“You can go down in history if you set up this project”

The president of Tatarstan became interested in Narva for cancer recognition and aimed the CEO of Alabuga at a startup for the production of lithium-sulphur charging batteries

“You can go down in history if you set up this project”
Photo: tatarstan.ru

At a regular meeting of the board of directors of Tatneftekhiminvest-holding JSC, the president of Tatarstan was presented with five innovative projects, which, according to experts, can go down in the history of mankind if they are widely used. The Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects in the Defense Industry, overseen by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov, presented Tatarstan businesses with polymer know-how, Zaryad lithium-sulphur batteries for electric vehicles that surpassed Tesla, and a touch-sensitive mouse that detects cancer at an early stage by the smell of a person. The agenda was picked up by the Academy of Sciences of Tatarstan, which proposed to launch the iodization of the republic's residents by adding special additives to cow feed.

Dual technologies foundation

The Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects, established 10 years ago to develop breakthrough dual-use technologies, held the first orientation session for Tatarstan businesses. Earlier at the meeting of the board of directors of Tatneftekhiminvest-holding, which was traditionally led by President of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov, military scientists revealed the latest developments for civilian commercial distribution. The main speaker was Alexander Panfilov, the deputy director general of the foundation.

For starters, he explained that the foundation was created to conduct research and development in the interests of Russian defense and state security, which, however, have a dual purpose. At this point, it seemed that they were talking about a vaccine to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the search for which engrosses the entire scientific world. However, the Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects has brought to “polymer” Tatarstan something that may be more useful there.

This is a technology for solid-phase production of high-strength film filaments based on supermolecular polyethylene and reactor powder.

According to Alexander Panfilov, the simplified technology gives he opportunity to obtain polymer filaments without a solution, through plastic deformation of the material, as in metallurgy. This reduces the cost of products by 60%. But for this purpose, a new monocentre post-metallocene catalyst has been developed, which can be used from -100°C to +150°C. Existing catalysts create products much worse, Panfilov explained. The raw material for the production of valuable filaments is supermolecular polyethylene.

The main speaker was Alexander Panfilov, the deputy director general of the Foundation for Advanced Research Projects. Photo: tatarstan.ru

The foundation needs ethylene

Before the sanctions were imposed, it had been purchased in the Netherlands for $70-80. The supplies have been discontinued as this polymer was used in the manufacture of weapons. According to Alexander Panfilov, the foundation is going to build a pilot plant for the production of supermolecular polyethylene and reactor powder. The cost of the project is 671 million rubles, and the general contractor is the Boreskov Institute of Catalysis at the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. “There is an industrial partner ready to build the reactor. Besides, we are working with KAMAZ, they are interested in certain details," the speaker said. The only problem is that we need raw materials — ethylene, which could be transported via the ethylene pipeline.

“We are inviting the representatives of the republic to the commission for supporting this project, so that from the very beginning the industrial partner knows what is being done at each stage of the project. We do not conceal anything! Plus, we have not chosen a location to place the production facility. Where are we going to build? If we build in Volgograd, it will be quite expensive. There are no basic raw materials, and the development of technologies will go… We can hold talks with you," he said hopefully to Rustam Minnikhanov.

However, the expert word was given to the head of Tatneftekhiminvest-holding, Rafinat Yarullin. “The price of polyethylene is going to fall, so the project is promising," he said. “We need to work. Together, everything can be done because the catalyst is ready.”

The president agreed that it is necessary to switch to the production of margin polymer products. “Materials science is undergoing a revolution, and this high-molecular-weight polyethylene is an example of this. We need to discuss the matter with Nizhnekamskneftekhim and Kazanorgsintez," Rustam Minnikhanov said.

The president agreed that it is necessary to switch to the production of margin polymer products. Photo: Roman Khasaev

“Mouse” catches cancer by smell

Following this, Alexander Panfilov switched to the presentation of the healthcare project Narva. This is the development of biohybrid technology for detecting substances in the air and recognizing substances in ultra-low concentrations, which helps to detect cancer and tuberculosis in the early stages with an accuracy of up to 80 per cent.

“Are you that versatile? Ethylene, medicine...," the president was surprised by Panfilov's versatile thinking. “I'm also engaged in nuclear power," he replied modestly.

The deputy director of the foundation said that the development began with that scientists were developing technology for detecting explosives and drugs in the air. As a sensor, a rat was used, in whose olfactory system super-sensitive electrodes were implanted. Having accumulated a database of smells, it began to recognise them itself. “This technology can be used to identify socially significant diseases — oncology, tuberculosis. Together with the Rostov Cancer Centre, a database of cancer patients and neuromorphic systems were created. It turned out that this technology can detect tuberculosis and cancer at the earliest stages," Panfilov explained. As a result, based on this “mouse”, a device was created that determines the predisposition to cancer and early diseases in 3 minutes.

The rapid diagnosis impressed the president of Tatarstan. According to him, the device could be useful for medical examination of the population of the republic. “We have four mobile clinics in the republic, it would be great to have such device for them," said Minnikhanov. He asked if it was easy to move the equipment, and after getting the affirmative response, he instructed to consider the purchase together with the ministry of healthcare of the Republic of Tatarstan and Kazan Federal University (KFU).

Minnikhanov instructed to consider Narva project together with the ministry of healthcare of the Republic of Tatarstan and Kazan Federal University. Photo: Maksim Platonov

Zaryad against Tesla

Following him, the head of Zaryad project of the Foundation for Advanced Research Projects, Irshat Ikhsanov, outlined the concept of production of lithium-sulphur batteries. According to him, this is a completely new generation of banks for electric vehicles and drones.

“There aren't any in the world yet. Tesla uses lithium-ion batteries," he said.

According to him, their energy consumption is twice as high with the same dimensions. At the same time, their cost is lower than that of lithium-ion batteries. KAMAZ, which itself is working on creating an unmanned vehicle, expressed interest in their development.

“This is the most pressing topic. All manufacturers of electric cars are waiting when the most efficient battery is produced," Rustam Minnikhanov agreed and addressed the head of Alabuga SEZ, Timur Shagivaleyev. “You can go down in history if you set up this project!

In fact, the Yelabuga Battery Plant (part of Alabuga SEZ) took on testing.

KAMAZ, which is working on creating an unmanned vehicle, expressed interest in developing lithium-sulphur batteries. Photo: abs-magazine.ru

Stay healthy!

Robert Ilyazov, the director general of Liposomal Technologies PLC, suggested launching a pilot experiment in Tatarstan on iodizing the nutrition of cows, which, according to his idea, will become a source of useful milk and meat for the residents of the republic.

He considers it necessary to open the production of bio-organic food additives for people and feed pellets for farm animals and birds. The development is based on liposomes — phospholipid nanocapsules. According to him, this will require from 80 to 100 million rubles. Now there is a pilot production with a capacity of 12 tonnes of feed in Yelabuga.

“Most Russians face this problem today, which leads to an increase in the incidence of cancer, impaired endocrine functions, reduced life expectancy and mental abilities. The Chernobyl events showed the inefficiency of iodization of table salt. Such iodine is not metabolised in the body," explained Ilyazov.

The president had to leave the meeting to participate in another event by the time of his speech. Instead of him, Prime Minister of the Republic of Tatarstan Alexey Pesoshin advised to study the project.

By Luiza Ignatyeva