Principal investigator: Carmel Majidi
University: Carnegie Mellon University
Industry partner: Arieca Inc.
Arieca Incorporated is an advanced materials manufacturer based in Pittsburgh, PA that creates specialized rubber composites for applications in computing, healthcare, and aerospace. Their materials technologies are based on a proprietary composition in which microscale droplets of liquid metal (LM) are suspended within a soft, rubbery elastomer. These LM-embedded elastomer (LMEE) composites represent a breakthrough technology that have a unique combination of high thermal conductivity, high electrical permittivity, high elasticity, and low mechanical stiffness. Certain formulations of LMEEs can also be engineered to exhibit near metal-like electrical conductivity.
Currently, Arieca synthesizes LMEEs using silicone rubber as the base elastomer matrix material. Silicone rubbers are a thermosetting elastomer that are biocompatible and have desirable elastic properties for certain applications. However, some of Arieca’s customers have a need for LMEE composites that use fluoropolymer elastomers (FPEs) as the matrix material. This includes another Pennsylvania-based manufacturer (not named here due to NDA restrictions) that utilizes high performance elastomer composites for industrial, aerospace, semiconductor, and healthcare applications. By developing a method to mass produce LM-FPE elastomer composites, Arieca can access new market opportunities and broaden the base of regional manufacturers that they can sell their product to.
Recently, the Soft Machines Lab (SML; Principle Investigator: Carmel Majidi) at Carnegie Mellon University has developed a method to create LM-FPE composites through ultrasonic agitation of a liquid metal and pre-polymer emulsion. So far, this process has only been demonstrated at the laboratory scale. With this PA Manufacturing Fellows Initiative (PMFI) grant, PI Majidi plans to partner with Arieca to develop a method to scale up the synthesis process from ~100 grams to a 1-10 kg batch manufacturing method. This will allow Arieca to produce LM-FPE composites at scales and speeds that are viable for commercialization.