Bayer MaterialScience has opened a new pilot facility for manufacture of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) at CHEMPARK Leverkusen. With a 200 tpa capacity, this facility is the largest of CNT plant in the world, built at an investment outlay of €22 mln sent for planning, development and construction of the facility. By investing in one of the key technologies of the future, Bayer MaterialScience is looking to gain a head start in supplying the demand for a whole host of applications for multi-wall carbon nanotubes, which the company is marketing under the trade name Baytubes®. Bayer MaterialScience is one of the few companies capable of manufacturing CNTs of a consistently high quality on an industrial scale. It has been operating a pilot facility with an annual capacity of 60 metric tons in Laufenburg in the German state of Baden-Württemberg since 2007. CNTs are manufactured from ethylene in a reactor at an elevated temperature using a catalytic process.
"Current forecasts predict an annual growth rate of 25% for carbon nanotubes. Within ten years, the market is expected to be worth US$2 bln," says Dr. Joachim Wolff, a member of Bayer MaterialScience's Executive Committee and head of the Coatings, Adhesives, Specialties segment.” “This project is evidence of the strength of our site here in Leverkusen. We have an outstanding infrastructure, easy access to raw material and power supplies, sophisticated waste management technology and a highly qualified workforce, including specialists," says Dr. Steffen Kühling, head of Production and Technology in the Coatings, Adhesives, Specialties segment of Bayer MaterialScience.
Baytubes® are a highly innovative modification of carbon. They can be added to polymer matrices or metal systems as a filler or modifier to improve their mechanical strength and impart electrical properties. Potential applications for Baytubes® include thermoplastic and thermoset systems and coatings. When used in coatings for ships, Baytubes® ensure very high abrasion resistance. At the same time they reduce the flow resistance between the ship's hull and the water, resulting in a significant reduction in fuel consumption. Further applications for carbon nanotubes include rotor blades for wind turbines, and sports equipment such as skis, hockey sticks and surfboards.