Zeon will start mass production of single-walled carbon nanotubes in January 2013 for the first time in the world. Single-walled carbon nanotube was developed by Sumio Iijima of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) early 1990. It is excellent in heat and electric conductivity besides being high in intensity. It is a rather promising material for electric vehicle motors and electronic circuits. Because it stores energy effectively inside the hollow in the tubular carbon atom, it can be used for a material of the electrode of lithium-ion battery.
The production cost of single-walled carbon nanotube used to be too high to translate it into practical use. Actually, it cost several tens of thousands to produce one gram of single-walled carbon nanotube. Zeon and AIST succeeded in reducing the mass production cost considerably. They produced a single-walled carbon nanotube by applying hydrogen to the stainless substrate coated with elementary particles of iron with the help of a catalyst. Because adding a small amount of water can increase the purity of carbon easily, the production cost will be around several hundreds yen per gram.
Zeon plans to mass produce single-walled carbon nanotubes starting next January. In the initial stage, the company will produce 600 grams per day and ship finished products to chemical companies that will develop applications to make the best use of the product characteristics. Zeon will gradually increase the volume of mass production to reduce the production cost to several tens of yen, and construct a plant toward 2015.
Because a single-walled carbon nanotube has a high degree of elasticity and strength, it can be used for electronic paper, super-thin touch panel, and artificial skin. In addition, because it can absorb broadband light, research is under way to apply it to infrared sensor and absorber of electromagnetic wave. A single-walled carbon nanotube has 20 times higher tension strength than high-strength steel, 1,000 times higher density tolerance for high current and 10 times higher heat conductivity than copper, and has a half mass of aluminum.
Single-walled carbon nanotube