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Posted: Feb 03, 2006
New carbon nanotube pilot plant in France
(Nanowerk News) On January 30, 2006 Arkema inaugurated a carbon nanotube pilot plant at its ´Lacq Research Center in the Aquitaine region of France. With this unique pilot plant in Europe, operating a patented catalysis process, Arkema is now in a position to produce carbon nanotubes in semi-industrial quantities (up to 10 tonnes per year).
A global chemical player, France-based Arkema consists of three business segments: Vinyl Products, Industrial Chemicals, and Performance Products. Present in over 40 countries with 18,600 employees, Arkema achieves sales of 5.2 billion euros. With its 6 research centers in France, the United States and Japan, and internationally recognized brands, Arkema holds leadership positions in its principal markets.
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 is looking to the genuine commercial development of carbon nanotubes to fulfill 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 90s, 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 nanometers, 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.