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Los Alamos partners with CNT Technologies to commercialize SuperThread(tm) carbon-nanotube fiber

DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory : 31 May, 2007  (Technical Article)
Los Alamos National Laboratory has licensed its carbon nanotube technology to a new commercial partner, Seattle-based CNT Technologies Inc. The ultrastrong, lightweight carbon-nanotube fiber, branded SuperThread(tm) by the company, can have better properties than steel for many applications and could soon be the primary substance from which airplanes, automobile parts, and sports equipment are made. Initial tests show that SuperThread is pound for pound (for the same weight) one-hundred times stronger than steel and less than one-fortieth the weight.
'Our advancement of carbon nanotube technology can lead to a broad range of applications including airplanes, bulletproof vests, electronic devices, and artificial limbs,' said Dean Peterson, Center Leader in the Los Alamos Materials Physics and Applications Division.

Carbon nanotubes, first discovered in 1991 by Japanese scientist Sumio Iijima, are cylindrical carbon molecules with structures similar to 'buckyballs' (named for the late U.S. architect Buckminster 'Bucky' Fuller who designed a geodesic dome with the same fundamental geometry). Los Alamos produced a single-walled carbon nanotube (4 centimeters in length). Currently, Laboratory scientists, including Yuntian Zhu, are developing arrays of ultralong, super-strong, lightweight, double-walled carbon nanotubes. These arrays may allow the nanotubes to be spun into fibers that could prove to be some of the strongest materials on earth.

Given the impressive results obtained for early prototype fibers, Los Alamos National Laboratory and CNT Tech entered into an exclusive license agreement.

Within six months CNT Tech plans to be making 1 kilogram per day of SuperThread yarn. Over the next 15 months, CNT Tech plans to scale up production of the nanotubes in its new laboratory at the Los Alamos Research Park. It will begin spinning the ultrastrong carbon-nanotube fiber on a custom-designed, computer-controlled spinning machine developed by the world's foremost experts in the fields of textile manufacturing, and machine construction. New machinery, designed using similar principle to those used in textile manufacturing, will be used to spin the carbon-nanotube fibers together to create SuperThread.

CNT Tech is seeking to develop products using the fibers. Within the next two years CNT Tech intends to replace carbon fibers with SuperThread, which will be designed for commercial use in aircraft materials, sport and recreation products, defense applications, and many other fields where a strong, high-strength material is required.

'Our mission is to produce the highest quality, lightest weight, strongest CNT fiber at the lowest possible cost for our corporate customers. If we accomplish that mission, and we plan to, our corporate customers will change the world in which we live. Aircraft, automobiles, satellites, engines, prosthetics, sporting goods, and tens of thousands of other products will be lighter, stronger, safer, and more efficient,' said Robert O'Leary, President of CNT Technologies.

CNT Technologies hosted a workshop July 10 and 11 at the Los Alamos Research Park, attended by representatives from 19 major corporations, to introduce SuperThread to potential marketing partners. The dual purpose of the workshop was to introduce the SuperThread product, team, and commercial plans and, more important, invite a request for proposal from major companies seeking to form a business relationship and/or submit terms for an exclusive sublicense for SuperThread in their respective fields of use.

CNT Technologies Inc. was established January 2006 to commercially develop and sell SuperThread(tm). SuperThread is based on super-strong, lightweight, double-wall carbon nanotubes developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
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