Chemists collaborate to advance nanomaterials with flow chemistry


This LUCI partnership explores a new controlled chemistry approach called flow chemistry. Flow chemistry is an automated chemical process that provides efficient mixing and heat transfer, resulting in more precise and consistent chemical reactions.

Flow chemistry also facilitates reactions at elevated temperatures and pressures without requiring the complex procedures often required to achieve these conditions in batch reactions. Considering the low reactivity of nanomaterials, a new approach is needed to efficiently and consistently modify carbon nanomaterials. With the ability to combine these materials in an automated way, research teams can quickly and safely perform iterative experiments to create new nanomaterials.

“The flow chemistry system can eliminate the need for a 40-hour work week because they can be coupled with AI algorithms, run continuously and controlled remotely. This enables continuous discovery, optimization of reactions and cost savings,” Baldwin said.

Research results from AFRL and MIT will find new materials for electromagnetic shielding, sensors, smart fabrics, composites and other electronic devices. Working with flow chemistry should also benefit space manufacturing and chemistry by exploring protocols and nanomaterials compatible with microgravity environments.

“The generation of highly reactive intermediates in flow reactors at AFRL provides exquisite control that will be used to create materials with superior properties. MIT will provide precursor reagents for these studies and create new chemical/biological sensors and electronic devices from these new generations of materials of interest to the Department of Defense,” Swager said.

During this collaboration, Swager from MIT will regularly send nanomaterials to the AFRL and advise on experimentation. AFRL chemists will perform the suggested reactions and conditions using flow chemistry. The teams discuss the results and meet regularly.

The partnership also benefits from working in each other’s labs several times a year to gain experience working with different chemical systems, deepening their knowledge in support of Department of Defense technologies.

“The Department of Defense is the home of big ideas for mission-based problem sets,” said Dr Bindu Nair, Director of Basic Research in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Development. engineering. “The University-Lab Collaborative Initiative program reflects the Department’s commitment to supporting unfettered research driven by curiosity and the innovative spirit of universities by combining their energy to focus on breakthrough ideas that will advance the fighter.”

For more information on the Laboratory-University Collaboration Initiative, visit

About the AFRL The Air Force Research Laboratory is the principal scientific research and development center of the Department of the Air Force. The AFRL plays a critical role in the discovery, development and integration of affordable combat technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a staff of over 11,500 people in nine technology areas and 40 other operations around the world, AFRL offers a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from basic research to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit

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