Just five years ago, Concord, New Hampshire-based Nanocomp Technologies was a budding company branching from technology development company Synergy Innovations. The company, started by Peter Antoinette and Dave Lashmore, began making long, individual carbon nanotubes and fashioning them into yarn and sheet material for various segments within the composites industry.
“We began as a typical start-up. I had the business background and Dave had the technical background and was full of ideas,” says CEO Peter Antoinette. “We started with just the two of us and now we’ve built it up to 35 people.” The small company started with the idea to create specific nanotube-based components that engineers could use, instead of producing bulk product. That way, according to Antoinette, the customer can use the product more quickly. “For example, a customer doesn’t have to worry about how to integrate the nanotube sheet because we are able to pre-preg resin right into it,” he says.
The pair first focused their attention on carbon yarn. Although the process is proprietary, Antoinette says the grown, harvested and furnace-spun nanotubes are different because the company is pushing the scale of how long the yarn can be, yet still retain the same characteristics found at the nanoscale. “We go from fuel to nanotube to yarn or sheet in one apparatus,” he says.
Nanocomp believes this product will be valuable in applications such as replacing copper wire. “The yarn is 90 percent lighter than copper,” explains Antoinette. “On an aircraft like the Boeing 787 there is 61 miles of cable; if we can replace that wire it will reduce the aircraft payload more than 1,000 pounds –that’s a big savings factor. Also, one-third of a satellite’s weight is copper. We see composite yarn as a 21st century solution to an ongoing aerospace challenge.