Showa Denko K.K. (SDK) has developed VGCFTM-X, a new grade of SDK carbon nanotube with an optimized design for resin composite applications. The company will begin construction of a 400-ton-a-year VGCFTM-X plant at its Oita Complex in March. The plant, due to start up in 2010, will have a leading cost-competitive position since it can fully utilize the existing utilities at the Oita Complex.
VGCFTM-X, which has been developed using SDK's catalyst and synthesis technologies, has very high electrical conductivity and dispersibility. A small added amount can give stable conductivity to resins, VGCFTM-X is expected to find applications in static-free plastic cases for the carriage of semiconductor/hard disk media parts. Reflecting increased production of semiconductors with fine structure and hard disk media with higher density, those plastic cases are required to have higher levels of antistatic property to prevent contamination to parts and ensure cleanliness of the air in a clean room.
SDK has concluded a patent cross-license agreement and a supply agreement with Hyperion Catalysis International, Inc., which owns many key patents pertaining to materials and applications in the area of carbon nanotubes, including for resin composites. Hyperion, which is headquartered in Cambridge Massachusetts, USA, has been manufacturing and selling its FIBRILTM carbon nanotubes for a wide range of applications since 1983. The companies have agreed to work together in certain defined areas. The arrangement will help SDK and Hyperion—the world leaders in carbon nanotube commercial production technology and quality design—to maintain and grow their leading positions in the promising composite market. The two companies are also pursuing possible joint R&D programs.
SDK began developing VGCFTM in 1982 under the guidance of Professor Morinobu Endo of Shinshu University, who discovered the carbon nanotube, and started up a 20-ton-a-year commercial plant in 1996. The plant capacity was expanded to 100 tons a year in 2007 in response to high demand for VGCFTM for use as additive in lithium ion batteries to enhance durability. Furthermore, in September 2008, SDK and Professor Endo jointly developed ultra-high-performance 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 achieve sales of ¥40 billion from this business in 2015 by developing new applications as well as lithium ion battery and composite applications.