Nanotechnology & Graphenes

The ALTANA competence network “Nanotechnology & Graphenes” is a continuation of the former technology platform for nanotechnology and serves as a cross-divisional point of contact for questions and ideas relating to the subject of nanotechnology and graphenes. The idea behind its introduction was to obtain the best possible use from this crossover technology and to achieve synergies between the individual Divisions.

Nanomaterials offer excellent opportunities to meet the growing demands on materials and so contribute to a sustainable use of materials and resources. Nanotechnology describes the science of materials whose dimensions ranged from 1 nanometer (nm) to 100 nm. The term “nano” comes from the ancient Greek word for dwarf, “nános”‚ and is used as a prefix for units of measurement representing 10-9 part. One nanometer is, therefore, a billionth of a meter (10-9 m). Within this order of magnitude, the surface properties of materials assume an even greater role and eventually outweigh the volume properties. In addition, quantum mechanical effects also play a part, whereby nanomaterials can possess other properties, for example, as microparticles with the same material composition. “Size-dependent” or “size-induced” material properties are referred to here. One example of size-dependent properties is the color of metals. While gold is yellow in color as a macroscopic metal, with gold particles below 50 nm nearly all the colors of the rainbow can be seen, this being due solely to the size of the particles and the absorption induced by the plasmon bands – an effect that was already used centuries ago to obtain lightfast and temperature-insensitive shade in molten glass, for instance.

The possible uses of nanoparticles today are many and varied, which is why the subject of nanotechnology looms large in all four Divisions of ALTANA. Thus, for example, ELANTAS has made use of nanoscale particles in its wire enamels in order to improve their insulating properties and thus prevent “bleeding”. ACTEGA, for its part, has used functional nanoparticles in coatings to increase their scratch resistance and/or barrier action against moisture or carbon dioxide. And at ECKART some metal effect pigments are already being manufactured as platelets so thin that they have layer thicknesses of below 100 nm. This has enabled the company to produce, even at low concentrations, such brilliant metallic effects that were only ever possible with metalized coats. In addition to this, ECKART is researching into the manufacture of graphenes. BYK, finally, with its NANOBYK and CARBOBYK product portfolio, has established additives based on nanoscale metal oxides and carbon nanotubes on the market and is dealing here with matters such as scratch resistance, UV protection and conductivity, among other things.

The role of the network is to serve as a point of contact for all things “nano”. Since the, regrettably, very broad definitions of nanomaterials mean that a large number of subjects could be subsumed under nanotechnology, it is important to focus on the really central issues. It is not a question of making every organic pigment part of the content of the ALTANA technology platform, even if it is a nanoparticle by definition. Rather, it is a matter of bringing together those areas that make a deliberate point of using nanoparticles because of their size-related properties.