The three companies are Canada-based Alcan Inc, one of the world's largest suppliers of raw materials for aluminium manufacturing, PEAK Werkstoff GmbH, which specializes in the development of high-performance aluminium materials, and Zoz GmbH which supplies equipment for the production of nanostructured materials.

According to Bayer MaterialScience, using Baytubes carbon nanotubes (CNT) can significantly improve the mechanical properties of aluminium powder metallurgy. For example, the hardness of the composite aluminium is then several times greater than that of unalloyed aluminium, tensile strengths comparable to those of steel can be achieved, and the impact strength and thermal conductivity of the lightweight metal can be improved significantly. Baytubes carbon nanotubes can also significantly reinforce aluminium materials already alloyed with metals.

Until now, high hardness levels and tensile strengths could only be achieved in aluminium by a complex alloying process based on rare and expensive metals, Bayer says.

The density of CNT-reinforced aluminium is only around one third that of steel, so, the material can be used in applications requiring lower weight and energy consumption. These include screws and other connecting elements, aluminium I-beams in the construction industry, heavy-duty components for wheelchairs or athletic equipment, and applications in the automotive and aircraft industries.

"Together with competent partners in industry, we want to exploit the considerable application potential that arises from this optimization in properties," said Dr. Horst Adams, vice president of Future Technologies at Bayer MaterialScience.