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New process to create ultrafine powders for materials production named one of 1993'S top new technologies

September 09, 1993 Share This!

RICHLAND, Wash. – A new process that produces ultrafine, nanoscale and uniform particles for materials manufacturing has been selected as one of the top 100 technological developments of 1993 by Research and Development magazine. The Rapid Thermal Decomposition of Precursors in Solution process was developed by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest Laboratory. Battelle operates PNL for DOE.

magazine conducts the annual R&D 100 Award competition to honor the most promising new products, processes, materials or software developed throughout the world. Awards are based on a product's technical significance, uniqueness and usefulness. This is the 31st year of the competition.

The new process uses high pressure and high temperature to transform a solution of low-cost metal salts into ultrafine, uniformly sized particles. The metal salts are dissolved in water, which is heated under pressure and forced through a nozzle to form the highly crystalline, ultrafine particles.

Industry can use these ultrafine, nanoscale particles to manufacture improved products. For example, powders resulting from this new process can be converted into various ceramic objects such as ball bearings, gears and knife blades that are stronger and more durable than similar products on the market today. In addition, the powders can be used as pigments for paints and inks, as high-surface-area catalysts or combined with other materials to yield advanced composites.

The process can be operated continuously, and bench-scale prototypes can produce from one to five pounds of powder per day. This is a striking improvement over current batch methods that typically produce less than one gram per day. This makes the new technology especially useful for large-scale industrial powder production.

The process was developed by a research team which included Mark Buehler, Dean Matson, John Linehan, Max Phelps, Gary Neuenschwander, John Fulton and Roger Bean.

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Interdisciplinary teams at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory address many of America's most pressing issues in energy, the environment and national security through advances in basic and applied science. Founded in 1965, PNNL employs 4,300 staff and has an annual budget of more than $1 billion. It is managed by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. As the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information on PNNL, visit the PNNL News Center, or follow PNNL on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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