BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA — An Australian-invented nanoparticle additive that improves the durability of acrylic products is likely to be manufactured commercially this year.
Brisbane-based TenasiTech Pty. Ltd. began developing additives for polymethyl methacrylate last year, after an undisclosed Australian PMMA product manufacturer showed interest.
Professor Darren Martin, TenasiTech's chief scientific officer, said that despite having worked with the acrylic for only a year, PMMA additives are nearing commercialization. “I'm confident we will have our first supply agreement signed and will be supplying goods to manufacturers before the end of 2013,” he said.
TenasiTech was founded in 2007 by UniQuest Pty. Ltd., the University of Queensland's key commercialization company, to commercialize Martin's on-campus R&D work at the university's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology. TenasiTech has exclusive worldwide rights to that technology.
Martin said, “Instead of making traditional layered, composite products, like fiberglass, we just add nanoparticles to the plastic, which improves things like strength, toughness, tear and scratch resistance, and overall durability.”
Martin claims, for example, it will take twice as long for an acrylic shower screen containing nanoparticle additives to show signs of scuffing and scratching. “A main benefit of using our additives is consumers won't have to replace products as often,” he said.
The nanoparticles are synthetic plates just 1 nanometer thick.
“We put a surface chemistry on the plates, which allows them to mix easily into plastic. These are superefficient reinforcing agents, so the particles make up only about 1 percent of the resulting plastic's weight,” Martin said.
Currently PMMA makers spray, brush or “flood” protective coatings on product surfaces. But the nanoparticle additives are melted into the resin or added as a liquid, with no special equipment needed to process the material, he said.
“It can handle all sorts of secondary manufacturing and forming processes, and it's cheaper than using coatings,” Martin said.
TenasiTech initially focused on developing additives to enhance conventional thermoplastic polyurethane products. Martin said the firm's research in that area continues.
TPU and PMMA both present major opportunities, he said.
“The total PU market is worth more than A$33 billion worldwide annually and acrylic, about A$8 billion,” he said.
For PMMA, he noted opportunities specifically in the electronics market as demand grows for telephone and television screens.