10 November 2003 00:00 [Source: ICB]Massachusetts, US-based Nano-C has developed a new combustion method for producing fullerenes which, it claims, gives a ten-fold reduction in production costs. This, it says, will benefit companies developing applications for nano-materials in pharmaceuticals, personal care products and conducting and commodity polymers.
Jack Howard, founder of Nano-C, comments that the 'scalable low-cost method for producing pure fullerenes with no solvent-based post-processing has finally become reality'. The company's process can make commercial grades of fullerenes, covering a wide range of purities (up to 95%) and compositions that can be tailored to customer applications. It involves burning a continuous flow of hydrocarbon (benzene) in oxygen at low pressure in a three-dimensional chamber.
The technology has the potential to deliver products at a cost of less than $200/kg, by virtue of the high feedrate and elimination of the usual solvent extraction and HPLC purification steps. This compares with figures of $16 000/kg for Nano-C's earlier process and even higher for the older carbon arc techniques.
Fullerenes were discovered in 1985 and are ball-shaped molecules of carbon. Most prevalent are the C60 and C70 molecules, but others with higher molecular weight are found. The Nano-C combustion process is a development of early 1990 work carried out by Howard at MIT's chemical engineering department. He formed Nano-C in 2001 and has licensed the MIT technology.
The company has designed and built a second generation reactor for fullerenes at its Westwood, Massachusetts, site, that incorporates features critical for scaling up to the large production rates necessary for full commercialisation.
The development, says Howard, comes at a time when a number of high volume applications are moving to market. These include, for instance, C-Sixty's pharma products that will soon begin clinical trials.
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