Applied Nanotech Holdings is a research and commercialization that has developed a process involving multi-walled carbon nanotubes (CNTs) which it says could help products increase their mechanical properties even while weighing less.
How does your firm fit into the composites industry?
We learned how to handle blocks of CNTs and put them together to make a material whose properties are tailored in what we call assembling processes in three dimensions. Afterward, we worked more towards commercialization, so we developed a new material that has a specific application to large-volume applications. This is accomplished with nanocomposites using CNTs to enhance certain qualities of carbon fiber reinforced polymers (CFRPs) or glass fiber reinforced polymers (GFRPs).
What was your first market?
We first worked in sporting goods applications to make products stronger and lighter. We discovered that you can integrate enough CNTs to make up only 1 to 2 percent of the product yet still create improvements in mechanical properties. We understood that CNTs must be dispersed and functionalized individually in order to spread well into an epoxy matrix such that when force is applied on the final product, a part of the stress is transferred to the CNT.
That was our first success. Since then, we’ve licensed the technology, at least territorially, to a large sporting goods company. We’ll receive royalties and now we’re assembling it for other applications from construction to defense.
Why did you target sporting goods initially?
Even if we had a good idea, we couldn’t implement it if we didn’t have an identified strategic partner with an issue we could solve. It also had to be a sector with a large market potential, which happened to be sporting goods. Now, we are approached by companies for bridge materials and aerospace.
What opportunities exist in those markets?
Within all of these industries, they want to use less weight, less gas, and they’re looking for portable and flexible applications. In the aerospace industry, the new Dreamliner is an example of a shift toward using more composites; the car industry is moving along that path as well.
What challenges have you encountered working with manufacturers?
Companies are worried about their commercial success, and as a result, sometimes don’t give us all the data we need to understand what to do for them for fear of sharing proprietary information. So if the CNTs are not functionalized properly, or the penetration of the epoxy enhanced into the fiber is not proper, the final material will have visible defects and no mechanical enhancement. Good communication is essential when working with another party.