Large deposits of halloysite-kaolin clay found on the Eyre Peninsula of South Australia are yielding unique microscopic tubular particles with absorption properties.
Natural Nanotech, a startup based in Adelaide, signed a three-year agreement to scale up laboratory test work completed previously to a commercial scale.
The tiny particles found in natural clay, halloysite, could potentially replace expensive manufactured versions of nanotubes currently being used in a wide range of new technologies, including water technologies.
“With the rest of the world’s supply of natural halloysite limited, South Australia is uniquely home to large deposits near Streaky Bay,” said company director Dr Tony Belperio. “If successful, it could position Australia as the dominant global manufacturer and supplier of a new product with diverse environmental applications.”
The first research project will focus on developing a solution to carbon capture from the atmosphere and to selective pollutants in water. These applications had already been successfully demonstrated at laboratory scale by the team at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, according to Dr Belperio.
Kaolin clay is used for high-end ceramics with demand in China and Southeast Asia for making expensive vases or tea sets along with being used for brightening paint or paper.
The ceramic industry would still be a prime customer for the product, considering the nanotubes have strengthening ability. The other target markets would include the water filtration industry for cleaning poor quality water, according to the Lead Australia.
There is potential for the nanotubes to be used in air conditioner-sized units, which could reduce a company’s carbon footprint by capturing carbon out of the air.
Natural Nanotech is applying for a research and development grant.