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News

Hyperion catalysis opens plastics technical centre as new resource for developing conductive applications

Hyperion Catalysis International : 11 February, 2002  (Company News)
Hyperion Catalysis International, the world
Hyperion Catalysis International, the world’s only tonnage producer of carbon nanotubes, has opened a new plastics technical centre at its Cambridge headquarters.

Hyperion produces multi-walled nanotubes sold under the trade name Fibril. These sub-microscopic hollow tubes confer electrical conductivity at lower loadings than other conductive additives when compounded with otherwise-insulating materials such as thermoplastics. The plastics technical centre is one facet of an expansion at Hyperion’s Cambridge site.

With the new centre, Hyperion can quickly provide development lots of masterbatches and compounds to better respond to customer requests. Additionally, the centre will be used to research new polymer compounds and to qualify innovative customer applications. The centre’s resources include compounding and testing equipment, and a staff of scientists and technicians with a solid background in plastics compounding and electrical/electrostatic materials.

“We are making a proactive move into market support,” said Patrick Collins, marketing director at the company. “The new facility allows us to offer our customers faster service, while at the same time providing us the technical base we need to create new nanotube-based products and processes. Carbon nanotubes are 10-12 nm in diameter – more than 5,000-times thinner than human hair – and 10-15 microns in length. Due to their unusually high aspect ratio (1:1,000+), these sub-microscopic tubes provide a highly effective, electrically conductive network when compounded with non-conductive materials, even at low loadings.

Typical usage levels of Fibril nanotubes range from 1-5% vs. 8-12% for chopped or milled carbon fibre, nickel-coated graphite, or metal fibres, and 8-20% for carbon black. Nanotubes have fewer negative effects on the physical, mechanical, and processing properties of the base polymer than other electro-conductive additives. This is due to the low loadings and very-small particle sizes typical of this technology.

Additionally, the centre will be used to research new polymer compounds and to qualify innovative customer applications. The centre’s resources include compounding and testing equipment, and a staff of scientists and technicians with a solid background in plastics compounding and electrical/electrostatic materials.

“We are making a proactive move into market support,” said Patrick Collins, marketing director at the company. “The new facility allows us to offer our customers faster service, while at the same time providing us the technical base we need to create new nanotube-based products and processes. Carbon nanotubes are 10-12 nm in diameter – more than 5,000-times thinner than human hair – and 10-15 microns in length. Due to their unusually high aspect ratio (1:1,000+), these sub-microscopic tubes provide a highly effective, electrically conductive network when compounded with non-conductive materials, even at low loadings. Typical usage levels of Fibril nanotubes range from 1-5% vs. 8-12% for chopped or milled carbon fibre, nickel-coated graphite, or metal fibres, and 8-20% for carbon black. Nanotubes have fewer negative effects on the physical, mechanical, and processing properties of the base polymer than other electro-conductive additives. This is due to the low loadings and very-small particle sizes typical of this technology.

Additionally, Fibril nanotubes-filled compounds can provide excellent moulded-part quality. In the automotive industry, thermoplastic compounds using Fibril nanotubes are capable of producing Class A body panels and trim parts. Since the resulting parts also have conductive properties, they can be electrostatically painted, eliminating primer steps and making it easier to wrap paint around corners and into deep design details.

Low loading levels mean nanotubes do not compromise important mechanical properties (eg low temperature ductility), so parts can be used in large exterior panels as well as trim applications.

Fibril nanotubes are also a key additive in nylon fuel lines where they prevent dangerous static discharges while preserving the low-temperature ductility of the nylon. In the electronics field, the smooth, highly homogeneous part surface means minimal sloughing (or rub-off) of surface particles, which can be a damaging contaminant in today’s ultra-clean, electronic production environment.

Furthermore, Fibril nanotubes are non-reactive and chemically clean, with no sizing agent or sulphur that can damage delicate microelectronics.

Hence, Fibril-filled compounds are used to mould silicon-wafer handling tools (eg tweezers, wands, and rails for front opening unified pods (FOUPs)), and material transport trays and components for computer hard drives.

Finally, because Fibril nanotubes are so small and strong, they offer higher regrind stability than other conductive additives, making it easy to melt reprocess runners, sprues, and parts during production, as well as recycle moulded components at end-of-life.

Current markets for Fibril nanotubes include automotive and electronics. Other uses in batteries, fuel cells, flat-panel displays, and catalyst supports are under development.
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