US Carbon Nanotech to bring new SWNT plant online in Dec

26 October 2004 23:52  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (CNI)--Carbon Nanotechnologies Inc (CNI) said Tuesday it expects to have its 15 tonne/year production unit for single wall carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) fully operational by year end, and the company is planning another facility for 2006 that may reach 1500 tonne/year capacity.


SWNTs are perfectly formed, hollow molecules of pure carbon linked together to form a molecular network that is said to have unprecedented properties of strength and electrical and thermal conductivity while offering the flexibility of carbon-based chemistry.


Thomas Pitstick, director of business development at Houston, Texas-based CNI, said today that the new 15 tonne/year plant at Houston is in start-up phase and is expected to be producing SWNT output to specification by the end of the year.


Pitstick said that with the new plant is a “commercial demonstration unit,” meant to demonstrate that the SWNT production process can be scaled up to commercial production levels.  The new plant will generate about 100 lbs/day of SWNT.  CNI’s earlier production unit was a lab-level facility that produced only a few pounds per day of the new carbon product.


“With the new plant,” said Pitstick, “we’ll be able to produce SWNT in sufficient quantities to give large compounders and converters enough material to do real plant trials and qualification runs and to get sample SWNT-based products out to their customers for evaluation.”


The larger SWNT capacity also means a reduction in product price, Pitstick said.  With its earlier, lab-volume production unit, CNI was pricing its SWNT output in the range of $500 (Euro400) per gram.  With the new, higher volume SWNT unit on line, Pitstick said CNI expects the price to drop to “several hundred dollars per pound.”


The new plant likely will move CNI to financial break-even or better in 2005, he said.


He said CNI has already begun early design work on what will be the firm’s ninth SWNT production unit - counting the earliest lab-table pieces of equipment - that is expected to have capacity of 150 to 1500 tonne/year, depending on sales levels reached next year with the 15 tonne/year unit.


CNI is developing SWNT production and applications in co-operation with Richard Smalley of Rice University in Houston.  Smalley, chairman of Houston-based CNI, won the 1996 Nobel Prize for chemistry for discovery of a new form of carbon known as fullerenes, the underlying carbon substance that has been identified as a carbon-60 molecule in the shape of a ball - known as Buckyballs. (The terms fullerene and Buckyball derive from the similarity between the spherical carbon-60 molecule and the geodesic domes invented by the late scientist-philosopher and architect Buckminster Fuller.)


Fullerenes also have been identified as an elongated carbon-70 molecule that was the initial step toward production of Buckytubes, "molecularly perfect single wall carbon nanotubes" or SWNTs.

By: Joe Kamalick
+1 713 525 2653

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