Bayer says it has invested around €22 million in the planning, development and construction of the facility, which it claims is the largest of its kind in the world, with an annual capacity of 200 tonnes.

Bayer MaterialScience markets its multi-wall carbon nanotubes (CNTs) under the trade name Baytubes®.

"Current forecasts predict an annual growth rate of 25% for carbon nanotubes," says Dr Joachim Wolff, a member of Bayer MaterialScience’s Executive Committee and head of the Coatings, Adhesives, Specialties segment. "Within 10 years, the market is expected to be worth US$ 2 billion."

"We are also expecting nanotechnology to create a total of 100 000 new jobs in the German industry in the medium term," he adds.

Baytubes can be added to polymer matrices or metal systems as a filler or modifier to improve their mechanical strength and impart electrical properties. Potential applications for Baytubes include thermoplastic and thermoset systems and coatings. Further applications for carbon nanotubes include rotor blades for wind turbines, and sports equipment such as skis, hockey sticks and surfboards.

Bayer MaterialScience has been operating a pilot facility with an annual capacity of 60 tonnes in Laufenburg, Germany, since 2007.

CNTs are manufactured from ethylene in a reactor at an elevated temperature using a catalytic process.