High strength, high conductivity, copper alloy

In recent times copper has been utilised in medical applications such as anti-viral surface coatings and components to reduce the virus residence time in hospitals and clinics.  However, pure copper is extremely soft and malleable, which limits its application.  Researchers at The University of Queensland have designed an invention that integrates pure copper powder with nanoparticles via ultrasonic vibration and mechanical mixing to reduce the surface reflectance and enable facile fabrication of 3D printed parts.

The fabricated components exhibit over three times higher strength and 100% increase in ductility, while retaining 95% of the thermal and electrical conductivity when benchmarked against pure copper powder.  The performance improvement can be attributed to uniform dispersion of nanoparticles.  This additive enables homogeneous melting of copper, affording better control over the fabrication process.

Key features

  • Achieving high strength and high ductility without a compromise in electrical and thermal properties
  • High density Cu parts using standard fibre lasers.

 

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High strength, high ductility, titanium alloy

An invention from researchers at The University of Queensland has overcome an industry challenge of producing titanium (Ti) alloys with high strength and high ductility.  Alloys can be produced in-situ with an additive manufacturing (AM) approach and overcomes the problem of uniformly blending the various powders during preparation of the AM feedstock, thus creating high quality parts.

Key features

  • High strength and ductility without compromising either of the mechanical properties
  • Significant reduction of anisotropy
  • Simple bucket chemistry-based modification.

 

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Efficient production of cyclic proteins

Researchers at The University of Queensland have made several important breakthroughs in the production of cNDs and can produce them at yields that are several-fold higher than reported methods, using a workflow that is scalable and cost-effective.

Membrane proteins have long presented a challenge to biochemical and functional studies.  In the absence of a bilayer environment, individual proteins and critical macromolecular complexes may be insoluble and may display altered or absent activities.  Nanodisc technology provide important advantages for the isolation, purification, structural resolution and functional characterisation of membrane proteins.

Nanodiscs consist of a membrane scaffold protein (MSP) that wraps around a patch of lipids, making a disc shaped lipid-protein complex.  The most advanced nanodisc design is based on covalently circularised nanodiscs (cNDs).

Key features

  • Scalable and efficient production of circularised proteins
  • Easy purification
  • Minimal reagents required
  • 10x higher yield or 10x reduction in reaction volume, 30% reduction in production time compared to traditional methods.

 

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Gold recovery from e-waste

Post-consumer electronic waste contains a large range of valuable elements that can potentially be recycled.  An analysis by the UN e-waste coalition reports that 7% of the world’s gold reserve may be contained in e-waste and there is 100x more gold in a tonne of smart phones compared to a tonne of gold ore, leading to increasing interest in ‘urban mining’ to recover and recycle it.

Researchers at The University of Queensland (UQ) have developed a hydrometallurgical process for leaching gold from electronic waste (such as printed circuit boards) and then collecting the gold by electrodepositing it onto electrodes.

Compared to other leaching processes, the process is highly selective for gold and leaching is fast, ensuring rapid processing.  Compared to smelting, capex and operating costs are both low, and modular plant construction can be scaled according to the size of the incoming waste stream.

Key features

  • Highly selective for gold; other metals can also be recovered
  • Low cost, modular plant design allows easy facility scaling
  • Clean process – most leachate recycled.

 

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Contaminated waste PVC conversion to carbon fibres

Carbon fibre is a valuable resource for making carbon fibre composites and a method is needed for a low-cost option to take contaminated waste PVC (and plasticised PVC) and turn it into carbon fibres at a lower cost than traditional processes using Polyacrylonitrile (PAN).

Researchers at The University of Queensland have developed a novel process of taking contaminated waste PVC, separating it from contaminants, chemically stabilising the fibres and converting them to lower weight/high strength carbon fibres with high carbon yield after heating.  This process could significantly lower the cost of producing carbon fibre from PVC.

Key features

  • Contaminated or mixed waste PVC conversion to high yield carbon fibre.  Inexpensive feedstock and environmentally friendly.
  • Virgin PVC conversion to high yield carbon fibre.  Higher fibre rate production and no solvent required.
  • PVC feedstock lowers costs by replacing established technology using PAN for carbon fibre.

 

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Ultra-bright, low power QD displays and lighting

Significantly improve the ability of quantum dots (QDs) to capture incident light and produce a brighter fluorescence emission. Silica nanocarrier particles act as a scaffold for quantum dots, enabling construction of high density 3D QD arrays with minimal quenching. Better light harvesting enables use of lower power light sources for the same brightness of emission.

Key features

  • Enable longer run-time laptop computers, tablets and cell phones via lower QD display power consumption
  • 20,000-25,000 QDs can be loaded into a single 200 nm diameter nanocarrier particle
  • Porosity and surface chemistry of the nanocarrier can be designed to accommodate different QD sizes and QD coating types respectively
  • QD-loaded nanocarriers suspend in a range of solvents and are easily coated
  • Silica nanocarrier is inert and very stable
  • Demonstrated in QD-based diagnostics applications, now extending to QD displays and lighting.

 

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Alkaline digestion of waste glass

There is a narrow range of reaction conditions under which the alkaline digestion of soda-lime glass and separation of resultant products is able to proceed in a commercially relevant way.  UQ researchers have optimised digestion conditions and product processing, such that glass can now be used to produce a range of high-value products including liquid alkali-silicates in all commercially relevant concentrations and ratios, high purity silica gel and Calcium Silicate Hydrate (CSH).

Key features

  • Simple process developed for the extraction of sodium silicate from soda-lime glass, characterised by a high utilisation of the raw materials and energy embodied in glass
  • Suitable for the low-value fraction of waste glass which is too small to be optically sorted (by colour) and remade into glass products
  • Significant commercial (reduced capex and opex) and social benefits (reduce landfill and consumption of virgin materials) when compared to conventional production routes of sodium silicate.

 

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