to create green hydrogen.
Written By: Lisa Magloff