Surveying the carbon nanotube market, the leaders in large scale production are Baytubes, Hyperion Catalysis International and Nanocyl. Along with Bayer and Hyperion, other leading producers include France’s Arkema, Belgium’s Nanocyl, Iljin Nanotech in South Korea, and Shenzhen Nanotech Port in China. Japan’s Mitsui has a joint venture with Hodogaya Chemical for nanotube R&D, production, and distribution. This will look at these and other competitors, some future expansion plans and the main process that is used to get to larger scale production. Expanded production will bring down the price significantly for carbon nanotubes and lower price will make more applications economical.
Baytubes are in the process of constructing a new production line of 200 metric tons that we expect to be on-stream by 2009,” Schmid says. Depending on the success of that operation, the Bayertubes vision is to have 3,000 metric tons of capacity in place by 2011.
Hyperion Catalysis International of Cambridge, Mass, has partnered with Nanoledge in Germany to add Baytubes to epoxy resins used in sporting equipment. Bayer also has a supply agreement with FutureCarbon, which makes solvent-based nanodispersions and concentrates for processing into other materials.
“We have done the dispersion step and sell concentrates or plastics containing the nanotubes, typically in concentrations of 15–20% by weight,” Collins says. Because nanotubes are strong, but extremely lightweight, and can be highly electrically conductive, the final loading in a plastic part may be just 2–5%, or even less.
In its more than 20 years, Hyperion has seen small- and large-scale competitors emerge; about 35 MWNT suppliers can be found on supplier lists. Along with Bayer and Hyperion, other leading producers include France’s Arkema, Belgium’s Nanocyl, Iljin Nanotech in South Korea, and Shenzhen Nanotech Port in China. Japan’s Mitsui has a joint venture with Hodogaya Chemical for nanotube R&D, production, and distribution.
“Nanotubes are not yet a commodity, and it’s not enough just to ‘buy nanotubes,'” Collins remarks in reference to the emergence of importers that sell inexpensive tubes from other sources. “We manufacture and sell at an attractive price based on the volume that is purchased. It’s not our intent—and we hope it’s not our
competitors’—to sell product based on price. It should be based on performance.”
Cnano Technology, Menlo Park, Calif., company was founded in 2006 with a plan to change the economics of nanotube production and advance applications using extremely pure nanotubes. Cnano has what it calls a “novel hybrid technology” for low-cost MWNT production and a manufacturing site in China. In July, CMEA Ventures, Pangaea Ventures, and WI Harper invested a combined $6 million in the company.
Catalytic Materials of Pittsboro, N.C., has a patented process for making high-purity MWNTs. And San Jose, Calif.-based Ahwahnee Technology claims it can supply large-scale quantities of raw, treated, or premixed MWNTs. It offers MWNT kits to enable end users to test materials.
Among the leading large-scale producers is Nanocyl, formed five years ago as a spin-off of Belgium’s University of Namur. In mid-2005, it started up a 15-kg-per-day reactor, and today it has an annual capacity of 40 metric tons for industrial, specialty, and research nanotubes.