Deakin University researchers unveiled the world's first 3D-printed Boron Nitride Nanotube-Titanium composite on Friday, with the milestone technology set to garner widespread interest across aerospace and defence industries.
The breakthrough from Deakin's Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) will help drive demand for Boron Nitride nanotubes (BNNT) in a number of areas by unlocking its end-application potential.
IFM researcher Professor Ian Chen said the work was a huge advancement in both nanotube application and 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing.
Professor Chen said he was excited about the possibilities it could usher in for industries across the globe in the production of components that utilise the unique properties of BNNT and titanium.
"While titanium composites have been widely used in aeroplanes, in defence and high-end equipment, a composite with nanotubes will make the material stronger, lighter, give it a longer life and high-temperature tolerance," he said. "These nanotubes have many unique properties and the new composite will bring in new possibilities and applications."
BNNT, with its tubular structure, incredible strength, light weight and ability to withstand intense heat, has sparked strong competition among researchers in countries including Australia, Canada and the USA over the past two decades as they race to find effective pathways to commercial production.
So far these advanced nanomaterials, which are difficult to make, can only be created in small amounts, limiting their product development opportunities.
But Deakin's nanotechnology group, led by Professor Chen, has developed a unique and scalable manufacturing process that has the capacity to turn BNNT into a major player in the marketplace.
The patented production technology, which uses ball milling and annealing processes, is already a proven performer in the laboratory and when scaled up will have a major impact on industries including automotive, defence and aviation when commercialised. Deakin plans to set up a commercial BNNT pilot plant in Geelong to produce the nanomaterial in kilogram quantities as soon as possible.
Source and top image Deakin University
Learn more at the next leading event on the topic: 3D Printing Europe 2017 on 10 - 11 May 2017 in Berlin, Germany hosted by IDTechEx.