E-Team for Carbon Nanotube Development

Taylor University, 2007 - $20,000

A carbon nanotube is a one-atom-thick sheet of graphite rolled up into a seamless cylinder with a diameter on the order of a nanometer. The unique molecular structure and high tensile strength of these tubes can potentially be used to make extremely strong and lightweight building materials (vehicle frames and more) and their ability to conduct heat also makes them ideal for superconductor electrical wiring. The drawback at the moment is their expense: current manufacturing processes create carbon nanotubes for about $100 per gram, too expensive for mass production. The challenge is to reduce production costs to a level where the tubes can become economically viable.

This E-Team, incorporated as Tiergan Technologies LLC, believes it can meet the challenge with a production process that creates nanotubes for nine cents per gram. Focusing on single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWNTs), the team uses a method that utilizes ethanol as the carbon feedstock. While ethanol is more expensive than the standard carbon monoxide feedstock, it operates at much lower temperatures and is easier to scale up. The ethanol-based process allows for significant reduction in production cost.