PPK Group and Deakin University step up development of boron nitride nanotubes

PPK Group ASX Deakin University boron nitride nanotubes BNNT Technology
Deakin University has developed a technology for manufacturing boron nitride nanotubes in volumes previously unavailable.

Mining industry support company PPK Group (ASX: PPK) has unveiled a joint venture research agreement with Deakin University and BNNT Technology, a company in which PPK already has a 50% stake.

The move is being funded by an $8.5 million capital raising with PPK issuing 2 million new shares.

The agreement builds upon a previous deal between the university and PPK in which the two entities are collaborating to develop and build boron nitride nanotubes on a commercial basis.

Similar to carbon nanotubes, boron nitride nanotubes are nanocomposites that are endowed with unique properties that can be applied in a range of industries and applications including field-effect transistors, as well as, water purification systems, biosensors and transducers,

First discovered in 1995, boron nitride nanotubes have the potential to revolutionise a range of industrial fields including biology and medicine.

In November 2018, PPK and Deakin University signed a joint venture agreement with BNNT obtaining an exclusive 20-year licence concerning the technology developed by the university.

A test production plant was constructed at Deakin’s campus in Geelong, Victoria with PPK confirming earlier this month that all process elements of the production plant were complete, and the plant was now fully operational.

The company said that an ongoing development program is now focused on establishing the range of production process settings required for boron nitride nanotubes purity, size and type to allow the “initiation of higher volume production”.

The trio involved in the research agreement stands to benefit commercially from the multitude of projects, with PPK stating that all parties intend to “meet both scientific and commercial demands”.

The joint venture shareholding structure is comprised of PPK owning 65%, Deakin University holding 25% and BNNT owning the remaining 10%. However, the trio has said that despite the overarching equity structure, flexibility to adjust the equity mix on each separate technological application would be available.

What’s in store

According to PPK, the initial list of new application projects targeted by the joint venture agreement will include the development of a new type of battery based on lithium sulphur that uses boron nitride nanotubes as both an integrated protective insulation layer and a component in composite anodes which will allow faster charge rates and increased battery life.

This could potentially aid the vast number of industries now looking towards batteries to operate, namely, electronics manufacturing and electric cars.

Additional applications are also set to include 3D printing synthesis technology for metallic alloy composites with excellent mechanical properties for aerospace application.

BNNT and Deakin are also looking to develop “new manufacturing processes” for transparent materials such as polycarbonate, perspex, acrylic and glass to enhance ballistic resistance performance while reducing weight and thickness.

Other development projects will seek to create thermally conductive and electrical insulating materials and related preparation technologies for electronic device packaging purposes.

The full list of areas where PPK thinks it can deploy its nanotube development is extensive and includes nano biosensors, cancer therapies, supercapacitors, bulletproof clothing and even tissue regeneration.

As part of the agreement, Deakin will provide intellectual property, equipment and access to specialist personnel from the Institute For Frontier Materials, one of Australia’s leading materials research organisations.

“It is very encouraging to see the relationship between Deakin University and PPK strengthen, and we are delighted to be again working alongside Deakin University to assist in the enablement and commercialisation initially of these six market-leading applications,” said Robin Levison, executive chairman of PPK.

“These new technology commercialisation opportunities will not only be beneficial to PPK in the medium term but also create a portfolio development effect that both increases revenue and profitability opportunities for PPK whilst reducing overall commercialisation risk,” said Mr Levison.

News of the research agreement boosted PPK’s shares by over 8% up to $4.87.

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