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Overview & Activities

Overview & Activities

Project Overview

EC FP7 Project Title: Ultra Conductive Copper-Carbon Nanotube Wire

Acronym: UltraWire

Project No. 609057

EC FP7 Call: FP7 – FoF.NMP.2013-10

Start: 1st October 2013

Duration: 3 years

Project Aims

The most common traditional materials used in electrical energy distribution systems are copper and copper alloys. Modern applications show an increasing demand for better heat and electric current carrying capacity at the level beyond copper base materials. Nanocarbon materials, such as carbon nanotubes and graphene have attracted attention due to their high electrical, thermal conductivity and exceptional mechanical properties. It would appear that combining copper with high performance nanocarbons towards composite materials could offer immediate solution to problems encountered currently.

Copper nanocarbon composites could form the next generation of conductors, where copper contributes the benefits of electrical conductivity, whereas nanocarbon brings to this composite its low weight, flexibility, mechanical reinforcement and thermal management. Recent breakthrough in the chirality control of carbon nanotubes could contribute significantly to the electrical conductivity of these composite materials beyond the performance achieved by bulk copper conductors. The material and process costs required to achieve improvement of the overall performance of copper based electrical conductors, need to be compatible with large scale conductor manufacturing and overcome the issues such as the cost of the nanocarbons and the difficulty of scaling up the production processes.

This proposal is aimed at developing a copper nanocarbon composite with significantly improved overall properties, including electrical, thermal and mechanical performances over bulk copper. The proposal also aims to develop production process that will be scalable to large volume manufacture.  A key breakthrough will be to achieve a continuous carbon nanotube/copper manufacturing of wires with superior properties using highly controlled carbon nanotubes and/or graphene developed at the University of Cambridge and currently produced at sufficient volumes with unique degree of structural control and molecular orientation.

Project Partners

1) University of Cambridge (UK), 2) KME (Gearmany); 3) Aurubis (Belgium); 4) Cambridge Nanomaterials Technology Ltd (UK); 5) Wieland-Werke (Germany) 6) Nexans (France); 7) Nationa Grid (UK); 8) AGH University of Science and Technology (Poland); 9) Outotec (Finland); 10) Aalto University (Finland); 11) Institute of Occupational Medicine (UK); 12) PSA Peugeot Citroën (France); 13) PE Interantional; 14) Invro Limited (UK).

Project Publications

Carbon nanotube-copper composites by electrodeposition on carbon nanotube fibers

Pyry-Mikko Hannula, Antti Peltonen, Jari Aromaa, Dawid Janas, Mari Lundström, Benjamin P. Wilson, Krzysztof Koziol, Olof Forsén

Carbon, Vol. 107, October 2016, Pages 281-287


Electrochemical deposition of copper on a carbon nanotube (CNT) fiber from a copper sulfate – sulfuric acid bath was studied in order to produce a carbon nanotube-copper composite wire. The high resistivity of the aerogel-spun fiber causes a non-uniform current distribution during deposition, which results in a drastic drop in the copper nuclei population density as sufficient overpotential is not available beyond a certain distance from the current feed point. Copper was found to fill the pores between CNT bundles from Focused Ion Beam (FIB) cut cross-sections confirming that aqueous based electrolytes can fill micropores between as-spun CNTs in a fiber network. The speed at which copper grows on the fiber surface was identified at ca. 0.08 mm/s with 1mA applied current. The copper cladding showed columnar growth with a grain size a magnitude of order higher than the CNT-Cu region. The resulting composite was found to have specific conductivity similar to that of pure copper i.e 98 % of copper with 0.2 w-% of CNT, exhibiting a ninefold increase from the pure CNT fiber.  Self-annealing was shown to decrease the resistance of the composite.

Project Activities

During three year of the UltraWire project duration the project partners had progress review meetings in Cambridge, Edinburgh, Paris,  Ulm, Cambridge, Krakow and Leuven. Two Open Day Workshops have been organised, first in Cambridge in September 2015 with more than 40 participants and second in Leuven in September 2016 with more than 50 participants. Photos from some of these activities are bellow.

UltraWire Edinburgh meeting

UltraWire Edinburgh meeting

UltraWire Open Day 2015 Workshop - Cambridge

UltraWire Open Day 2015 Workshop - Cambridge

UltraWire Krakow meeting

UltraWire Krakow meeting