The world’s biggest nanotechnology production company, OCSiAl, is shopping around in southern Israel for a site to build what could be the world’s largest nanotube production facility. It will produce as much as 50 tons of Single Wall Carbon Nanotubes (SWCNTs) a year – making it “possibly the largest producer of such nanotubes in the world,” the company announced Tuesday.
SWCNTs are at the heart of the field of nanotechnology – the manipulation of super-small, nano-sized materials that are able to defy many of the laws of nature that apply to larger entities. A nanometer (nm) is one billionth of a meter, and nanotechnology applications generally manipulate materials in the 1-100 nm range. By contrast, the smallest known living organism, the bacteria of the genus Mycoplasma, are about 200 nm in length.
Already, nanotechnology – in the form of SWCNTs – is being used in a wide array of products, as scientists take advantage of the “different” rules that apply to nano-sized materials, such as their ability to swarm, conduct electricity without “frying,” attach to many kinds of molecules to change their behavior, and much more. Among some of the promising nanotech applications scientists around the world are developing: strengthening dental implants with the use of titanium dioxide nanotubes, creating artificial muscles made of carbon nanotube-woven yarn filled with wax, using nanotubes to detect bacteria in water, and deploying nanotubes to kill cancerous cells.
Many of the nanotubes used in these projects are likely to have been made by OCSiAl, which is the world’s biggest maker of the tiny SWCNTs. OCSiAl is an international nanotechnology company with operations in the US, UK, Germany, South Korea and Russia, headquartered in Luxembourg. The company employs 160 workers and is expected to hire 30 people for its Negev plant.
The OCSiAl announcement comes as the company is set to hold a scientific conference this week together with Bar Ilan University’s Institute for Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials. Ziva Eger, head of Industrial Cooperation Authority and Investment Promotion at the Israeli Ministry of Economy, is due to speak at the conference at Bar Ilan. Some of the largest Israeli companies and multinationals will be attending the conference, including representatives from Keter Plastic, Intel, HP, Vulcan Volta, IAI, Rafael, Elbit, 3M, Kodak and many others.
In addition to the industrial experts, the conference will be attended by scientists from Bar Ilan, Tel Aviv, Ariel, Hebrew, and Ben-Gurion Universities, as well as scientists from the Technion, Weizmann Institute, HIT, and Soreq Nuclear Research Center. They will be joined by OCSiAl’s senior managers, who, besides looking at potential plant sites, are searching for Israeli partners for the distribution of OCSiAl’s core SWCNT product, Tuball.
“Israel is one of the world’s leading knowledge and innovation centers in nanotechnology, and this is why we are interested in setting up a plant here,” said Konstantin Notman, vice president of OCSiAl. “We intend to deepen the contact with the Israeli market in all aspects – setting up our largest production facility here, enlarging our customer base, establishing contacts with Israeli dealers, and conducting cooperation with industrial companies and academic bodies.”