It is rare that the technology and discoveries that form the basis of a modern company are such that they permit the achievement of something fundamental in the physical sciences-especially something previously considered impossible. Prior to Xolve’s discovery, creating true solutions of graphene, carbon nanotubes and other nanoparticles was generally viewed as one of the ‘holy grails’ of nanomaterials and considered an impossibility by chemists as well as physical and material scientists.
This inability to easily disturb the aggregation tendencies of nanomaterials is important because it is at the heart of the general failure to achieve the high performance potential of nanoparticles that has long been expected of them.
A testament to the depth of belief in the insolubility of these materials is the number of technical papers, processes and even companies devoted to the development of dispersion and functionalization methods that attempt to trick macromolecules into doing useful work-only to achieve suboptimal results.
In attempts to make forms of nanocarbon useful, for example, previous methods relied on adding materials to the nanocarbon by either covalent functionalization or through the use of surfactants and/or dispersants. Functionalization is the attachment of molecules to the nanoparticle to make it capable of being used with other materials. This process is expensive and limits the potentially superior properties of, and can, in some cases, partially destroy the nanoparticle to which the process is applied. Alternatively, the use of surfactants and/or dispersants to prevent aggregation of nanoparticles results in contamination of the nanoparticle surface and of the host material. Contamination of the host material by surfactants is especially problematic in polymers. Nanomaterials treated in either of these fashions aren’t able to provide performance equal to their full potential and are very expensive to place into applications.
Stated differently: In every case, methods developed in response to the failure to be able to place a nanomaterial into a true solution have resulted in compromises to the very characteristics that triggered the selection of the nanomaterial for the target application in the first place. Furthermore, the complexities of many of the processes add significant cost. It is not unusual for these processes to require semiconductor-type tools, high temperatures, volatile chemicals and/or other process steps that are extremely complex and expensive.