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Copper powders and nanopowders

The method for obtaining copper powders and nanopowders from industrial electrolytes, including waste waters through electrodeposition of metallic copper on the cathode was developed. The technology solves the problem of the necessity of using an electrolyte of appropriate purity and concentration, and of using additional electrolytes and other substances. Potential sources of metal nanopowders produced according to the technology are three types of (waste) electrolytes:

  • electrorefining electrolyte,
  • decopperised electrolyte,
  • flotation waste waters destined for dumping.

Products which can be manufactured according to the technology include i.a. additives to polymers, lubricants, dye, antibacterial agents and microprocessor connections.

Nanopowders of copper or its alloys can find their application in microelectronics, as sorbents in radioactive waste purification, as an additive to cooling fluids and also as catalysts in fuel cells. The most recent application of copper nanopowder is connected with obtaining electronic circuits printed with the Ink jet method, superseding the traditional electrochemical method. Copper nanopowder additive has also positive influence on tribological properties of machining oils.


A brief description of the technology

The method consists in application of the pulse potentiostatic electrolysis with or without change in the electric current direction using the cathode potential value close to the plateau or on the plateau of the current voltage curve corresponding to the potential range between -0.2 and -1.0 V. A moveable or static ultramicroelectrode or an array of ultramicroelectrodes made of gold, platinum or stainless steel wire or foil is used as a cathode, whereas metallic copper is used as an anode. The process is carried out at temperature from 18–60 °C, and the electrolysis lasts from 0.005 s to 60 s. Copper nanopowders of 99–99.99 % purity can be obtained using that method. Depending on the size of the electrode, metal the electrode is made of, conditions in which the electrolysis is carried out and particularly the kind of electrolysis, temperature and copper concentration in the electrolyte, powders or nanopowders of different shapes, structure and dimensions can be obtained.


Advantages of the technology offered

Electrochemical methods used so far to obtain copper nanopowders are complicated and expensive. They require costly preparation of substrates (solutions, reagents of suitable purity, reductive agents, auxiliary substances etc.), which results in very high market prices of nanopowders. The main benefit for purchasers of our technology is to increase competitiveness of their enterprises due to innovative solutions included in the method and significantly lower production costs, compared to traditional methods.


Equipment

  • To produce nanopowders in the industrial scale, programmable pulse rectifiers enabling change of electric current direction in less than 10 ms will be necessary. Such rectifiers are available at a price of about $ 25.000. The applied current from 500 to 10 000 A, will depend on the electrolyzer size and the cathode used (pilot and industrial process).
  • To study the structure and composition of obtained powders and nanopowders, scanning electron microscope (SEM) equipped with energy dispersive spectrometer (EDS) as well as instruments to determine particle size will be needed.


Patents

Patent application No P-387 565 „Method for obtaining copper powders and nanopowders from industrial electrolytes including waste idustrial electrolytes” and international patent application No PCT/PL2010/000022.


Market competitiveness

It is estimated that 15 % of total world industrial production will be based on nanotechnology in 2014 and market share of nanopowders will be over 80 %. The product based on the offered technology has surely a very dynamically developing market and will not require much marketing expenditures.

The technology should be of interest for entrepreneurs ready to introduce innovative production methods, i.a. in the area of nanotechnology, electronics, polymer plastics industry, paints and lacquers.


References

The technology for obtaining copper nanopowders from industrial waste waters has already resulted in signing a license agreement with NanoTech Ltd. from Wroc³aw. The technology has been qualified to Global Partnership Programme, in which a free assessment of the project, including preliminary market value assessment was performed.


Information

Assoc. Prof. Przemysław Łoś, D.Sc.

phone: + 48 22 568 20 61


Aneta Łukomska, Ph.D.

phone: + 48 22 568 23 19