The College of Engineering and Applied Science’s (CEAS) spin-off company, General Nano, has been nominated for the prestigious Business Courier 2013 Innovation Awards. The young company, which manufactures nanoscale materials for aerospace and defense applications, licenses inventions from UC. Three patents of UC and General Nano’s nanotechnology breakthroughs are currently pending.
Mark Schulz, PhD and CEAS School of Dynamic Systems professor, Vesselin Shanov, PhD and CEAS School of Energy, Environmental, Biological and Medical Engineering associate professor,and Joe Sprengard, President and CEO of General Nano, founded the company in 2009. Based in Norwood, the firm specializes in developing carbon nanotube materials for aerospace and defense applications. Their customers include the Department of Defense, NASA, and numerous aerospace and defense original equipment manufacturers and Prime Contractors.
Carbon nanotubes are carbon atoms arranged in hexagonal patterns forming a tube. They are one hundred thousandth of the width of a human hair, possess twice the strength of any other engineering material on Earth, serve as excellent thermal and electrical conductors, and they house the potential to replace the use of copper and aluminum. In 2007, a UC research team led by Shanov was credited with creating the longest carbon nanotubes forests ever, measuring in at 18 millimeters.
General Nano’s exotic materials have been attracting the attention of numerous investors, including the US military. Recently, the Office of Naval Research awarded the company $1.3 million to conduct work on structural composites and energy storage devices over a span of two years.
The only nanotube materials that are currently commercially available are usually short in length and come in powder form to be used in coating and fillers. General Nano synthesizes the materials using a special catalyst particle—their “secret sauce,” if you will—that lasts significantly longer during the high temperature and pressure production process. This particle promotes the nanotubes to grow longer.
According to Sprengard, “General Nano’s sheet and tape products could replace copper and aluminum in some military systems. One reason is that in aerospace, everything is about weight and nanotubes weigh much less than either copper or aluminum.”