New NCC company to explore nanomaterials

Buckeye Composites will focus on production of carbon fiber-based buckypaper in wide, continuous lengths for aerospace and other applications. 

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NanoTechLabs (Yadkinville, N.C.) has teamed with the National Composite Center (NCC, Dayton, Ohio) to create a new division called Buckeye Composites.  Housed in NCC’s headquarters facility, the division will focus its work on the commercialization, scale-up and production of nanocarbon composites that use buckypaper (so named in honor of nanomaterial pioneer Buckminster Fuller).

The core technology behind this new effort, buckypaper contains carbon nanotubes (CNTs) or other carbon nanomaterial in a membrane or paper-like format. Development work has resulted in a manufacturing process that recently produced a 12-inch by 50-ft (0.3m by 15.2m) roll of buckypaper, reportedly the largest known sample manufactured to date.

Jessica Ravine, Ohio Division president for Buckeye Composites, says that buckypaper can be preimpregnated with resin, including epoxy, bismaleimide and cyanate ester. It then can be included as a ply or multiple plies within a laminate made up of traditional prepregs. In the resulting molded part, the prepreg acts as the structural component while the buckypaper with its CNTs imparts thermal and electrical properties. Initially, Buckeye Composites will target thermal and electrical property enhancements for aerospace applications, in connection with contract work the company will perform for the U.S. Air Force.

“We can use a variety of carbon nanomaterials, including CNTs, carbon nanofibers (CNFs), and nanoscale graphene platelets (NGP),” Ravine points out, adding, “We can also incorporate binders during the papermaking process or during post production prepregging steps.”

Construction and installation was recently completed on a continuous 12-inch/0.3m wide production line in the division’s NCC facilities. According to Ravine, the buckypaper process is very scaleable, and the company already has plans to move up to a 52-inch/1.32m wide line.