Showa Denko K.K. (SDK) has completed a 400-t/y plant for VGCFTM-X, a new grade of carbon nanotube with an optimized design for resin composite applications.
Commercial production will begin next month after a trial run. A completion ceremony will be held today at SDK's Oita Complex.
The plant is the second carbon nanotube production facility for SDK, following the existing 100 t/y VGCFTM plant in Kawasaki that started operation in 1996.
SDK has developed VGCFTM-X using its inorganic technologies accumulated over many years. Since the product has very high electrical conductivity and dispersibility, a small added amount can give stable conductivity to resins. The newly completed 400-t/y VGCFTM-X plant is the world's largest carbon nanotube production facility at present, and will have the highest-level cost-competitive position since it can fully utilize the existing utilities at the Oita Complex.
VGCFTM-X will be used in the production of static-free plastic cases for the carriage of electronic parts. Reflecting increased production of semiconductors with fine structure and hard disk media with higher recording density, plastic cases for their carriage are required to have higher levels of antistatic property to prevent contamination and ensure cleanliness of the air in a clean room. Since VGCFTM-X ensures high electrical conductivity of resin with a small added amount, the product is valued highly by customers.
VGCFTM-X can also improve elasticity and tenacity when added to resins and other materials. Thus, VGCFTM-X is expected to find applications in transport machinery parts and other products that require sufficient strength.
SDK began developing VGCFTM in 1982 under the guidance of Professor Morinobu Endo of Shinshu University, who discovered the carbon nanotube. The company started up a world's first commercial carbon nanotube plant in 1996 at its Kawasaki site, providing the product for use mainly as additive in lithium ion batteries to enhance durability. The plant's capacity was expanded to 100 t/y in 2007, from the original 20 t/y.
Furthermore, in September 2008, SDK and Professor Endo jointly developed innovative composite rubber for oil exploration/drilling applications using VGCFTM-S, a grade for composites.
SDK has been expanding its fine carbon operation, centering on VGCFTM, as one of its growth businesses. The company plans to develop new applications, in addition to those in lithium ion batteries and resin composites.