SouthWest NanoTechnologies in Norman Develops into Company That Grows Nanotubes

Article excerpt

In 2001, a privately held specialty chemical company was formed in Norman to adopt technology evolving from research at the University of Oklahoma.

From that marriage of private and public resources, SouthWest NanoTechnologies has developed into a company that sells single- wall carbon nanotubes for $500 per gram to customers in the United States, Korea, Japan and Germany, said Daniel E. Resasco, founder and chief scientist for SouthWest NanoTechnologies, as well as the S.A. Wilson Professor of Chemical Engineering and George Lynn Cross Professor, School of Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering at OU.

There are many other groups in the world producing nanotubes, he said. But we are the only group growing nanotubes in a controlled environment.

The technology was developed at the OU Energy Center by a research team led by Resasco, who has pioneered a process that should dramatically lower the price of mass-producing single-wall carbon nanotubes.

Controlled production allows the nanotubes to be grown in circles on a silicon wafer or in lines.

This is what got people in electronics very excited, he said.

Single wall nanotubes are in demand because of their electrical, thermal and mechanical properties. They conduct heat better than any other known material and can carry electrical currents 100 times greater than copper.

They may be mixed with polymers to make nanocomposites, which prevent the build-up of electric charges during chip packing - an important consideration in the semiconductor industry.

Nanotubes are 100,000 times smaller than a human hair, Resasco said. They have an extremely narrow diameter but can be very long.

Because of the size, nanotubes are in demand from various industries including computer and semiconductor companies. Companies like Samsung and Canon are very interested in nanotubes, he said. Boeing, Lockheed Martin and other big players in aerospace are interested because of the strength and light weight of nanotubes.

The next generation of materials is based on nanotubes, Resasco said. The strength of nanotubes is 100 times stronger than steel and five times lighter.

Exploratory research is conducted in laboratories at OU. SouthWest NanoTechnologies handles the manufacturing at its facility at 2360 Industrial Blvd. …