Nanoparticles to order

Produce very clean, identical nanoparticles for efficient catalysts or for miniature electronics – all in single step. VSParticle, a young start-up from Delft University of Technology with a well-filled cabinet of prizes, can do just that. With a Valorisation Grant from NanoNextNL and a Take-off loan from Technology Foundation STW, founders Aaike van Vugt and Tobias Pfeiffer are now conquering the market. Future clients range from scientific researchers to chip and printer manufacturers.

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Nanoparticles are used in many different applications, ranging from batteries to electronics and from catalysts to printers. However, how do you make such particles with dimensions one-hundred-thousandth the thickness of a human hair, and that all have the same size and exactly the same composition to boot?

The Delft start-up company VSParticle has developed a new technology for this, which can produce nanoparticles and deposit these on a surface in a single step and without the need for any extra chemicals. With their patented technology, the founders of the company won several prizes in its first year, from the New Venture Prize and a Valorisation Voucher from the European organisation Climate-KIC, to a three-month stay at MIT to participate in the worldwide Global Founders’ Skills Accelerator.

Printing electronics

Originally, the founders of VSParticle wanted to focus on the research market, but they rapidly discovered that this technology was interesting for many other markets as well, says Van Vugt. ‘For example, we are in discussion with parties in the electronics industry, who want to print lines of metal. In order to do that, you need printer heads that can apply very small nanoparticles in a pattern on a surface. And with our technology, we can take care of that quite easily.’ ‘Our company is the result of 15 years of research at Delft University of Technology,’ says CEO Aaike van Vugt. ‘Using our technology, it is easier and cheaper to make better nanoparticles than you can with the standard processes that have been used for this up to now. We have built a first version of our device, and we will further develop it using the NanoNextNL Valorisation Grant and the Take-off grant.’

VSParticle - Aaike van Vught
Aaike van Vugt (CEO VSParticle) presented his company during NanoCity 2015

Simple solution

He shows the device concerned, which truly emanates a ‘Keep it simple’ vision. The box, which easily fits on a table, includes two buttons, a gas inlet and an outlet the particles emerge from. ‘When somebody purchases such a particle generator from us, they are also given a training in which we explain all the possibilities. They can then make almost anything they could come up with.’
Current processes to produce the particles are often based on chemical principles. For example, the particles are linked to a solvent that needs to be removed in subsequent steps. This requires extra process steps and introduces contaminants in the particles. ‘Our technology is entirely physical in nature. We incorporate the material you want to make nanoparticles of into two electrodes. By placing a high voltage across these, we create a very brief and hot spark that causes the material to evaporate. This is a very rapid process, which yields very pure nanoparticles of every desired composition. And you are immediately done, as no purifying post-treatment processes are necessary.’

 

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