Bayer Carbon Nanotubes Enable Lightweight Designs and Enhanced Energy Efficiency

Published on October 6, 2009 at 5:15 AM

The extraordinary properties of Baytubes® carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have sparked new and highly promising lightweight design concepts that improve both energy efficiency and mechanical strength.

Such concepts are the focus of Bayer MaterialScience AG’s presentation at the RusNanoTech trade show at the German stand, Pavilion 3, at Moscow’s Expocentre from October 6 to 8, 2009. This is the second time the company has showcased technical innovations based on Baytubes® carbon nanotubes at this major forum in Russia.

Possible CNT applications are far from limited to lightweight designs, however. “CNTs are also suitable for many different applications, for example in mechanical engineering and the chemical, electrical and electronics, and sports goods industries,” observes Dr. Raul Pires, who is in charge of global activities for nanotubes and nanotechnology products at Bayer MaterialScience, in a presentation at the accompanying conference on October 8.

One prime example of enhanced energy efficiency is the use of Baytubes® in wind turbines. The length of rotor blades was previously limited to around 60 meters in order to ensure reliable operation even in very windy conditions. “The nanotubes’ enormous strength makes the rotor blades very stiff, which also enables longer blades to be designed,” explains Dr. Pires. What’s more, the lightweight design of the nanotubes – and thus of the hybrid materials in which they are incorporated – boosts the efficiency of the wind-to-power conversion process.

Baytubes® do not just improve the properties of plastics and other polymer materials, however. CNT additives can also make metals much harder. “For example, adding Baytubes® to aluminum processed using powder metallurgy enables tensile strengths to be achieved that almost match those of steel. Previously, it has only been possible to assign mechanical properties of this kind to aluminum by adding rare and expensive metals in a complex alloying process,” explains Professor Dr. Horst Adams, vice president future materials at Bayer MaterialScience.

The impact strength and thermal conductivity of aluminum can also be improved by adding nanotubes. This enables the weight of components to be reduced still further, which increases their energy efficiency, for example in the automotive and aircraft industries. Bayer MaterialScience is working with Zoz GmbH on the development of customized CNT-reinforced aluminum materials. This German company headquartered in Wenden is a global supplier of innovative systems and equipment, in particular for the manufacture of nanostructured materials. It has extensive experience in areas such as the high-energy grinding and mechanical alloying of these materials.

Thanks to the development of an innovative, in-house production process, Bayer MaterialScience is one of the few companies in the world capable of producing carbon nanotubes of the required purity on an industrial scale. As early as 2007, the company started operations at a pilot plant in Laufenburg, Germany, that can produce 60 metric tons/year. An additional pilot facility with an annual capacity of 200 metric tons is currently under construction at CHEMPARK Leverkusen.

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