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Nanotubes go mainstream

Are multiwalled carbon nanotubes ready to make the leap from prohibitively expensive R&D lab oddity to a reasonably priced contributor to commercially available products? According to Bob Kumpf, Bayer MaterialScience LLC''s (Pittsburgh, PA) VP future business Americas, they are, and you need to look no further than a new line of hockey sticks from Montreal Hockey that debuted in the recently completed Torino Winter Olympics.

"Will [multiwalled carbon nanotubes] be available where one can imagine them as an additive in bulk materials as compared to specialty products," Babe asked. "The answer is yes. I think what we will see here is a classic case of a consistent quality, competitive process expanding dramatically the applications [nanotubes] are used in."

Speaking at a recent Bayer pre-NPE 2006 press conference in New York, Kumpf pointed to Bayer''s recent introduction of a production process for multiwalled carbon nanotubes that is said to dramatically lower their cost.

Invented 10 years, carbon nanotubes initial production cost was $2 million/g. As recently as last year, researchers in Canada had lowered that to $100/g (MPW, September 2005), and Bayer said its Baytubes products would be an improvement over that figure, although Kumpf did not indicate how much.

The tubes'' unique geometry, especially aspect ratio or length over thickness, imparts strength and electrical and thermal conductivity to resins when used as a filler, and in addition to the hockey sticks, which were able to bend further without breaking for greater torque on the puck, Bayer anticipates interest in electronic applications, where they could create more effective heat sinks, as well unique surfaces.

Kumpf did caution, however, that growth from here would be measured. "We will [expand the processes it''s used in] in a strategic way," Kumpf said. "We''re not just going to throw these things around." -Tony Deligio; [email protected]

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