Sector News

SABIC acquires majority stake in carbon nanotube business for energy storage

January 16, 2019
Chemical Value Chain

SABIC announced today that it has taken a majority stake in Black Diamond Structures (BDS; Austin, Texas), a nanotechnology company established in 2014 as a joint venture between Molecular Rebar Design, a leading nanomaterial innovator, and SABIC. BDS produces and commercializes Molecular Rebar, a proprietary technology of modified carbon nanotubes with potential to enhance the performance of energy storage applications using lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries.

BDS is being added as part of SABIC’s specialties business. According to Alan Leung, vice president of specialties, the carbon nanotube technology of BDS will allow specialties to address several demanding challenges in the energy storage market. In particular, BDS provides game-changing benefits to battery manufacturers looking for breakthrough improvements in charge rates, battery cycle life, and energy density, he says.

Conventional carbon nanotubes are known for their tendency to get entangled, cake, and hold high residual impurities, limiting their capabilities of enhancing electrical and mechanical material properties in real-world applications. In contrast, the Molecular Rebar product delivers clean and discrete carbon nanotubes of uniform aspect ratio, enabling their use to create high-performance energy storage applications.

BDS CEO, John Hacskaylo, says that this proprietary nanomaterial can be directly incorporated into existing production processes of batteries without requiring additional investments, allowing a fast track for manufacturers to improve their next generation of batteries. Tests have shown that Molecular Rebar–type carbon nanotubes significantly improve the cycle life of a lead-acid battery and enhance the performance of lithium-ion batteries to meet the increased power capacity demands of the industry.

Hacskaylo also expects Molecular Rebar to play an effective role in the downgauging and downsizing of new battery designs. This not only meets the growing global demand for lighter batteries in the hybrid and electric vehicles market, but also reduces battery production costs, helping manufacturers to increase output and achieve higher economies of scale, he says.

Leung envisions that adding the technology to the portfolio of SABIC’s specialties business can also open new opportunities beyond the energy storage market and unleash innovations in material science for enhancing the properties of specialty resins and functional compounds.

By Natasha Alperowicz

Source: Chemical Week

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