Hybrid Ceramic Powder Processing System

From: Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

NRC is seeking a ceramic powder processing solution that will upgrade raw ceramic powder into a uniformly coated, sinterable, hybrid carbon nanotube ceramic powder with > 1 kg / h production rates, in order for NRC to do further research into possible applications for this new stronger composite material such as light-weight armours.

Sponsoring department: National Research Council (NRC)

Funding mechanism: Contract

Opening date: September 3, 2019
Closing date: October 29, 2019 14:00 Eastern Daylight Time

Please refer to the tender notice for this challenge on Buy and Sell.

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Challenge

Problem statement

Carbon nanotubes have great potential for mechanical reinforcement in composite materials, including ceramic composites. However, bundling of the carbon nanotubes has prevented this potential from being realized. To overcome these bundling issues, the carbon nanotubes are being deposited by chemical vapour deposition methods onto ceramic powders, which have been stained with the catalyst. The resulting hybrid powders can then be sintered into the composite, in other words, compacted and bonded at high temperature and pressure into a solid plate. The nanotubes are deposited in an unbundled state on the ceramic powder and remain that way after sintering, which is the desired outcome, but the lack of uniformity in the deposition results in weaknesses of the material. In order to get a uniform distribution of these unbundled carbon nanotubes in the composite, the carbon nanotubes must be uniformly deposited onto the ceramic powders. There are technical challenges to overcome in getting this uniform deposition, including issues with catalyst causing the powder to clump up and the need for a uniform gas flow around the catalyst coated ceramic powders during the chemical vapour deposition process. This call concerns overcoming these challenges. NRC is seeking a ceramic powder processing solution that will upgrade raw ceramic powder into a uniformly coated, sinterable, hybrid carbon nanotube ceramic powder that can be produced with production rates > 1 kg / h.

Desired outcomes and considerations

Essential (mandatory) outcomes

Proposed solutions must:

  1. Produce a uniform distribution of carbon nanotubes at loadings up to 3% (by weight) on the surface of ground alumina powder grains starting from neat alumina powder. The neat alumina powder must be of a size of 0.5 µm or less The loading (measured by thermal gravimetric analysis in air) must have a precision of better than 0.1%. The uniformity must be confirmable by imaging under a scanning electron microscope and there cannot be regions where the alumina grains are not loaded with nanotubes.
  2. Deposit high quality carbon nanotubes onto the powder grains, as confirmed by Raman spectroscopy, thermal gravimetric analysis (TGA), scanning electron microscopy, and transmission electron microscopy. The Raman spectrum and TGA thermogram must be consistent with high quality single or multi-walled carbon nanotubes. Imaging by scanning electron microscopy must show high aspect ratio (a long length compared to their diameter), straight nanotubes. Imaging by transmission electron microscopy must show a high degree of graphitization.
  3. Also work for carbon nanotube deposition onto silicon carbide powders.
  4. Process the powder at a rate of greater than 1 kg / h.
  5. Include all the necessary interlocks for safe, hands-off operation by a trained operator.
  6. Be automated for programmable, repeatable operations.
  7. Be able to operate for 24 h without stopping.
  8. Include all gas cabinets needed for safe handling of process gases.
  9. Include all abatement systems needed for safe process gas exhausting.
  10. Have a footprint of less than 10 m2 and be less than 3 m in height.
  11. Work at pressures ranging from atmospheric to below 0.1 bar.

Background and Context

Carbon nanotubes — ceramic composites are of particular interest for developing light weight armour by Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) and their clients. Through the DRDC-funded Advanced Ceramic Plate Technology project, NRC in collaboration with Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and DRDC have been exploring methods for producing and sintering hybrid carbon nanotube ceramic materials in order to produce composite plates. Processing of ultrafine ceramic powders (e.g. Alteo P172LSB super ground reactive alumina, 99.8%, 0.4 µm D50) into carbon nanotube hybrids by chemical vapour deposition methods followed by high pressure sintering has been found to be a very promising approach. However, progress is currently limited by the available batch processing chemical vapour deposition reactor. The limitations are related to inhomogeneity of the sinterable hybrids, which leads to inhomogeneity in the sintered composite. This inhomogeneity can be traced to two sources. The first is clumping of the ceramic powder during catalyst deposition. This problem is currently being addressed by first calcining the catalyst precursor stained powder in air, followed by jet milling. This process is effective but is very time consuming and expensive. A more efficient process is desirable, such as the deposition of the catalyst concurrently with the carbon nanotube deposition (so-called floating catalyst chemical vapour deposition). The second source is related to the static, batch processing being employed. Currently, the powder is placed in a pan and processed as in a batch mode. This mode leads to depletion effects whereby the reactive gas concentration drops as one goes deeper into the thickness of the powder, leading to greater carbon nanotube deposition at the top of the powder layer than further down. NRC does not currently have a method of overcoming this problem; however, tumbling furnaces are commercially available to move the powder during processing and could be engineered into a chemical vapour reactor for carbon nanotube deposition. Other methods may also be possible, including possibly fluidized bed reactors or spray reactors.

