Mass production of carbon nanotubes is still far off | AGÊNCIA FAPESP

Our knowledge of efficient methods of producing this material of great interest to the microelectronics, optics and other industries is still insufficient, says professor at China’s Tsinghua University (image of carbon nanotube: Wikimedia)

Mass production of carbon nanotubes is still far off

April 23, 2014

By Elton Alisson, in Beijing

Agência FAPESP – Efforts to spread the industrial use of multi-wall carbon nanotubes – a material in nanometric scale (billionths of a meter) having several concentric layers or tubes of graphite – have helped lower their cost from US$45,000 per kilogram in the early 2000s to US$100 per kilogram at the present time.

Such efforts have also boosted production of the material by several hundreds of tons per year and expanded their use to commercial applications such as ion-lithium batteries, the type of rechargeable battery most widely used today in electronic devices.

But the production and use of carbon nanotubes on a scale of millions of tons remains far from a reality, owing to existing challenges related to production, purification, dissemination and commercial application of the material.

Such was the assessment offered by Fei Wei, director of the Beijing Green Chemical Reaction Engineering Laboratory in a lecture he delivered during FAPESP Week Beijing-Brazil, which took place last week in Beijing, China.

“When the price of carbon nanotubes falls to around US$10 per kilogram, it may be possible to use them as conductive components on a scale of millions of tons and replace the conventional carbon black loads used today,” said Fei, who is also a professor at Tsinghua University in China.

According to the researcher, there is still an insufficient basic understanding of efficient growth mechanisms and methods of producing carbon nanotubes, environmental and safety concerns, and models for commercializing the material, and these areas will require further investigation.

“The present-day gap between basic research on carbon nanotubes and industrial development needs to be overcome through multidisciplinary research, in order to facilitate a rapid expansion of the carbon nanotube industry,” Fei pointed out.



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