Australian company Eden Innovations is developing a range of plastics applications for its carbon nanotube technology used in concrete.
The Perth-based firm uses high temperatures to separate methane into hydrogen gas and carbon, and originally started as a hydrogen company before pivoting to carbon nanotubes post-2008.
Its signature product is the nanotube-enhanced EdenCrete concrete; however, plastics are another market it has identified, according to executive chairman Greg Solomon.
“We’ve been running for a number of years with the possibility of developing a carbon nanotube-enhanced range of plastics. This was done in a joint research project with the University of Queensland, and we made it work.
“We have solved the method of how to deal with the nanotubes and how to get them into the plastics, and we’re getting good results. We’ve had some preliminary interest from a number of groups,” said Solomon.
Speaking to PKN, Solomon said that the nanotubes enhance strength and elasticity in plastics by up to 50 per cent, and electrical and heat conductivity are around 10 times higher than graphite.
“In packaging, you could have ultra-strong thin film – though the nanotubes are black, blended with a thin film polymer, you couldn’t see them. For hard packaging as well, thinking about products where you’d need increased strength and ability to withstand knocks, there’d be an application there,” he said.
In terms of sustainability, Solomon believes that Eden’s new product – dubbed EdenPlast – would be for the most part no different to recycle than ordinary plastic, the main barrier being the extraction of the nanotubes first; he also points out that the carbon footprint would be lower, due to the products lasting for longer and needing less frequent replacement.
“The advantage if you can produce products that will last much longer is a significant environmental benefit – the production of any polymer will generate greenhouse gases, and if you can reduce production, you can reduce your greenhouse gas footprint.
“Methane is also a greenhouse gas itself, and the greenhouse footprint of our pyrolysis process where we separate the hydrogen from the carbon is one of the lowest. If we used renewable energy to run our reactor as well, the greenhouse gas footprint would be zero,” he said.
EdenPlast is undergoing testing in preparation for a potential commercial scale-up.