Developing further products and applications

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VersarienCu is a family of copper open-celled metallic foams, of varying porosity and pore size, which act as the primary heat exchange element between the heat source within a device and the heat transfer medium, such as the cooling fluid. The three-dimensional nature of the Group’s materials gives rise to extraordinarily high surface area per unit volume and new levels of cell inter-connectivity – a feature which yields excellent thermal conductivity and increased convection – so any physical process that requires surface area will likely benefit from metallic foams.

By virtue of their porosity VersarienCu materials are light, with lower material and transportation costs, and have myriad potential applications, primarily where the functional characteristics of such a material can be exploited. The Group sees a particular opportunity to grow with the increasing demand for improved computing performance, such as in servers, workstations and industrial computing infrastructure.

Porous metals such as VersarienCu are considered to be biomimetic, in that they resemble the sponge-like structures of biological materials like bone and coral. VersarienCu can be engineered and optimised to offer a combination of both structural and functional properties, and it’s in this application that their benefits can significantly outperform those of traditional "monolithic" materials. These processes include heat transfer, heat exchange and exciter materials.

Research and development

The Group is developing further products and applications of the Lost Carbonate Sintering ("LCS") process as a result of its existing commercial relationships and will continue to support the University of Liverpool in its work with porous metal technologies. Furthermore, the Company aims to continue to develop the intellectual property from the University of Liverpool collaboration agreement, while building a wider portfolio of IP by engaging with its academic partners, including the University of Salford and the University of Birmingham, together with the University of Liverpool, and the Technology Strategy Board.

Manufacturing and production

Lost carbonate sintering is a powder metallurgically based solid-state sintering process for the creation of open-celled metallic foams. The method allows full control over pore size and number and is an environmentally benign and sustainable manufacturing process consisting of four main stages:

  1. First, metal powder particles are mixed with non-metal granules. The ratio of metal to non-metal particles and the particle size affects the pore diameter and apparent density of the material that is finally produced.
  2. The mixture is compacted into final or near-final shape form.
  3. Heat is then applied to the compacted mixture by placing it in an industrial furnace. The copper particles within the mixture adhere to one another other without melting. Temperatures of around 1,000C (within a vacuum) are needed for completion of this stage. The heat also causes the non-metal particles to be eliminated (or this can be done via dissolution after the material is cooled).
  4. Quality assurance and customisation activities (such as finishing) are then carried out.