Unidym, Inc., a majority-owned subsidiary of Arrowhead Research Corporation, and Battelle have extended their existing relationship to include an alliance focused on multi-functional nanocomposites for aerospace and transportation applications. Under the alliance the companies will collaborate with aerospace and automotive companies, and their composite materials suppliers, which require carbon nanotube formulated coatings, sealants, adhesives and load-bearing composites. Research has shown that carbon nanotubes enhance these materials through higher strength-to-weight ratios, corrosion resistance, toughness, dampening and/or multi-functional electrical properties, such as electrostatic dissipation, EMI/RFI shielding and electrical conductivity.
"Unidym and Battelle have both been approached by customers with strong interests in seeing carbon nanotubes introduced into composite materials," noted Art Swift, Unidym's president and CEO. "For some time now we have supplied sample quantities of nanotubes to a variety of composite materials suppliers and their industrial customers. By aligning with Battelle, we are now able to leverage each other's complementary strengths for the benefit of our customers."
"Battelle and Unidym have capabilities to advance the development and commercialization of high performance composite materials," said Carl Kohrt, Battelle's President and CEO. "We have performed years of research into various applications of carbon nanotubes. Combining our experience with Unidym's materials manufacturing capabilities and foundational patent portfolio provides our clients with an opportunity to accelerate the use of carbon nanotubes in nanocomposite material formulation and fabrication."
The companies have combined resources in this way to jointly approach manufacturers and material suppliers in order to discuss the application of current research, gather specific customer requirements for high performance composite materials and present a licensing program for their intellectual property portfolios. Both companies have seen significant industrial interest in applications such as high performance carbon nanotube enhanced carbon fiber composites, carbon nanotube based thermoplastic nanocomposites that can be injection molded, and thermoset nanocomposites that can be fabricated with various resin transfer molding (RTM) processes and through the compression molding of nanostructured sheet molding compound (SMC) formulations.
In addition to the market interest seen by both Battelle and Unidym, significant academic research has been under way in the area of carbon nanotube enhanced composites. In his article in the February 15th 2008 issue of Science (Vol. 319), after briefly covering the significant findings of his group's recent research in this field, Professor Satish Kumar of the Georgia Institute of Technology states that "Potential applications of carbon nanotube fibers will thus be those requiring high strength and stiffness in tension, high energy absorption, and electrical and thermal conductivity. The low density of these fibers would provide further weight savings."
In the same article, Professor Kumar goes on to conclude "Next generation carbon fibers used for structural composites will thus likely be processed not from polyacrylonitrile alone but from its composites with carbon nanotubes."