Cambridge University spin-out Q-Flo has singed an agreement with a manufacturing company for the further development of its carbon nanotube technology which it says can provide fibres three times tougher than that currently used to make body armour.
Q-Flo was spun-out from the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy in 2004 by Alan Windle and Martin Pick to exploit the synthesis of carbon nanotubes in the form of so-called ‘elastic smoke’, in which the nanotubes are loosely entangled with each other.
Carbon nanotubes consist of a special arrangement of carbon atoms. Normally, as in graphite, the atoms are arranged hexagonally and layered in sheets. In nanotubes however, the sheets are rolled up to form minute tubes, only a few atoms in diameter.
Windle’s team found a way to wind up the elastic smoke into continuous fibre, in which the nanotubes themselves are aligned along the fibre length. The fibre is five times thinner than a human hair and only just visible to the naked eye. It could be used to make ropes, cables, fabric and composite materials as well as body armour.
Q-flo has signed a deal with Plasan, a major manufacturer of body armour based in Israel.
The two companies have set up TorTech, a joint venture company, which has signed an agreement to commercialise Q-Flo’s technology in the area of body armour and composite motor vehicle bodies.