Carbon nanotubes, also known as CNT for short, offer great potential in the field of material sciences. Their market potential for the next few years is estimated at several thousand tons a year. Bayer MaterialScience AG is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of CNT in the form of Baytubes®. To drive forward the application development of Baytubes® on an industrial scale, the company is looking to set up strategic collaborations in the areas of business and research. Bayer MaterialScience recently won FutureCarbon GmbH as a cooperation partner for its Baytubes® activities. The Bayreuth-based high-tech company will use Baytubes® and graphite materials to manufacture aqueous nano dispersions using a new dispersion process for which a patent has been filed. “FutureCarbon is an innovative and flexible partner that will open up a very large and attractive market for high-tech nano dispersons,” explains Martin Schmid, head of global Baytubes® operations at Bayer MaterialScience. He also sees great opportunities for Baytubes® as additives for thermoplastics, rubber and polyols for polyurethanes and in the production of catalysts.
“Bayer MaterialScience is a first-choice supplier that can provide us with a reliable supply of CNT with an outstanding level of quality and purity,” stated Dr. Walter Schütz, Managing Director of FutureCarbon, as the two companies signed the contract. In addition to aqueous and solvent-based nano dispersions, FutureCarbon also supplies concentrates of carbon nano materials in waxes, epoxy and cyanate ester resins, and pitch. The product portfolio also includes metal-coated carbon nano materials and nano master batches for thermoplastics. The range of applications for the products is very broad. “Our customers include manufacturers of battery technology, conductive coating systems and hydrogen storage. Moreover, our materials are used, for example, to produce catalysts for fuel cells or heterogeneous catalysis or to customize new high-performance materials such as CNT composites with resins, ceramics and metals,” added Schütz.
Baytubes® are agglomerates comprising multi-walled carbon nanotubes made up of several graphite layers. It is the unusual characteristics profile of the CNT that make them so appealing to the market. One particular strength is their extreme load resistance – they might only have a quarter of the mass of steel, but they are about five times stronger when subjected to mechanical loads. Depending on their molecular structure, they can either act as semiconductors or can conduct electricity better than copper. CNT are resistant to heat and their heat-conducting properties are similar to those of diamonds. At present, Bayer MaterialScience is operating a pilot plant for the production of Baytubes® with an annual capacity of 30 metric tons, soon to be increased to 60 metric tons. An industrial-scale production plant with an annual capacity of 3,000 metric tons is also planned.
Bayer MaterialScience has entered into numerous collaborations with different companies with the aim of opening up new areas of application for Baytubes®. For example, many sports goods manufacturers use CNT as additives to improve the stiffness and strength of plastics. The range of applications stretches from surfboards and baseball bats right through to plastic sticks to protect the joints of cross-country skiers and Nordic walkers. One application that confirms the electrical conductivity of Baytubes® are the anti-static semi-finished products made of polyetheretherketone (PEEK). The semi-finished products are processed to create various machine parts, such as nozzles.