Tuesday, 18 November, 2003
Thinking big in Nanoscience
The achievements of NanoScape AG in the area of nanomaterials development for large-scale commercial application have recently caught the attention of the international press. In an article that appeared in the Financial Times (London) on 17 September 2003 (http://www.nanoscape.de/news.html) the recent progress made by the Munich start-up in developing a catalyst for an industrially and commercially important process were highlighted. The process concerns the production of styrene, one of the most widely traded bulk chemicals (yearly production ca. 20 million tons), which is used as a key component in many commercially important materials (including polystyrene). The currently used industrial manufacturing process involves the use of large amounts of steam to convert ethylbenzene to styrene in a dehydrogenation process over an iron catalyst. The alternative, oxidative process being developed and scaled-up by NanoScape replaces steam by air and allows the reaction to run at temperatures 100-150°C lower, thus enabling large cost savings to be visualised. This process is only made possible through use of a carbon nanotube catalyst, utilizing the nanomaterials key ability to activate oxygen on certain, specific surface sites. Vital progress has been made in correlating the catalytic performance with the nanocarbons structural characteristics, which allows optimal catalyst material to be tailor-made. Activities are now focused on scaling-up the catalytic process from laboratory scale (using grams of catalyst) and optimising the reaction parameters, which are crucial steps on the path to industrial application.
NanoScape, a spin-off of the Center for NanoScience (CeNS) and the department of physical chemistry of the LMU Munich was launched in November 2001, and focuses its activities of the design, synthesis and development of nanomaterials for industrial applications. Specifically, the company has developed two nanomaterials technology platforms, which incorporate nanometer sized, crystalline, porous alumino-silicate materials (e.g. zeolites) and 3-D structured nanocarbons (e.g. carbon nanotubes), respectively. At present these materials are being developed for application as catalysts, filters, adsorbers, sensors, and host materials for a variety of encapsulated molecules.
For further information contact:
Dr. Wayne Daniell
Chief Executive Officer
Frankfurter Ring 193a