Challenges With Today's Nanocomposite Materials
Today, most nanocomposites used in the plastics industry are made with “platy nanoclay” materials, but these clays are very difficult and expensive to process. Platy clays, such as the Kaolin clay below, contain layered two-dimensional sheets held together by an intercalation (or intermediary) layer. The sheets must first be exfoliated, or chemically separated, so they can function as nanoparticulate fillers and be dispersed in the polymer matrix. In today’s platy nanoclay production process, these multiple steps lead to complexity, cost, and dispersion quality challenges. In addition, most manufacturers do not have the specialized equipment needed to produce composites with platy nanoclays – this required investment is the biggest market barrier for nanoclays.
NaturalNano’s patent-pending product bypasses these multiple processing steps and complex chemistry by offering the manufacturer a turnkey drop-in solution that runs on standard conventional equipment. Pleximer is a turnkey concentrate in the form of pellets that can be added directly into the extruder by the end manufacturer. Pleximer contains Halloysite clay nanotubes, shown below, that are blended with a specific polymer base utilizing NaturalNano’s patent pending technology. The resulting product is a drop-in additive.
Halloysite Clay Nanotubes
Pleximer doesn’t require the expensive exfoliation process needed by platy clay systems, and it successfully provides the required dispersion in a polymer matrix. Platy nanoclays, by comparison, have trouble achieving uniform dispersion, even with exfoliation, and work with a limited number of polymer families.
The nanocomposite market is also limited by the small number of manufacturers that have invested in the know-how and the specialized equipment necessary to run platy nanoclays. NaturalNano believes that the Pleximer technology will have rapid industry acceptance because it enables manufacturers to produce nanocomposites with existing equipment. NaturalNano is currently focused on leveraging this new drop-in, turnkey advantage to a select number of industrial compounders who supply major industries such as automotive, performance sporting goods and aerospace. It is expected that a substantial number of manufacturers who cannot currently produce a nanoclay composite will enter the nanocomposite market by adopting Pleximer as their nanomaterial of choice.
The Company has demonstrated Pleximer’s advantage, and has twenty-one patents issued and/or pending. NaturalNano’s leading edge laboratory has proprietary processes for evaluation and testing, and is currently running manufacturing scale trials with major compounders and plastics industry experts. The company’s experienced management team provides the leadership to commercialize Pleximer, and will build the relationships and partnerships that are necessary to bring novel, high margin products to market.
Further Expanding The Market
NaturalNano is entering into joint development agreements (JDAs) with select compounders in order to make Pleximer widely available. Pleximer is scheduled to ship in the fourth quarter of 2007. JDAs will also allow NaturalNano to deliver novel, higher value features. NaturalNano uses a patented process to fill the tubes with specialty chemicals and active ingredients for additional extended or controlled release properties.