Commercialising high-performance composites with single wall carbon nanotubes


Single wall carbon nanotubes are on the fast track to displacing carbon black, multi wall carbon nanotubes, carbon fibers and other conventional additives from their dominant position in the additives market. In Luxembourg last week, pioneers in the field of advanced materials engineering gathered together to explore the advantages of this tiny wonder material and its applications in numerous industries, as well as to see how it is moving the boundaries of what is possible in the thermosets and thermoplastics industry in terms of weight reduction and dramatic performance improvement.     

Grand Duchy of Luxembourg – For the third year in a row, OCSiAl’s Nanoaugmented Materials Industry Summit gathered together around 400 industry pioneers from 30 countries to enjoy great business networking opportunities while learning more about producing high-performance nanoaugmented materials with single wall carbon nanotubes. “Industrial applications of carbon nanotube compounds based on commodity polymers are now a reality!” commented Dimitri Rousseaux, Compounds & Composites R&D Manager at TOTAL, during his presentation at the Summit entitled “Opportunities and challenges of single wall carbon nanotubes in industrial applications”.

The world’s largest developed markets are always on the lookout for the most innovative technologies and they are highly motivated to gain competitive advantages by applying single wall carbon nanotubes. “Tests conducted by one of our clients – a Chinese carbon fiber bicycle manufacturer – have demonstrated increased fracture toughness and interlaminar shear strength,” said Zhijun Liu, General Manager of Hongkong Haiyi Enterprise Development. The company has recently rolled out nanotube-based concentrates, providing the Chinese composites market with this leading market-oriented nanotechnology.

Romesh Kaul, CEO of Mahindra CIE Automotive, a global provider of automotive composites, discussed the innovative solutions that the company has developed while working closely with OCSiAl over the last two years. “We have made significant breakthroughs in electrical conductivity in composites. The second breakthrough we have made is achieving higher strength.” The company is commercialising conductive SMC based on single wall carbon nanotubes. With regard to these nanotube applications, Mr Kaul added: “For the automotive segment, we see mechanical strength, impact strength, electrical semi-conducting, light weight and surface coating as the key applications.”

BÜFA Composite Systems has developed and launched a line of commercial products containing TUBALL nanotubes, including gelcoats, GRP tooling, products made by a filament winding technique, SMC and BMC. Elmar Greiff, Project Leader for Nanocomposites of BÜFA Composite Systems, said: “Another application is in conductive additives for composite tanks, where TUBALL requires a lower dosage but provides better chemical resistance, lower viscosity, no reactivity drift and low contamination compared with the black powder of carbon black.” In particular, “One big point for our customers is easier processing without requiring any special equipment.

By successfully tackling a number of issues, single wall carbon nanotubes are finding their way in plastics. “We used TUBALL at 0.2% in ABS and PA plastic with our proven Fliquid® system and achieved very good conductivity. Our newest development is Fliquid Powder system based on Polymer powder blend to allow easy dispersing in various systems,” said Daniel Florenthal, Joint CEO at Florma. The company has developed a number of nanotube-formulated compounds for thermoplastic applications, such as PP, ABS, HDPE, PA and PC.

Possessing a range of astonishing qualities, single wall carbon nanotubes enable the creation of completely new products with properties previously unattainable. Accordingly, they are being used in a rapidly growing number of end products. For instance, Professor Hansang Kwon, CEO of Next-Generation Materials in Korea, said: “We’ve succeeded in overcoming the challenges faced by researchers in trying to create a so-called ’wonder material’ – a nanotube–aluminium composite.” Promising results in replacing LED and HID lighting with rechargeable laser lighting that incorporates nanotubes has led Professor Kwon to conclude that “single wall carbon nanotubes are a strong candidate to change our society”.

Nanotubes could be highly relevant to nanofibers, allowing them to be used as a support material for various active materials while maintaining a high surface area, an open structure and a high aspect ratio. Jan Buk, Chief Operating Officer at Pardam, said: “There is a promising way to functionalise the nanofibers with single wall carbon nanotubes.” Moreover, the direct incorporation of active nanostructures is possible within one production step so there is no need for additional functionalisation, and nanostructures embedded in the nanofiber structure do not wash out during application. That is essential for developing electrically conductive polymeric nanofibers and catalytic inorganic nanofibers.

Acknowledging the fact that health and safety issues are a linchpin in any transformation of leading-edge technology into mainstream engineering and industry, OCSiAl continues its responsible approach to health, safety and environmental issues. At the Summit, the company briefed its partners on the latest results received from independent laboratories, including confirmation that no nanotubes are released during utilisation of materials augmented with TUBALL. “OCSiAl is planning to invest further in additional H&S and environmental studies because we are committed to taking the lead in raising the transparency of nanotube management and to supporting our clients’ efforts in boosting their applications in a wide range of industries, including consumable products,” added Gunther Van Kerckhove, OCSiAl’s EHS Lead Manager.

NanoSummit 2017 closed on an upbeat note, having taken another significant step forward in bringing the nanoaugmented materials revolution to an even wider range of industries. Being a hub for the development of the most cutting-edge technologies and industry breakthroughs, Shanghai has been chosen as the venue for the Nanoaugmented Materials Industry Summit in 2018.



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