Maximum value and travel

Multiple contracts could result from this Challenge.

The maximum funding available for any Phase 1 Contract resulting from this Challenge is $150,000.00 CAD (plus tax) including shipping, travel and living expenses, as applicable, for up to 6 months.

The maximum funding available for any Phase 2 Contract resulting from this Challenge is $1,000,000.00 CAD (plus tax) including shipping, travel and living expenses, as applicable, for up to 24 months. Only eligible businesses that have completed Phase 1 could be considered for Phase 2.

This disclosure is made in good faith and does not commit Canada to contract for the total approximate funding.

Travel

For Phase 1 it is anticipated that two meetings will require the successful bidder(s) to travel to the location identified below:

Kick-off meeting

Edmonton, AB

Final Review Meeting

Edmonton, AB

Eligibility

Solution proposals can only be submitted by a small business that meets all of the following criteria:

  • for profit
  • incorporated in Canada (federally or provincially)
  • 499 or fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) employeesFootnote *
  • research and development activities that take place in Canada
  • 50% or more of its annual wages, salaries and fees are currently paid to employees and contractors who spend the majority of their time working in CanadaFootnote *
  • 50% or more of its FTE employees have Canada as their ordinary place of workFootnote *
  • 50% or more of its senior executives (Vice President and above) have Canada as their principal residenceFootnote *

Application guide

Application guide

Evaluation Criteria

The official source of the Evaluation Criteria for this challenge is the Government Electronic Tendering System (Buy and Sell) (https://buyandsell.gc.ca/procurement-data/tender-notice/PW-18-00846769)

In the event of a discrepancy between the information below and the information published on Buy and Sell, Buy and Sell will take precedence.

Part 1: Mandatory and Minimum Pass Mark Criteria

Proposals must meet all mandatory criteria (Questions 1a and 2) and achieve the minimum pass mark for Question 3 in order to be deemed responsive and proceed to Part 2.

Mandatory and Minimum Pass Mark Criteria (Applicant/Bidder's proposal must address)
Question Evaluation Schema

1 a. Scope

Describe your proposed solution and how it responds to the challenge. Include in your description the scientific and technological basis upon which your solution is proposed and clearly identify how your solution meets all of the Essential Outcomes (if identified) in the Desired Outcomes and Considerations section in the Challenge Notice.

Mandatory — Pass/Fail

Pass
The Applicant/Bidder's proposed solution is clearly articulated, within the scope for the challenge and addresses all Essential Outcomes (if identified) in the Challenge Notice.

Fail
There is little or no evidence that the proposed solution is likely to meet the challenge.
OR
The proposed solution is articulated as out of scope for the challenge.
OR
The proposed solution does not address all Essential Outcomes listed in the challenge.
OR
The proposed solution is poorly described and does not permit concrete analysis.

2. Current Technology Readiness Level (TRL)

  1. Indicate the current TRL of your proposed solution. (Drop Down Menu of the Application/Bid Submission Form)
  2. Describe the research and development activities that have taken place to bring the proposed solution to the stated TRL.

Mandatory — Pass/Fail

Pass: The Applicant/Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution is currently between TRLs 1 and 4 (inclusive), and provided justification by explaining the research and development (R&D) that has taken place to bring the solution to the stated TRL.

Fail: The Applicant/Bidder has not provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the current TRL is between 1 to 4 (inclusive) including:

  1. There is insufficient/no evidence provided for TRL judgment.
  2. The solution involves the development of basic or fundamental research.
  3. The solution is at TRL 5 or higher.
  4. Insufficient/unclear/no justification explaining the R&D that took place to bring the solution to the stated TRL.
  5. The explanation simply paraphrases the description of a given TRL level.

3. Innovation

Describe the novelty of your solution and how it advances the state-of-the-art over existing technologies, including competing solutions.

Point Rated with Minimum Pass Mark

The minimum pass mark for this criteria is 4 points.

0 points/Fail: The Applicant/Bidder has not demonstrated that the proposed solution advances the state-of-the-art over existing technologies, including available competing solutions; OR

The stated advancements are described in general terms but are not substantiated with specific, measurable evidence.

