published in leading journal
McGill University researchers have developed a new
method for producing carbon nanotubes that has great
commercial promise. The work of Professor Jean-Luc
Meunier and doctoral student David Harbec, both of
the Department of Chemical Engineering, is the subject
of a patent application, and the findings of their
team have just been published in the Journal of Physics
D: Applied Physics.
Carbon nanotubes (CNTs), discovered in 1991, are seamless
cylinders composed of carbon atoms in a regular hexagonal
arrangement, closed on both ends by hemispherical
endcaps. They exhibit remarkable mechanical and electronic
properties. Applications include high-strength composites,
advanced sensors, electronic and optical devices,
catalysts, batteries, and fuel cells.
The current low-volume production methods and high
production costs are the limiting factors in the CNT
high-growth market. The McGill researchers developed
a new method and apparatus to produce CNTs with the
possibility of scale up to large industrial levels
that is based on thermal plasma technology. Plasmas
form the fourth state of matter after gas, while the
term "thermal plasmas" refers to their typical
state of almost thermal equilibrium between electrons,
ions, atoms and molecules. Thermal plasmas typically
have temperatures between 4,000°C and 25,000°C,
and are created by electric arcs or magnetic induction
"The use of carbon nanotubes in advanced materials
is not only limited by their price, but more importantly
by their unavailability in large quantities,"
notes Prof. Meunier. "This method using thermal
plasmas brings production towards industrial levels
at megawatt powers, and Quebec is an important player
worldwide in thermal plasmas."
Meunier and Harbec are the authors, along with McGill
researchers Liping Guo, Raynald Gauvin and Nadine
El Mallah, of the article "Carbon nanotubes from
the dissociation of C2Cl4 using a dc thermal plasma
torch," appearing in the July 14 issue of Journal
of Physics D: Applied Physics.
McGill University is currently seeking licensees to
its patent-pending technology for producing CNTs,
and the McGill researchers have just received an Idea
to Innovation grant from the Natural Sciences and
Engineering Research Council of Canada to help bring
their technology closer to market.
Dr. Meunier is a member of the Plasma-Québec
Network and of the Plasma Technology Research Centre,
a McGill University and Université de Sherbrooke
collaboration in the field of thermal plasmas. In
terms of scientific manpower and funding, Quebec's
contribution exceeds 50% of the total Canadian contribution
to plasma technologies.
About McGill University:
McGill University is Canada's leading research-intensive
university and has earned an international reputation
for scholarly achievement and scientific discovery.
Founded in 1821, McGill has 21 faculties and professional
schools which offer more than 300 programs from the
undergraduate to the doctoral level. McGill attracts
renowned professors and researchers from around the
world and top students from more than 150 countries,
creating one of the most dynamic and diverse education
environments in North America. There are approximately
23,000 undergraduate students and 7,000 graduate students.
McGill was recently named Canadian Research University
of the Year in the Medical/Doctoral category based
on research funding and publication information compiled
by Research Infosource. It is one of two Canadian
members of the American Association of Universities.
McGill's two campuses are located in Montreal, Canada.
Department of Chemical Engineering
Office of the Vice-Principal (Research)
Office of Technology Transfer