ThinAir Fabrication

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ThinAir Fabrication

There is a plethora of technologies available to turn carbon dioxide into a host of products, from fuels, bio-based products, and even food. One of the most impressive is NASA-based Kiverdi, which is using technology to make air-based meat – a process that could help sustainably feed the aquaculture industry and reduce plastic waste.

Another example of the latest in carbon-conversion tech is the Glovebox ThinAir Fabrication Inert Atmosphere (N2) thin-film fabrication and testing core facility at Northwestern University. The lab is used to manufacture optical and electronic devices without exposure to water, making it ideal for testing the performance of such equipment in a controlled environment.

The best part of the Glovebox Inert Atmosphere is that it uses a low-cost mechanical calendering technique to produce ultra-thin gas-diffusion layers (GDL) and catalytic layers (CL), which are key components in flexible Zn-air batteries. This approach eliminates the need for commercially-available carbon cloth or paper, and delivers highly elastic GDL and CL that improve torsional strength and increase battery energy density by more than two orders of magnitude.

This is done by utilizing a novel roll-to-roll, high-frequency, scalar magnetic field-induced calendering technique to fabricate ultra-thin, low-cost and stable GDL. In addition, the calendering process is combined with heat pressing to form catalytic layers that improve electrode overpotential, discharge performance and battery energy density.

A similar aqueous phase-transfer, scalar magnetic field-induced mechanical calendering method is also employed to prepare the world’s first hydrophilic-hydrophobic hybride catalytic layer (CL). These two components combine to make a battery electrode that is not only aesthetically appealing but also has an extremely low cost of production, allowing a wide range of applications.

This process, which was conceived at Air’s Innovation Centre lab in Australia and won a 2017 Ideas for Change award, is considered a 2020 TIME Invention of the Year. It’s a technology that can be applied in space travel, the medical field, and even the food industry to turn CO2 into products and nutrients.