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Nanochemicals Deliver Advanced Coatings and Specialty Chemicals, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

The micro-scale science of nanotechnology may be in its infancy, but it offers great promise in the chemicals and coatings sector nonetheless.  Nanotech advances will eventually affect everything from LEDs, where brighter monitors and displays may be possible, to slicker, denser paints for industrial, marine and architectural applications.
Watch for rapid changes within the specialty chemicals sector, as many factors with the potential for driving the industry in new directions are at work.  These include a growing use of biotechnology to create biochemical products such as enzymes and solvents; consolidation, mergers and acquisitions on a worldwide basis; high raw components costs; increased environmental regulations and concerns; rapid growth in demand for plastics and other chemical products; the rise of nanotechnology in such chemicals sectors as composites, coatings and exotic materials; technological breakthroughs in such areas as ceramics; and the rapid rise of China as both a producer and consumer of chemicals and chemical products.  BASF has a growing portfolio of nanochemicals for textiles, paints, cosmetics, electronics, insulation and lighting.
For example, BASF’s research center in Singapore is working on nanotech component paints for ship hulls with the goal of preventing the extremely costly buildup of barnacles, algae and other organisms that plague ship bottoms.  BASF’s lab at Louis Pasteur University in Strasbourg is working on nanofoams as potential insulating materials for buildings, transportation and refrigeration equipment.  Another example of this firm’s focus on nanotechnology is its Ultradur High Speed plastic.  The use of a nanoparticulate additive improves the “flowability” of the plastic, which means that manufacturers can process the plastic at lower temperatures.
Global chemicals giant Mitsubishi Chemical created a company named Frontier Carbon Corporation ( to manufacture tiny, high-strength carbon structures known as fullerenes or “bucky balls.”  Technically speaking, a fullerene is a microscopic, round structure that is geodesic in nature.  It is sometimes referred to as C60 as it has 60 joints across the rounded carbon surface, each joint holding a carbon atom at its center.  The geodesic-like shape affords the structure immense strength.  Today, fullerenes are appearing in such products as lubricants, cosmetics, rubber additives and polymer additives.  Eventual applications may include the use of fullerenes in films and coatings, lubricants of many types, photosensitive materials, diagnostic agents and pharmaceuticals, along with such energy uses as lithium batteries, fuel cells and solar cells.
Frontier Carbon Corporation’s high output manufacturing has enabled it to sell this exotic carbon product at very reasonable prices.  The lowered costs will drive industrial uses.  Frontier Carbon is a joint venture between Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation, Mitsubishi Corporation and Nanotech Partners.  It was the first firm to create industrial quantities of fullerenes.  It was launched with a manufacturing capacity of 40 tons of fullerenes yearly, using the brand name Nanom.  The secret to Frontier’s success is a “combustion method” that it developed for the high-speed production of fullerenes.  This cost-effective process is continuous, with a constant stream of fullerenes exiting the system.

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