Nanocomp Technologies, Inc., a developer of energy-saving performance materials and component products, today announced it has been awarded a Phase One contract by the United States Air Force under the Department of Defense’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The intent of this SBIR project is to develop a new generation of very lightweight, electrically conductive wires, cables and materials made from carbon nanotubes (CNTs). Under Phase One, Nanocomp Technologies will expand upon its current processing and manufacturing methods for producing CNT sheets and spun conductors, composed of long-length CNTs, to surpass established electrical performance standards required by aerospace to replace traditional copper wiring.
Copper wiring is used in electronic harnesses because of its proven history and excellent electrical conductivity. However, in modern aerospace systems, wiring deficiencies are becoming more apparent as functional demands increase. For example, today’s large satellites weighing 15 tons or more derive one-third of their weight from copper wiring harnesses. Similarly in commercial aircraft, a Boeing 747 uses as much as 135 miles of copper wire and weighs more than 4000 lbs. Copper wires also oxidize and corrode, are susceptible to vibration fatigue and create premature electronics failures due to overheating conditions.
Nanocomp Technologies’ carbon nanotubes are already distinguished by their long length - up to one millimeter. As a result, the company’s products are significantly more conductive in end applications as compared to short, powder-like nanotubes appearing in today’s market. In early 2008, Nanocomp began producing large CNT sheets that not only demonstrate value for a number of aerospace and electronics applications, but also will integrate directly into existing manufacturing processes in those industries.
“We are thrilled to have received this important program award from the USAF,” said Peter Antoinette, president and CEO of Nanocomp Technologies. “It is generally overlooked that modern satellites and aircraft rely upon an invention from the 1800s – copper-based electrical wires and cables. Our work can result in a true 21st century change in the game, creating electrically optimized carbon nanotube wires and cables, comparable to copper in terms of electrical conductivity but up to 80 percent lighter and more robust. The result will be increased mission capability for the Air Force and dramatic fuel savings for the entire aerospace industry. The project demonstrates the U.S. government’s commitment to enabling innovations in materials science, and speaks to their confidence in our cutting edge efforts to develop performance products that save energy.”
The SBIR program is funded by 12 federal agencies from their Research and Development budgets. It is designed to simultaneously stimulate technological innovation among private sector small businesses such as Nanocomp Technologies and increase the commercialization of new technology through federal R&D.