Australian Company to Commence Carbon Nanotube Production in September

(Nanowerk News) Eden Energy Limited through its wholly-owned US, Colorado-based subsidiary, Hythane Company LL, in its specially developed production laboratory in Denver has in 2011 made major breakthroughs in the time and costs associated with the production processes used in the manufacture from natural gas of both hydrogen and super-strong, superlight, and highly conductive nano-carbon products which have widescale application across many industrial and manufacturing sectors on developing commercial uses for the nano-carbon products.
This production laboratory includes a self-contained clean production room with an industrial air handling system. Two reactors are being readied for trials, leading to annual commercial scale production of up to 100 tonnes of carbon nanofibers and 33 tonnes of hydrogen. The following is a summary of the recent highlights.
Carbon Production Room
The Carbon Room, in which the carbon manufacturing will occur, is complete except for some test instrumentation that has not arrived yet, but which is not holding up our progress and will not delay the start-up of the carbon reactors. These components will be installed as they arrive with minimal disruption of the carbon test production schedule. None of these components will impact the safety or control aspects of the reactors. All components are due to be installed by mid-September 2011.
Carbon/ Hydrogen Production Reactors
Both the 24" and 36" reactors are being assembled and tested simultaneously in the Carbon Room. The construction on both is finished and they are going through a barrage of safety and operational testing before any catalyst or Natural Gas is introduced. The reactors can be remotely monitored, and incorporate a range of monitors including a pressure monitor and a flammable gas detector. Leak checking and control testing are nearing completion, and initial test production is scheduled for the last week of August 2011.
Conductive Plastics, Polycarbonates etc
Processes to mix the nano-carbon materials with polymers have been developed and mixtures with various percentages of carbon are being tested to compare the amount of carbon with the volume resistivity.
Hythane Company has completed its initial conductive paint study, using carbon nanotubes, with extremely favourable results. Resistivity was measured over a range of carbon nanotube loadings, with a minimum surface resistivity of < 8*10^4 Ohm/sq (less than the lower limit of our test equipment) being achieved at certain loadings.
The resistivity of each carbon loading closely mimics previous results, indicating that our carbon nanotubes are an excellent candidate for Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) applications where it can be used in coatings to avoid a build–up of potentially damaging static electrical charges which can cause serious damage particularly in electronic components and assemblies and possibly also for applications to avoid Electromagnetic and Radio Frequency Interference (EMI and RFI) where it could be similarly used to protect electrical circuits from damage or interference from electromagnetic radiation.
Hythane Company is also finishing its epoxy composite test program. Initial results are positive, with minimum volume resistivities in the range of 10^5 to 10^7 Ohm*m. This is a good indication that our carbon nanotubes are an excellent candidate for ESD applications utilizing epoxy as a matrix material. The initial study will be completed within the next 2 weeks.
Carbon Loaded Concrete Research
This project is in its third month of intensive study with flexural testing about to begin. Techniques were investigated to ensure adequate dispersion of the carbon. Initial testing was performed on high-strength, 60 and 80 megapascal mixtures loaded with carbon nano-fibers of up to 2% of the cement weight. Initial testing included compressive strength only and showed increases of up to 10% but did not demonstrate a clear trend correlating to percent carbon loading.
It is now believed to be more difficult to see an increase in compressive strength with high strength concrete compared with changes in its other properties. As a result, the research plan has been revised and will now also include lower strength concrete mixtures (M20 and M30) as well as expanded testing to investigate transport and ductility properties of concrete beyond compression. This testing should be completed in Q4 2011.
Flexural strength testing of mortar beams will begin in two weeks. Flexural strength is very important in concrete design because it is involved in determining beam sizes and amounts of rebar necessary to support a span. It is expected that the carbon nanofibres will bridge microscopic cracks within the concrete matrix, requiring increased energy for crack propagation. This equates to more years in service with fewer maintenance life costs. Flexural strength results are expected to illustrate a clear trend of beneficial carbon loading percentages and optimal concrete mixture designs. This testing should be completed in Q1 2012.
Carbon Loaded Rubber Research
A laboratory, which serves the tyre industry, was selected in July 2011 to perform process, physical, dynamic, and application-specific tests with various loading levels of nano-carbon materials in a representative tyre rubber compound. Seven sample batches will be mixed and cured for a range of tests including viscosity, hardness, tensile strength, elongation strength, and abrasion and tear resistance. Final data and reporting is expected by October 2011.
Carbon Sales
Samples of both carbon nanotubes and carbon nanofibres for testing purposes have been provided or sold to a number of different industries including for testing in batteries, electronic paper and other applications. The testing will take between one and three months after which Hythane Company anticipates that it will be able to assess the reaction of these particular markets.
Catalyst Production
The initial catalyst production system is operating and capable of producing sufficient catalyst to produce 3 to 4 tonnes per year of carbon nanotubes or 20 to 30 tonnes per year of carbon nanofibres.
Catalyst production will be scaled up progressively as demand increases, to match the anticipated large-scale carbon production needs as the units are fully developed and deployed over the next one to two years.
US Environmental Protection Authority Regulations
Hythane Company is currently producing its carbon nano-materials under the Toxic Substance Control Act research and development exclusion and will continue to do so until the carbon that it is producing can be sold for commercial use as opposed to evaluation and testing purposes.
Hythane will then apply for a Low Volume and Low Release/Exposure Exemption (LoREX) in order to commercially sell its carbon products. The LoREX will apply until such time as carbon sales reach 10 tonnes per year at which time Hythane Company would need full manufacturing approvals. The approval terms, which relate to both production and handling, will be likely to vary according to the type of the carbon nano-materials that we are producing.
Source: Eden Energy (press release)
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