LG Chem (Seoul, South Korea) is expanding its investment in carbon nanotubes (CNTs) with the construction of the world’s largest single-line CNT manufacturing plant. The new plant is part of LG Chem’s initiative to gain a more competitive edge in the rapidly growing global CNT market focused on electric vehicle (EV) battery materials.
The new facility will be LG Chem’s fourth CNT plant, following Plant 3 which started construction early this year and Plant 2 which has been operational since last year. The new plant will be built in LG Chem’s Daesan Complex, located 80 km southwest of Seoul, with construction commencing in the first half of next year and operation beginning in the second half of 2024.
CNT is a next-generation material offering the equivalent level of electricity and thermal conductivity as copper and diamond and 100 times the strength of steel. Due to its excellent properties that surpass existing materials, CNT has an infinite range of applications in batteries, semiconductor wafer trays, automotive components, and surface heating elements. The global CNT conductive additive market is expected to grow by 30% to $2.3 billion contributing to the demand of CNT increasing from 5,000 tons in 2021 to 70,000 tons by 2030.
The 3,200 tons of CNT produced at Plant 4 will contribute to LG Chem’s total carbon nanotube production capacity of 6,100 tons across four plants. LG Chem has been operating CNT plants since 2017, starting with 500-ton production at its CNT Plant 1, and has been building new plants every year since 2020 to meet growing demand.
Thanks to the company’s fluidized-bed reactor technology, each production line at all four of LG Chem’s CNT plants can produce up to 600 tons on an annual basis, the highest single-line capacity in the world. The CNTs produced at the plants are also high-quality as LG Chem’s self-developed cobalt-based catalysts help lower magnetic impurities which may negatively affect battery quality. Production capacity per capita at LG Chem’s Plant 4 is expected to be 20% higher than its other plants due to efficiencies related to improved reactor stability and process automation.
CNTs produced by LG Chem will be supplied as conductive additives to battery makers such as LG Energy Solution, the current leader in the global EV battery market, with plans for usage to be expanded to a broader range of industries.
When utilized as a conductive additive, CNT demonstrates 10% more conductivity than carbon black, allowing battery makers to use 30% less conductive additives. The available space can then be filled with cathodes for higher capacity and longer lifespan without increasing the overall size of the battery. Given this, CNTs are also being considered attractive futuristic conductive additives for even anodes and next-generation batteries such as lithium-sulfur and solid-state batteries.
To meet the growing demand for CNT, LG Chem has been developing carbon nanotube production knowhow ever since launching its R&D initiative to develop proprietary CNT-related technology in 2011. The company started developing battery materials and conductive compound products in 2014 and currently possesses nearly 300 CNT-related patents.
LG Chem is committed to introducing CNT to new categories such as conductive paints, heating materials (to prevent black ice on roads) and semiconductor wafer trays. Semiconductor trays with CNT have demonstrated outstanding electrical conductivity with higher resistance to heat, dust, electromagnetic waves and static electricity.
“LG Chem is continuously increasing its sales from newly secured battery customers including LG Energy Solutions and is strongly committed to become a trustworthy world-class CNT supplier for global automakers,” said Noh Kug-lae, head of LG Chem’s Petrochemical Business. “We hope to cement our lead in the conductive additive market based on our competitive edge in self-developed manufacturing capabilities and excellent product quality and moving faster than our competitors.”