13 April 2001
13 April 2001
Carbon Nanotechnologies Inc. has signed an agreement that provides $l5 million of additional funding that will enable CNI to make single wall carbon nanotubes (buckytubes) in sufficient quantities to be used in prototype industrial applications.
The new investors, Gordon Cain and William McMinn, join original shareholders, Dr. Richard Smalley, Bob Gower, and Drs. Ken Smith and Daniel Colbert in a venture that is the first in the market with significant quantities of buckytubes, which can revolutionize the products of numerous industries. From a base in Houston, Gordon Cain and Bill McMinn have jointly invested in a wide array of businesses ranging from leveraged buyouts in the chemical industry to early funding of genome-based companies.
Buckytubes are nanometer-scale carbon structures with unprecedented characteristics. Among the most promising initial applications are for flat panel displays, electromagnetic shielding enclosures for electronic equipment, conductive polymers, lithium ion batteries, high strength fibers, solar energy converters, electronics, and composite materials.
NASA has intense research underway to utilize buckytubes in multiple aerospace-related applications. NASA envisions uses ranging from vehicle structures to biomedical sensors. ""We expect buckytubes to revolutionize technologies useful to the space program, possibly opening the frontier by providing enabling functions that are only dreamed about today. This commercialization provides the initial steps toward a futuristic reality for wide-ranging applications,"" according to Brad Files, nanotube project lead at Johnson Space Center.
NASA was one of the early funders of the research at Rice University that led to the formation of CNI. Others have included Texas Advanced Technology Program, Robert A. Welch Foundation, Office of Naval Research, and National Science Foundation.
CNI was founded in early 2000 to commercialize technology developed over the last several years by Dr. Smalley, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1996 for the discovery of buckyballs. CNI has been granted an exclusive license for this technology by Rice University, which received an equity position in CNI. The new capital will allow CNI to build a test reactor, at its West Houston headquarters, with about 10 times greater capability than current equipment. ""This reactor will allow us to study process variables and achieve gas flow rates similar to those in industrial production,"" said Bob Gower, President of CNI. The company also plans further scale up of the process by constructing a pilot plant over the next 12-15 months. This will provide substantially larger volumes of product into the market, an important intermediate step before a commercial production facility is built.
CNI will utilize the HiPco(TM) process, a high pressure process using carbon monoxide as the feedstock, to create high purity buckytubes, single wall carbon nanotubes that approach molecular perfection. These fullerene molecules are carbon cylinders only one billionth of a meter in diameter, have electrical conductivity of copper, thermal conductivity of diamond, and tensile strength 100 times that of steel. Until recently, buckytubes had been a laboratory curiosity, with tremendous promise. CNI is now developing the capability to produce buckytubes in sufficient quantity for prototypes of end use applications and expects to have commercial scale production within 3-4 years.
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