Baytubes® multi-wall carbon nanotubes (CNTs) from Bayer MaterialScience are to be used in an innovative safety technology that significantly reduces the risk of explosions in fuel tanks. Bayer MaterialScience AG and Hirtenberger PROSAFE Safety Technology GmbH (HPST), Hirtenberg, Austria, have concluded an exclusive worldwide cooperation and supply contract for Baytubes® carbon nanotubes. HPST is to use the Bayer MaterialScience product in the manufacture of newly developed spheres designed to prevent the formation of explosive gas mixtures in fuel tanks. The spheres are soon to be introduced onto the global market under the name SAFEBALL. They offer considerable advantages over the extruded metal mesh or plastic foams used for this purpose to date.
SAFEBALLS take the form of hollow spheres that are introduced into a tank and completely fill it. Despite this, the available volume of the tank is only reduced by approx. 8.5 percent. Two of the advantages of SAFEBALLS are that they not only prevent an explosive mixture of gas and air in a tank from exploding, but also allow the tank to "breathe", so that significantly smaller quantities of hydrocarbons are released into the environment. In this way, the spheres can also make a significant contribution to environmental protection in the future.
Their special shape allows fuel to flow freely but prevents any dangerous surging. Surging occurs when large volumes of liquid are displaced, for example while a road tanker is in operation, thus affecting the vehicle’s stability and even potentially causing it to tip over. When a tank is to be cleaned, the SAFEBALL spheres can easily be removed and then replaced once the operation is complete. They are also treated with anti-fungal and anti-bacterial agents.
All these benefits are due not least to the exceptional properties of Baytubes® nanotubes from Bayer MaterialScience. Nanotubes exhibit a high level of electrical conductivity and mechanical strength and are extremely light in weight. "Without carbon nanotubes from Bayer MaterialScience it would have been impossible to develop our technology so quickly," said HPST CEO Thomas Stelzl, the inventor of the SAFEBALL concept, at the signing of the agreement. "Bayer MaterialScience was our first choice supplier right from the start, because we knew we could rely absolutely on the specified purity and quality of the CNTs and, even more importantly, on BMS’s ability to deliver the raw materials we need to meet increasing order volumes."
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 high 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 per year. Another pilot facility with an annual capacity of 200 metric tons is currently under construction at CHEMPARK Leverkusen.
SAFEBALLS can be provided with a range of additional functions for special applications. These include fire-extinguishing - for which a special gel is incorporated into the spheres - and the integration of active and passive transponders that enable vehicle data to be electronically stored to prevent theft or provide information on maintenance.
About Bayer MaterialScience:
With 2008 sales of EUR 9.7 billion, Bayer MaterialScience is among the world’s largest polymer companies. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. The main segments served are the automotive, electrical and electronics, construction and the sports and leisure industries. At the end of 2008, Bayer MaterialScience had 30 production sites and employed approximately 15,100 people around the globe. Bayer MaterialScience is a Bayer Group company.
About Hirtenberger PROSAFE:
The company, which is headquartered in Hirtenberg, Austria, was founded in 2008. About 50 percent of the company is owned by Hirtenberger AG, with the remaining shares being held by various private individuals, including triple Formula 1 champion and airline boss Niki Lauda.