Bayer breaks ground on carbon nanotube plant

Bayer has started construction of a 200tpa carbon multi-wall nanotube plant at its Leverkusen headquarters, in Germany, and claims that the facility will be the largest of its type worldwide.

The catalytic chemical vapour deposition (CCVD) plant will consist of a fluid bed reactor, catalyst dosing and product filling equipment. Planning, development and construction of the plant involves an investment of €22m and will create 20 jobs when it is operational in summer 2009.

Dr Peter Hans-Wilhelm Engel, R&D manager for coatings, resins and adhesives at Bayer, told EPN that the existing 60tpa plant in the southern German town of Laufenburg will be retained for development work and lower volume production once the new plant comes on stream.

Bayer board member responsible for innovation, technology and the environment Dr Wolfgang Plischke described the project as a cooperation between Bayer Technology Services and Bayer Material Science. He said the company is making the investment “because we expect strongly growing demand in the market and we are convinced of the efficient performance capability of the process”.

Plischke supported this statement with a prediction of market growth of more than 25% a year for multi-wall carbon nanotubes to 2013. He also forecast that the worldwide CNT market would have a value of around $2bn in the next 10 years.

The commencement of Bayer’s construction conveniently coincided with the official launch of the CNT-INNO alliance of 70 companies and institutes in Germany working on carbon nanotube innovation.

Dr Peter Krüger, manager of the nanotechology working group at Bayer and also its spokesman within the CNT-INNO alliance, said that CNT-INNO is intended to both manage individual projects and promote networking.

CNT-INNO presently involves 18 carbon nanotube projects. These include work on bipolar plates in PEM fuel cells (CarboPlate), fuel cell electrodes for (CarboFuel), substitution of high conductivity carbon black (CarboPower), and mixed matrix membranes for desalination and gas separation (CarboMembran).

Development of injection moulded and extruded applications, such as conductive pipes and cable sheaths and electronic housings, are also covered by the CarboTube project in the lightweight category, while thermoplastic and thermosetting plastic foams are the subjects of the CarboProtekt project.

The latest developments in the multi-wall and single-wall nanotube marketplace, together with other nanocomposite innovations, will be examined at EPN’s annual Nanocomposites conference in Brussels, Belgium, on 18-19 March 2009. Click here for more details.