Mitsubishi Corporation, MER and RCT Form Company to Commercialize Fullerenes
Tucson, AZ – Jul 31, 2000
Since the discovery a decade ago of a simple way to produce macroscopic quantities of fullerenes, the challenge has been to find practical uses for the carbon molecules and to scale up production economically. Fullerene International Corporation (FIC) combines the capabilities of partners Mitsubishi Corporation (MC), Materials and Electrochemical Research Corporation (MER) and Research Corporation Technologies (RCT) in a joint venture to commercialize fullerene materials.
MC, the giant trading company, brings business development and market incubation to FIC. MER, a high technology development company in Tucson, provides production, production scale-up, application development, technical support and patents to the new company. RCT, a Tucson-based intellectual property management company, contributes dominant composition-of-matter and method-of-production patents.
FIC first established a fullerene manufacturing facility in Japan. Dr. Raouf O. Loutfy, MER president and FIC chief operations officer, said MER built a scaled-up reactor and separation system for FIC subcontractor Honjo Chemical Corporation, a specialty chemical company in Osaka, Japan. Following complete system optimization and training by MER, Loutfy said, Honjo should be a supplier of fullerenes materials in Asia by this fall.
Simultaneously, FIC will form collaborations with several Japanese companies to explore the potential use of the hollow, cage-shaped molecules in a diverse range of products. The initial targeted applications for fullerenes include batteries, field electron displays, gas storage, diamond-like cutting tools, capacitors for electric vehicles, sports equipment and pharmaceuticals.
“The business model of FIC is a new direction for MC,” said FIC president and hief executive officer Mr. Susumu Katagiri, who also is manager in MC’s technology and business development department in Tokyo.
“The new business vision of MC,” said MC President Mr. Mikio Sasaki, “is leveraging advanced technologies into dynamic new ventures.”
MER in Tucson has been producing fullerenes and nanotubes and developing applications for these unique materials since their discovery. In the last five years, MER and MC have been evaluating the commercial potential of fullerene materials in Japan. They found commercial potential limited by commercial-scale production levels and cost. FIC plans to scale up production in Japan, identify lowest-production-cost technology and promote commercial applications.
Besides its work with fullerenes, MER also develops high-technology materials such as advanced composites, powders, coatings and energy conversion systems including batteries, fuel cells and gas-storage systems.
RCT has managed commercialization of the fullerene technology since its invention in September 1990 by physicists Donald R. Huffman at the University of Arizona and Wolfgang Kratschmer at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, Germany. In this technique, graphite rods are evaporated in a helium atmosphere to produce fullerene materials, the third form of carbon besides diamonds and graphite. RCT filed for worldwide patent protection of both carbon 60 (C60) and carbon 70 (C70) and the general techniques for making the compounds. Composition of matter and method of production patents have issued in Australia, Japan, Europe and South Korea. Similar patent applications are pending in the United States.
Companies or research groups interested in collaborating with FIC should contact Katagiri at FIC, c/o Mitsubishi International Corp. Planning and Coordination Division (MIC/PCD), 520 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022-4223, (212) 605-2286, (212) 605-1847 fax and Loutfy at MER, 7960 S. Kolb Road, Tucson, AZ, 85706, (520) 574-1980, (520) 574-1983 fax.