Norman Company Prepares to Go Public with Nano-Products

Article excerpt

The deep chasm that technology companies must traverse as they commercialize their science continues to shrink for one Oklahoma business.

In fact, call that chasm a decreasingly smaller fissure.

SouthWest NanoTechnologies (SWeNT) in Norman, which was founded in 2001 from research developed at the University of Oklahoma, continues finding success in the coatings and composites industries. SWeNT, as a producer of carbon nanotubes, not only manufactures its technology, but is providing it in product form that gives customers a smoother path to begin using it.

Carbon nanotubes can be called the basic building block of nanotechnology - nano-scale technology that is used to make many things stronger, stiffer, lighter, smarter and more conductive.

"We've put into place large-scale production that allows for consistent quality, affordable pricing and availability of these materials in significant quantity," said David Arthur, chief executive officer of SWeNT. "Then we're going above and beyond that and making them available in product form that makes them safer and easier to use."

SWeNT's success also is spurring it closer to one of its longtime goals: taking the company public. Arthur said his goal is to go public in the next few years. The company's next equity fundraiser will begin this spring, and Arthur said he hopes it's the last such fundraiser before going public.

SWeNT's carbon nanotubes in coatings and composites have broad applications across a number of industries, Arthur said. SWeNT's materials are used in printed electrodes for more energy-efficient lighting products, more affordable solar panel products and higher- powered, higher-energy battery products, he said. And carbon nanotubes are used to make stronger, stiffer, lighter and smarter polymer composite structures, including bridges, wind turbine blades and several military and avionics applications.

But selling to those industries requires the removal of some barriers, Arthur said. When SWeNT wasn't seeing its carbon nanotubes get commercially adopted at the rate it wanted to see, it put its materials in a form that customers could better use, Arthur said, which has made a tremendous difference.

When a customer wanted to use SWeNT's materials in a coatings application, SWeNT developed coatable, printable ink formulations that contain carbon nanotubes. The customer can than insert that into standard equipment platforms, Arthur said. In the composites area, if a customer wants to use carbon nanotubes in fabrics, SWeNT coats the nanotubes into the fabric, taking an intermediate step toward its adoption rather than expecting customers to figure it out by themselves. …