With state-of-the-art single-wall carbon nanotube manufacturing and processing equipment as a backdrop, Norman-based SouthWest NanoTechnologies Inc. (SWeNT) welcomed nearly 200 guests to celebrate the dedication of the company's new 18,000-square-foot, $3.9 million facility Thursday afternoon.
Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Jari Askins, Secretary of Commerce and Tourism Natalie Shirley, Norman Mayor Cindy Rosenthal and Norman Economic Development Coalition executive director Don Wood joined SWeNT chairman W. Arthur “Skip” Porter, CEO David Arthur and founder and chief scientist Daniel Resasco in the program.
"Our mission is to make single-wall nanotubes a commercial reality, and we have overcome all of the barriers that previously prevented that: inconsistent quality, inability to scale up and high production costs,” Arthur said. “Since moving into the plant in June, we have increased production capacity for high-quality single-wall carbon nanotubes by 100-fold at one-tenth the cost.
“This dramatic expansion in capacity enables us to meet the demand we expect from our customers for consistently high-quality single-wall carbon nanotubes at competitive prices,” he added.
Single-wall carbon nanotubes consist of a hollow cylinder of carbon with a diameter equal to approximately one nanometer – a billionth of a meter. Due to their unusual structure, they exhibit extraordinary optical and electronic properties, tremendous strength and flexibility, and high thermal and chemical stability. These remarkable properties make them suitable for a wide range of applications in the automotive, aeronautics, electronics, displays, energy and healthcare markets.
SWeNT produces single-wall carbon nanotubes using the scalable, cost-efficient CoMoCAT® catalytic process developed by a University of Oklahoma research team led by Resasco, who holds the Douglas and Hilda Bourne Chair of Chemical Engineering and George Lynn Cross Research Professorship at OU. The CoMoCAT® process ensures consistent high quality and the flexibility to provide tailored products.
Potential applications for single-wall carbon nanotubes include:
- Reinforced polymer composites used for thin-film membranes on antennas, second surface mirrors and thermal optical coatings on aircraft and spacecraft
- Bulletproof body and vehicle armor, due to single-wall carbon nanotubes’ ability to be spun into fibers that are 20 times tougher than steel and 17 times stronger than Kevlar®
- Reinforced ceramics or polymer composites to replace materials from which wind turbine blades are currently made, which will enable the blades to be longer yet lighter, and therefore more efficient
- Conductive film coatings, which provide an inexpensive, long-lasting material for touch screens in such devices as automatic teller machines, tablet personal computers and ticketing terminals
- Transparent conducting current collectors in organic solar cells, a promising low-cost, flexible alternative to solar cells made with silicone
- Replacement for much of the expensive platinum currently required in fuel cells
- Faster, denser semiconducting chips and “nanowires” to interconnect semiconducting elements
- Field emission displays, in which nanotubes combine the high-quality video of cathode ray tubes with the flatness of LCD and plasma displays but without the burn-in and poor viewing angles associated with today's flat-panel versions
- Inks for use in electronic readers, animated posters and active clothing
- Noninvasive cancer treatment delivery systems, taking drugs directly to the source of disease, and thereby reducing the toxicity of chemotherapy agents and other drugs to healthy cells
- Combined with natural antibacterial proteins, helping to combat the spread of infections through contact with contaminated surfaces.
In July, SWeNT announced that the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will use SWeNT® SG65 single-wall carbon nanotubes as the starting material for a Standard Reference Material. SRMs are used to perform instrument calibrations, verify the accuracy of specific measurements and support the development of new measurement methods. Industry, academia and government use NIST SRMs to facilitate commerce and trade and to advance research and development.
In addition to the Oklahoma facility, SWeNT maintains an applications and business development center in the Route 128/Boston, Massachusetts area to help customers integrate SWeNT nanotubes into their applications.