DO YOU NANO? WILL YOU NANO? (excerpted)
Karl Kamena, Business Development Director, Omni Tech International
Presented at FUNCTIONAL FILLERS FOR PLASTICS 2001, SEPTEMBER 11-13, 2001
SAN ANTONIO, TX
For several years we’ve been hearing about the tremendous potential market for nanocomposites. Sprinkle some nanodust into a host monomer or polymer, and-Bingo! The polymer becomes tougher, stronger, stiffer, maintains transparency with improved barrier characteristics, becomes more heat-resistant. The nanocomposites concept I define rather simply as combining a small amount of an inorganic nanoparticle with a monomer or polymer in order to radically modify the host polymer properties and performance.
... the commercial market for nanocomposite products is small today, but realistically the development of technologies is still on the steep slope of the learning curve. Although we sometimes refer to the "nanocomposites industry", there is not and won’t be an industry, per se. Producers of nanocomposite products will promote their products for selected applications based on value and performance characteristics. The fact that a nanoparticle is an integral part of the formulation is an interesting feature, but application and selection decisions made are based on value and performance.For example, Wilson Sports has introduced a new tennis ball called Double CoreÔ . It’s a premium ball designed to last twice as along as ordinary balls: "Using a patented material and process, the inner core of the tennis ball is coated with a butyl-based barrier called Air D-FenseÔ by InMat LLC which restricts airflow from escaping the core. This new technology utilizing a coated inner core inhibits air permeation by 200%." Nary a nano-word used in the advertising, but the barrier coating is a nanocomposite based on the clay, vermiculite.
Some nanocomposite product types are likely to satisfy relatively low volume, specialty markets; tennis balls might be an example. But, think of what this same concept and product might do for the tire industry, and the volumes that could be generated. Other types, particularly those based on polyolefins, could also be considered for both specialty and large volume applications.