SouthWest NanoTechnologies Opens New Plant in Norman

Article excerpt

SouthWest NanoTechnologies Inc.'s new Norman plant doesn't have to be gigantic to produce a lot of product.

That's because single-wall carbon nanotubes are less than a billionth of a meter in diameter. Imagine a human hair, and then shave it into 50,000 smaller strands.

But nanotube business potential is huge, Chief Executive Officer David Arthur said at the dedication ceremony of the $3.9 million, 18,000-square-foot manufacturing center on Thursday. About 200 people attended, including Lt. Gov. Jari Askins.

"Our mission is to make single-wall nanotubes a commercial reality," Arthur said. "And we have overcome all of the barriers that previously prevented that: inconsistent quality, inability to scale up and high production costs. Since moving into the plant in June, we have increased production capacity for high-quality single- wall carbon nanotubes by 100-fold at one-tenth the cost.

"This dramatic expansion in capacity enables us to meet the demand we expect from our customers for consistently high-quality single-wall carbon nanotubes at competitive prices," he said.

Carbon nanotubes are valuable because of their unique structure, a one-atom-thick layer of graphite wrapped into a cylinder, which provides an excellent medium for optical and electronic properties as well as a high level of flexibility, strength and thermal stability.

The field of potential applications for single-wall carbon nanotubes is wide, including polymer composites used for thin-film membranes on antennas and thermal optical coatings on aircraft and spacecraft; reinforced ceramics or polymer composites to replace materials from which wind turbine blades are currently made, which will enable the blades to be longer and lighter; and conductive film coatings for inexpensive, long-lasting touch screens in devices such as automatic teller machines and portable personal computers. …