4XTechnologies studies the integration of atmospheric plasma into industrial processes. Leveraging our specific expertise in plasma science, electrodynamics, and materials processing, we develop new technologies to solve our customer’s problems.
In the early years of 4XT our work focused primarily on carbon fiber precursor oxidation. In conjunction with Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL), we developed a technology that enabled us to oxidize PAN fibers much more quickly, efficiently, and effectively than with conventional technologies. This approach, using atmospheric plasma to enhance the thermal convection processing currently practiced, has the potential to drastically reduce the cost of carbon fiber production. This technology is being commercialized by our first spin-off company, 4M Carbon Fiber. In the future, you will start seeing carbon fiber everywhere as we make it accessible to industries where carbon fiber composites have traditionally been prohibitively expensive.
Learn more about Plasma Oxidation here.
Plasma Surface Treatment
Because the surface of carbon fibers is inert, chemical treatment is required to produce strong carbon fiber composites. Conventionally this requires electrochemical or acid baths to make them more receptive to the sizing agents and resins used in the composite manufacturing process. In cooperation with ORNL and an industrial partner, we have developed carbon fiber plasma surface treatment technology that eliminates the need for liquid baths while still producing the reactive carbon fiber surfaces required for composite strength. We’re designing the first commercial scale machine, which is scheduled to start producing specialty and custom sized carbon fibers in the spring of 2020.
In partnership with ORNL, we are developing a reactor to carbonize oxidized fiber through electromagnetic exposure. The standard practice for producing carbon fibers involves heating oxidized PAN to 1200-1600°C in a furnace, which requires a considerable amount of energy to maintain at a commercial scale. With electromagnetic carbonization, we will reduce the energy requirements of carbonization while substantially accelerating the process. This will allow carbon fiber producers to process the same amount of fiber in smaller facilities or increase production capacity with the same footprint.
Plasma Odor Control
The highly reactive chemistry that makes plasma advantageous for oxidation and surface treatment is also extremely effective for accelerating, catalyzing, and creating all kinds of chemical reactions in the gas phase. We’re harnessing this chemistry to develop technologies for plasma air filtration. We’ve demonstrated the ability to destroy odorous VOCs and ammonia which are not only two main constituents of odor pollution but are also hazardous to one’s health. Whether you are a small coffee roaster or an industrial composting facility, our plasma filter will be capable of plugging into your existing exhaust system, eliminating the need for biofilters, thermal oxidizers, or exhaust scrubbers.
Plasma Mold Remediation
The highly reactive chemistry mentioned above can also be scaled back and reduced to a level safe for use in the home. We’ve developed a distributed low-level plasma source that has been demonstrated to inhibit mold growth in homes and duct-work. We are currently improving the design, and a second round of more extensive field trials will begin soon. Please check back for updates.