HOUSTON – Bayer MaterialScience AG has begun construction of a new facility for the production of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) in Chempark, Leverkusen, Germany. The new plant will have a capacity of 200 tons per year.

A pilot plant with an annual capacity of 60 tons has been in operation in Laufenburg in southern Germany since 2007. Production involves a catalytic process in which the carbon nanotubes are obtained from a carbon-containing gas at elevated temperature in a reactor.

Bayer MaterialScience LLC recently obtained regulatory approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to sell Baytubes®, its multi-wall carbon nanotubes, in the United States. The approval covers Baytubes® C 150 P and HP grades that are currently produced in the Laufenburg plant.

Reinforced composite materials based on Baytubes and aluminum powder offer entirely new design opportunities in lightweight construction. For example, CNT components have much higher mechanical strength, which means they can be produced with thinner walls and therefore weigh less than their counterparts of non-reinforced aluminum. The tensile strength of this new class of materials is similar to that of steel, but it weighs only half as much because of its lower density. This qualifies it as an ideal lightweight alternative to steel in many demanding applications. With its high thermal conductivity, it also has many potential applications in the energy, electrical and computer industries.