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Arkema has reaffirmed its commitment to nanomaterials, and has inaugurated the first plant in Europe capable of producing some 10 tonnes per year of carbon nanotubes.
Arkema and the Conseil Régional d’Aquitaine have stated their intention of working closely together to develop a nanomaterials activity in the Aquitaine region of France. The company previously launched a Research and Development Project in 2003 for the production of carbon nanotubes as well as research into their applications.
Arkema inaugurated the carbon nanotube pilot plant at its Lacq Research Center last week, in the presence of Alain Rousset, President of the Conseil Régional d’Aquitaine Regional Council, and Philippe Goebel, Arkema Vice President Performance Products. With this pilot plant operating a patented catalysis process, Arkema says that is now in a position to produce carbon nanotubes in semi-industrial quantities (up to 10 tonnes per year).
At the plant’s inauguration, Alain Rousset confirmed the Region’s desire to partner with Arkema to help the latter with its research endeavours for the industrial development of carbon nanotubes. The Region is boosting its cooperation with Arkema and local university facilities in order to put in place a working and research framework, and set up a nanomaterials activity in Aquitaine.
Arkema’s pilot plant is designed to produce carbon nanotubes in semi-industrial volumes at a cheaper cost than those manufactured today in the laboratory. With this new pilot plant, Arkema says that it is looking to the genuine commercial development of carbon nanotubes to fulfil the expectations of converters in the thermoplastics, epoxy, elastomer and coating sectors. Progress is also expected in the field of energy in which the use of carbon nanotubes will play a role in the manufacture of energy-efficient batteries and fuel cells.
Arkema is currently developing a range of pre-composites based on carbon nanotubes which ensure the latter’s good dispersion and thereby makes optimum use of their outstanding properties. This new range will be launched officially at the JEC Composites tradeshow in late March.
Discovered in the early 1990s, carbon nanotubes represent a new crystalline form of carbon. They are minute tubes which can feature several concentric graphite walls. 10,000 times finer than a human hair, their diameter ranges from 1 to 60 nanometres, and they can be tens of microns long. Carbon nanotubes are 100 times stronger and six times lighter than steel. Their thermal conductivity is greater than that of diamond, and, depending on their molecular structure, they react like electrical conductors or semi-conductors. The carbon atoms making up the walls of the tubes are arranged in a honeycomb-like regular hexagonal lattice, which imparts outstanding strength to the carbon nanotubes.
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