Low-Cost Catalytic Production of High-Quality Carbon Nanotube for Advanced Conductive CompositesEPA Contract Number: EPD04056
Title: Low-Cost Catalytic Production of High-Quality Carbon Nanotube for Advanced Conductive Composites
Investigators: Yoo, Young K.
Current Investigators: Omstead, Thomas R.
Small Business: Intematix Corporation
EPA Contact: Richards, April
Project Period: April 1, 2004 through June 30, 2005
Project Amount: $224,953
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase II (2004) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , Nanotechnology , SBIR - Nanotechnology
Carbon nanotube (CNT) has been identified as the best conductive filler material in plastic composites. CNT significantly enhances the electric conductivity of composites at a low doping level (approximately 1 percent) with improved mechanical strength. The application of such advanced conductive composites will result in significant economic and environmental benefits. For example, a clean electrostatic coating can be applied directly to the CNT- filled conductive composites used in automobile body panels and parts, and the existing spray-over-conductive primer process with high volatile organic compounds can be eliminated. That application alone will save more than 250 million pounds of painted fascia material used in automobiles each year.
Currently, there are two major hurdles that prevent successful commercialization of the advanced CNT-filled composites. The first is the high cost and limited availability of high-quality CNT. The second is the dispersion and bonding problems of the CNT in plastic composites. Advanced catalysts and processes need to be discovered to dramatically improve the yield of high-quality and high-purity CNT, and directly make high-quality CNT with specific morphologies that are readily dispersible in plastics.
The Intematix Corporation has proposed this project in response to these technical and commercial challenges from the marketplace. Intematix accomplished all of the Phase I objectives. The most active and efficient catalyst compositions to produce high-quality CNT were discovered by synthesizing and studying more than 10,000 different CNT catalyst compositions. The new catalysts start synthesizing CNT at temperatures as low as 350°C, with a catalytic yield of CNT double that of the best known catalyst under identical CNT synthesis conditions. High-quality CNTs of various dimensions and morphologies can be synthesized selectively with different catalyst compositions. Novel morphologies of CNT, such as DNA-like "double helix" and "nano-ribbon," have been demonstrated.
In Phase II, Intematix proposes to develop an innovative chemical vapor deposition process with the capability of mass-producing high-quality CNT at the cost target that enables its commercialization in the advanced conductive composites. Intematix is teaming up with a leading global composite producer that has established commercialization channels and customer bases for the low-cost and high-performance CNT-filled conductive composites. Intematix also will study various CNT surface treatment and plastic dispersion methods to develop a generic method of making CNT composite with the polymers of commercial interest.