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For twenty-five years, Tekna has been developing and commercializing both equipment and processes according to its induction plasma proprietary technology. Our induction plasma technology is particularly well adapted to the creation of advanced materials and the powders essential for new innovative emerging products and manufacturing technologies.

Tekna supplies full-scale productions of many different Nano powders and micron-sized spherical powders meeting all the requirements of the more demanding industries. Boron Nitride Nanotubes (BNNT) represent the fresh new group of materials at Tekna.

AC: Can you summarize to our own readers the specifics in the press release you published earlier this year (May 2015) which announced collaboration with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC)?

JP: The National Research Council of Canada (NRC) developed, with a Tekna plasma system, a procedure to generate hexagonal boron nitride). BNNTs are a material using the potential to create a big turning point in the market. Since last spring, Tekna has been in a unique 20-year agreement together with the NRC to allow the firm to produce Boron Nitride Nanotubes at full-scale production.

BNNTs are an extraordinary material with unique properties that can revolutionise engineered materials across a wide range of applications including from the defence and security, aerospace, biomedical and automotive sectors. BNNTs have got a structure much like the greater known carbon nanotubes. They share the extraordinary mechanical properties of Carbon Nanotubes but have many different advantages.

AC: How can the structure and properties of BNNTs differ from Carbon Nanotubes (CNTs)?

JP: The dwelling of Nickel Titanium alloy powder is really a close analog of your Carbon Nanotubes (CNT). Both CNTs and BNNTs are thought as being the strongest light-weight nanomaterials and they are excellent thermal conductors.

Although, compared to CNTs, BNNTs use a greater thermal stability, a better potential to deal with oxidation and a wider band gap (~5.5 eV). This will make them the ideal candidate for a lot of fields by which CNTs are currently useful for insufficient a better alternative. I expect BNNTs to be utilized in transparent bulk composites, high-temperature materials (including metal matrix composites) and radiation shielding.

Comparison between your main properties of BNNTs and CNTs (Source: NRC)

AC: What are the main application areas where BNNTs works extremely well?

JP: The applications involving BNNTs continue to be inside their start, essentially due to the limited option of this product until 2015. With the arrival on the market of large supplies of BNNT from Tekna, the scientific community are able to undertake more in-depth studies in the unique properties of BNNTs which can accelerate the creation of new applications.

Many applications can be envisioned for Tekna’s BNNT powder since it is a multifunctional and quality material. I can tell you that, currently, the mixture of high stiffness and high transparency has been exploited in the creation of BNNT-reinforced glass composites.

Also, the top stiffness of BNNT, and its excellent chemical stability, can make this material an ideal reinforcement in polymers, ceramics and metals.

Besides, many applications where heat dissipation is essential are desperately requiring materials with a very good thermal conductivity. Tekna’s BNNTs are the most effective allies to improve not simply the thermal conductivity but also maintaining a definite colour, if necessary, because of their high transparency.

Other intrinsic properties of BNNTs will likely promote interest for your integration of BNNTs into new applications. BNNTs have a very good radiation shielding ability, an extremely high electrical resistance and an excellent piezoelectricity.

AC: How does Tekna’s BNNT synthesis process are different from methods utilized by other companies?

JP: BNNTs were first synthesized in 1995. Ever since then, a number of other processes have been explored such as the arc-jet plasma method, ball milling-annealing, laser ablation pyrolysis and chemical vapour deposition.

Unfortunately, these processes share an important limitation: their low yield. Such methods create a low BNNT production that is typically less than 1 gram per hour. This fault might be in conjunction with the inability to make small diameters.

As a result, the availability of large quantities of high quality BNNTs for applications development using these processes is still a significant challenge.

Fortunately, Tekna’s inductively coupled plasma (ICP) technology has successfully overcome this challenge. The combination of Tekna’s ICP expertise and its partnership with the NRC opened the door to a brand new range of systems capable of producing highly pure BNNTs in significant quantities. Tekna’s system productivity reaches up to 2 orders of magnitude higher than any of the current methods.

AC: What are the advantages of using Tekna’s unique approach in terms of quantity and price for the commercial market?

JP: The productivity and cost efficiency of Tekna’s ICP technology allow for the first time, the supply of kilograms of Boron Nitride Nanotubes, produced at a much lower production cost.

AC: Could you outline the composition of the BNNTs Tekna synthesizes?

JP: The main interesting characteristics include the tube diameter, about 5 nm, and purity (> 50 %). Most nanotubes contain 3 to 5 walls and therefore are assembled in bundles of a few price of silicon nitride powder.

AC: How can you start to see the BNNT industry progressing within the next 5 years?

JP: As large quantities are actually available, we saw the launch of numerous R&D programs based upon Tekna’s BNNT, and as much higher quantities will be reached in the following five years, we are able to only imagine exactly what the impact could possibly be within the sciences and industry fields.

AC: Where can our readers find out more details about Tekna as well as your BNNTs?

JP: You can find specifics of Tekna and BNNT on Tekna’s website and so on our BNNT-dedicated page.

Jérôme Pollak was created in Grenoble, France in 1979. He received the B.Sc. degree in physics from the Université Joseph Fourier, Grenoble. He moved to Québec (Canada) in 2002 to work for the organization Air Liquide in the style of plasma sources for that detoxification of greenhouse gases.

He continued his studies in Montreal, where he received an M.Sc. and then a Ph.D. degree in plasma physics in the Université de Montréal in 2008. His M.Sc. thesis was 21dexqpky the design and style and modelling of field applicators to sustain plasma with RF and microwave fields. While his Ph.D. thesis concerned the plasma sterilization of thermosensitive medical devices for example catheters. He was further involved in the characterization and modelling of cold plasma effects on microorganisms and polymers.

After his Ph.D., he worked for three years for Morgan Schaffer in Montreal on the creation of gas chromatographic systems using plasma detectors.

Since 2010, he has worked at Tekna Plasma Systems in Sherbrooke (QC, Canada) being an R&D coordinator, then as product and service manager and today as business development director for America. He has been doing charge of various R&D projects and business development activities implying micro-sized powder treatment and nanoparticle synthesis by high temperature plasma.