The new process, developed in collaboration with Bayer Technology Services, has allowed the company to cut costs but maintain stable production output, says Martin Schmid, head of the Carbon Nanotubes project. Two disadvantages that existing technologies pose and a reason for limited nanotube use are high production costs, with a kilo of nanotubes costing up to €1000, and fluctuating production quality. Schmid says the new technology eliminates both these problems.
"For the first time, we can achieve consistent material purity of more than 99% and significantly reduce manufacturing costs," Schmid says, although he refrains from revealing the exact savings. The carbon nanotubes can allow surfaces such as vehicle body parts to become so electrically conductive that they can be painted without pretreatment. Other applications could include films for antistatic packaging and electromagnetic interference shielding for cell phone housings and computers.
Sigurd Buchholz, project head at Bayer Technology Services says, the nanotubes are multiwalled tubes of up to 15 graphite layers. They have a maximum mean diameter of 50 nanometers or about 10,000 times thinner than a human hair. They are said to withstand mechanical loads 60 times better than steel at only one-sixth the weight. Bayer can custom manufacture carbon nanotubes with different diameters, lengths, and wall thicknesses, he says.—firstname.lastname@example.org