Nanocomp Technologies, Inc., a developer of next-generation performance materials, today it has successfully produced a revolutionary new textile material from long carbon nanotubes. The material, in usable nonwoven sheet and yarn formats, is extremely lightweight and strong, efficiently conducts both electricity and heat, and could be the key to realizing significant functional performance benefits in defense and aerospace applications ranging from body armor to structural composites, as well as commercial energy storage and electronics thermal management.
“We believe we are on the cusp of delivering the promise of carbon nanotube materials,” said Peter Antoinette, Nanocomp president and CEO. “Like our predecessors in performance products who developed Gore-Tex® and Tyvek®, we have a product platform with vast real-world functionality and, together with the system integrators that will ultimately incorporate it into end-use products, we aim to determine just how broad the benefits can extend.”
Scientists have long known of the remarkable electro-mechanical properties of carbon nanotubes. They are 100 times stronger than steel, one-third the weight of aluminum and extremely conductive of both heat and electricity. This makes them extremely attractive for broad-based use, with the potential to augment or replace many current materials in end-user products.
Antoinette also said that commercial manufacturing processes to date have mostly produced only short carbon nanotubes – usually tens of microns long – that resemble a powder in final form. These nanotubes can be quite difficult to incorporate into manufactured goods, and when done so, end products have not yet demonstrated the enormously attractive structural and conductive properties of nanotubes. The result has been very limited adoption and use of carbon nanotubes in industrial applications.
Nanocomp has overcome these limitations by producing extremely long (hundreds of microns to millimeters) and highly pure nanotubes. These long nanotubes are a key to producing the ultimate functional materials, nanotube yarns and nonwoven sheets, for in end-use applications.
Nanocomp is also developing prototype equipment to automate production of the nanotube yarns and nonwoven materials leading to commercial scale.
In the near term, Nanocomp expects its materials to be 1) used in conjunction with carbon fibers and aramids to reduce weight and improve performance of body armor; 2) incorporated into land, air and marine vehicle structures to improve fuel economy; 3) used for next-generation wiring systems and antennas; and, 4) due to their ability to take an electrical charge much faster and many more times than batteries, used to create ultra capacitors to store large amounts of energy from intermittent energy sources such as wind and solar energy, as well as to smooth out demand spikes in the power network.