Australian inorganic carbon material manufacturer CFoam (ASX: CFO) has entered into key partnerships with two US tertiary institutions based on enhancing the development of carbon products from coal.
The research and development agreements with Ohio University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology are at an early stage and have the potential to create new markets and opportunities for CFoam as a raw materials provider.
Ohio University is researching a project related to coal-derived alternatives for traditional fibre-cementitious building materials.
The project has received US$500,000 (A$666,000) funding from the US Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory which focuses on applied research for the clean production and use of domestic energy resources.
Cost share arrangement
CFoam has agreed to a US$20,000 (A$26,000) cost share arrangement for the project, which will see Ohio’s research team develop coal-based siding materials for residential and commercial building cladding applications.
Siding materials are a critical component in building as they protect a structure from the elements, while deterring dirt, moisture and insects.
Primary sidings of vinyl (made of polyvinyl chloride) and fibre cement currently dominate the US market, with a combined 4.7 billion square feet of products installed in 2018.
According to CFoam, vinyl siding is “slowly losing market share” due to consumer preference for a more robust and appealing product such as fibre cement.
Currently, the fibre cement siding market is valued at $13.2 billion and expected to reach $20.3 billion by the end of 2025.
CFoam said coal-derived carbon foam could become a more environment-friendly alternative over time.
Carbon for a cleaner economy
At the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology, CFoam is participating in a research project which seeks to explore how carbon-based building materials can support the government’s commitment to a cleaner economy.
The institute’s research team plans to deploy carbon foams as core materials for all composite buildings, with a prime focus on residential housing.
Under the partnership, CFoam will supply carbon nanotube composite panels featuring a one-step formation which may have potential for low-cost mass production.
The panels provide a non-combustible, acoustically-absorbent, compression-carrying core claimed to be more suited to building use compared to polymeric foams which lack the same attributes.
Additionally, the panels’ electro-thermal capabilities could be leveraged to allow both heating and cooling in a building, instead of running separate systems.