4 points:

  • The Applicant/Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution offers one or two minor improvements to existing technologies, including available competing solutions, that have potential to create competitive advantages in existing market niches.

6 points:

  • The Applicant/Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution offers three or more minor improvements to existing technologies, including available competing solutions, that together are likely to create competitive advantages in existing market niches; OR
  • The Applicant/Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution offers one significant improvement to existing technologies that is likely to create competitive advantages in existing market niches

8 points:

  • The Applicant/Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution offers two or more significant improvements to existing technologies, including available competing solutions that are likely to create competitive advantages in existing market niches and could define new market spaces; OR
  • The Applicant/Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution can be considered a new benchmark of state of the art that is clearly ahead of competitors and that is likely to define new market spaces

Part 2: Point-Rated Criteria

Proposals that do not achieve the overall minimum score of at least 55 points out of a possible 110 points (50%) will be declared non-responsive and given no further consideration.

The overall minimum score is determined by adding the Applicant/Bidder's scores from the following questions together (1b, 3, 4-13).

Point-Rated Criteria (Applicant/Bidder's proposal to address)
Question Evaluation Schema

1b. Scope

Describe how your proposed solution addresses the Additional Outcomes (if identified) in the Desired Outcomes and Considerations section in the Challenge Notice. If no Additional Outcomes are identified in the Challenge Notice, text entered in this section will not be considered.

If no Additional Outcomes are identified in the Challenge Notice, Bidders/Applicants will receive 10 points

  • Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the solution will address any of the Additional Outcomes. 0 points
  • Information provided clearly demonstrates that the solution will address some (<50%) of the Additional Outcomes. 5 points
  • Information provided clearly demonstrates that the solution will address most (50% or more) of the Additional Outcomes. 8 points
  • Information provided clearly demonstrates that the solution will address all (100%) of the Additional Outcomes. 10 points

4. Phase 1 Science and Technology Risks

Identify potential scientific and/or technological risks to the successful development of the proof of concept and how they will be mitigated in Phase 1?

  • Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the Applicant/Bidder has considered potential risks and mitigation strategies and/or information provided contains significant gaps. 0 points
  • Information provided demonstrates that the Applicant/Bidder has considered some potential risks and associated mitigation strategies but there are minor gaps in risks and/or associated mitigation strategies. 5 points
  • Information provided clearly demonstrates that the Applicant/Bidder has sufficiently considered the risks and defined associated mitigation strategies. 10 points

5. Benefits to Canada

Describe the benefits that could result from the successful development of your solution. Applicants/Bidders should consider the potential benefits using the following three categories:

  1. Innovation Benefits: Expected contribution towards the enhancement or development of new industrial or technological innovation within your firm. Assessment factors could include: potential spillover benefits, creation of intellectual property, impact on productivity of the new technology, etc.

  2. Economic Benefits: Forecasted impact on the growth of Canadian firms, clusters and supply chains, as well as its expected benefits for Canada's workforce. Assessment factors could include: number of jobs created, number of high-paying jobs, project-related revenue growth, etc.
  3. Public Benefits: Expected contribution to the broader public, including inclusive business and hiring practices (e.g., gender balance), investment in skills and training and environmental best practices. Assessment would consider the degree to which the Applicant/Bidder demonstrates that the solution is expected to generate social, environmental, health, security or other benefits to Canada. Assessment factors could include: solution-related environmental benefits, investment in local communities and solution-related impact on Indigenous communities.
  1. Innovation Benefits
    • Benefit not identified or insufficient claim of benefit. 0 points
    • Benefit has marginal increment or limited justification. 1.5 points
    • Benefit is significant and well justified. 3 points
  2. Economic Benefits
    • Benefit not identified or insufficient claim of benefit. 0 points
    • Benefit has marginal increment or limited justification. 1.5 points
    • Benefit is significant and well justified. 3 points
  3. Public Benefits.
    • Benefit not identified or insufficient claim of benefit. 0 points
    • Benefit has marginal increment or limited justification. 1.5 points
    • Benefit is significant and well justified. 3 points

6. Phase 1 Project Plan

Demonstrate a feasible Phase 1 project plan by completing the table.

Include:

  • Project milestones;
  • project activities under each milestone;
  • time required to complete each milestone (e.g., days, weeks and/or months);
    • (Indicate if any milestones and activities will be completed concurrently)
  • total time required to complete the project; and
  • key success criteria.

Note: Phase 1 cannot exceed 6 months and TRL 4.

