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Nanotechnology - Propellants for Functional Material Development

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Silica nano-particles
encapsulating 2-3nm
metal particles


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Structure of silica aerogels
synthesized within a s
upercritical fluid


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Functional transparent
nanomaterials for optical,
electronic and bioengineering
fields

Advancements in science and technology have made it possible to synthesize and design structure-controlled materials to the order of the nano-scale (10-9m). Reducing materials technologies to the nano-scale allows us to reduce our usage of valuable resources such as precious metals, as well as to exploit distinctive chemical and physical characteristics that have never been attainable before. This field of nano-scale materials study is called Nanotechnology. Constructing highly functional devices from nano-scale materials with simple functions requires the combination and organization of multiple nano-scale materials. Thus, in this chemical engineering course, we not only synthesize and design nano-scale materials, but also combine and organize them by making full use of the studies and technologies of physical chemistry, reaction engineering, biochemistry and more, in order to develop highly functional nano-scale devices. For example, we are currently working with silica (SiO2), which is one of the most common and inexpensive inorganic materials, to apply it to nano-scale devices.

We synthesize silica by using a micro-emulsion, where nano-scale water droplets are contained within an organic solvent. In doing so, spherical silica particles can be synthesized and controlled to have diameter range of 10-100 nm. The encapsulation of metal particles with diameters of few nanometers into the cores of the spherical silica particles (i.e., combination of nano-scale silica and metal particles) has also been achieved. This material is being closely watched for potential use in enzyme materials, hydrogen-oxygen fuel cell electrodes and optical materials. Moreover, we are working to synthesize silica in a supercritical fluid. A supercritical fluid is a highly dense fluid that is above its critical temperature and pressure, and which is distinctive because it has the nature of both liquid and gas. Creating silica in a supercritical fluid would allow the production of silica aerogels with organized silica particles with a diameter of approximately 2-3 nm. Silica aerogel, which has a larger specific surface and superior transparency and heat insulation when compared to conventional silica, can be used to play various technical roles, such as an enzyme carrier or an adsorbent.

Further, nano-scale glass-ceramic materials can be designed by using highly organized nano-scale silica. With the development of IT technologies, there is a growing demand for new optical glass-ceramics materials. Although the usual composition of glass from silica is inexpensive, conventionally it has been impossible to synthesize glass-ceramics directly from silica particles. However, by examining such basic information as the structure and physical properties of silica, we have been able to use inexpensive silica particles to manufacture glass-ceramics that are highly valued and applicable to use in semiconductors, optical materials, and medical applications. As described above, by mobilizing our full knowledge of chemical engineering, we are able to construct nano-scale devices using common every-day commodities.

The Department of Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering
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