LG Chem has launched the largest carbon nanotube (CNT) manufacturing plant in Korea. The company is actively targeting the rapidly growing CNT market, widely used as the material for cathodes in electric vehicle batteries.
LG Chem announced that the 1,200 metric tons (MT) expansion of Yeosu CNT 2nd Plant—representing an investment of 65 billion KRW (US$58.3 million)—was completed and has begun commercial operations. Combined with the existing 500 MT which started its first operation in 2017, the LG Chem plant now has a total capacity of 1,700 MT.
LG Chem’s new CNT 2nd Plant was constructed as the world’s largest single-line production facility with a self-developed fluidized bed reactor. The plant has achieved stable quality control by complete automation and reduced power consumption by 30% through process innovation.
The CNT produced at this plant will be supplied to market-leading global electric vehicle battery companies as a conductive additive. Also, its applications will be extended to a wide range of fields such as surface heating elements and semi-conductive high-voltage cables.
For example, when CNT is used as a material for semiconductor process trays, it can withstand high temperatures and resist dust, electromagnetic waves, and static electricity due to excellent thermal conductivity.
As the CNT market continues to grow, LG Chem plans to begin the construction of a third plant this year and continue expanding its capacity in the future. Indeed, the industry expects the global CNT demand to grow explosively at 40% per year, from 5,000 MT last year to 20,000 in 2024.
LG Chem’s CNT business works on developing competitive products using the vertical integration from ethylene, a raw material, to catalysts developed with proprietary technologies and production technologies which include self-developed fluidized bed reactors.
In the case of catalysts, which are one of the core technologies, LG Chem applies cobalt-based catalysts to achieve superior quality—reducing magnetic impurities that may negatively affect the battery quality. Iron-based catalysts that are commonly used in the industry have a relatively high content of metal and magnetic contaminants compared to cobalt, requiring a separate post-treatment process for commercialization.
CNT is a business with a huge potential, as they are used in various products apart from batteries. The company, therefore, plans to become a global leader based on expanded production capacity and competitiveness in quality.—Kug Lae Noh, President of LG Chem Petrochemicals