  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate a feasible project plan for Phase 1 and/or the project plan exceeds the maximum duration indicated in the Challenge Notice. 0 points
  2. Project plan for Phase 1 is conceivably feasible but not clearly demonstrated and/or includes gaps. 5 points
  3. Information provided clearly demonstrates a feasible project plan for Phase 1. 10 points

7. Phase 1 Project Risks

Identify potential project risks (eg. Human resources, financial, project management, etc) to the successful development of the proof of concept and how they will be mitigated?

  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the Applicant/Bidder has considered potential risks and mitigation strategies and/or information provided contains significant gaps. 0 points
  2. Information provided demonstrates that the Applicant/Bidder has considered some potential risks and associated mitigation strategies but there are minor gaps in risks and/or associated mitigation strategies. 5 points
  3. Information provided clearly demonstrates that the Applicant/Bidder has sufficiently considered the risks and defined associated mitigation strategies. 10 points

8. Phase 1 Implementation Team

Demonstrate how your project implementation team has the required management and technological skill sets and experience to deliver the project plan for Phase 1 by completing the table. A member of the implementation team can have more than one role.

Include the labour rates and level of effort for each member. A day is defined as 7.5 hours of work, exclusive of meal breaks. The labour rates and level of effort will be reviewed as part of the evaluation for Question 10.

  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the project team has the required management and technological skill sets and experience to deliver the Phase 1 project plan. 0 points
  2. Information is provided but there are minor gaps in required management and/or technological skill sets and/or experience to deliver the Phase 1 project plan. 5 points
  3. Information provided clearly demonstrates that the project team has the required management and technological skill sets and experience to deliver the Phase 1 project plan. 10 points

9. Inclusivity

If your business were to receive funding from Innovative Solutions Canada, describe what actions (e.g., recruitment strategy, internships, co-op placements, etc.) might be taken in Phase 1 to support the participation of under-represented groups (e.g., women, youth, persons with disabilities, Indigenous people, visible minorities) in the research and development of the proposed solution.

Each bidder/applicant in their response to this question must focus only on describing relevant programs, policies, or initiatives that it currently has in place or would put in place to support the R&D effort in Phase 1. Do not provide any personal information of individuals employed by your company or that of your subcontractors in the response below.

  • No description and/or concrete examples of actions provided that would be taken to encourage greater participation of under-represented groups. 0 points
  • A description and concrete examples of actions to encourage greater participation of under-represented groups provided. 3 points

10. Phase 1 Financial Proposal

Demonstrate a realistic financial proposal for the Phase 1 project plan by completing the table.

  • Insufficient information provided and/or information provided significantly lack credibility. Does not demonstrate a realistic financial proposal for the Phase 1 project plan. 0 points
  • Information is provided but some costs appear to be either over or under estimated for the Phase 1 project plan. 5 points
  • Information provided contains credible elements to clearly demonstrate a realistic financial proposal for the Phase 1 project plan. 10 points

11. Phase 1 Financial Controls, Tracking and Oversight

Describe the financial controls, tracking and oversight that will be used to manage the public funds throughout Phase 1.

  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate the Applicant/Bidder's ability to manage public funds in Phase 1. 0 points
  2. Information provided is vague and/or contains gaps. The Applicant/Bidder has some controls, tracking and/or oversight in place to manage the public funds in Phase 1. 5 points
  3. Information provided clearly demonstrates that the Applicant/Bidder has strong financial controls, tracking and oversight to manage public funds in Phase 1. 10 points

12. Phase 2 Strategy

Describe a realistic strategy for the prototype development if selected to participate in Phase 2.

Responses should include:

  • anticipated barriers
  • key tasks
  • estimated cost
  • Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the Applicant/Bidder has contemplated a realistic strategy for the Phase 2 prototype development. 0 points
  • Information provided demonstrates a conceivably realistic strategy for Phase 2 prototype development, however there are gaps and/or the strategy is vague. 5 points
  • Information provided demonstrates that the Applicant/Bidder has a clear and realistic strategy. 10 points

13. Commercialization Approach

Describe your overall commercialization approach for the proposed solution.

Responses should include:

  • Target markets (excluding Government of Canada)
  • Non-ISC funding sources
  • Transition to a commercially-ready product or service
  • Any other indicators of commercial potential and commercial feasibility
  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the proposed solution has commercial potential. 0 points
  2. Some information provided to demonstrate that the proposed solution has commercial potential, however there are gaps in the commercialization approach. 5 points
  3. A realistic commercialization approach is provided that demonstrates that the proposed solution has commercial potential. 10 points

Questions and answers

Please refer to the tender notice for this challenge on Buy and Sell.

All incoming questions regarding this specific challenge should be addressed to SIC-ISC@pwgsc.gc.ca

You can also consult the Frequently asked questions about the Innovative Solutions Canada Program.

A glossary is also available.

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