While CNT core conductors made from Nanocomp's braided yarn rival copper for high-frequency data conductivity, the company's non-woven sheets and tapes can be used for structural reinforcement, lightning-strike protection, electromagnetic shielding, deicing heater mats and even battery electrodes.
“The primes make the initial pass, and put the material through qualification, then they tell us about their supply chain,” Antoinette says. “At the same time, we went to the wire and cable companies serving aerospace and showed them we can reduce weight 60-70%, with materials that drop right into their processes,” he says. “They've had nothing new to offer for years. Now we are re-introducing them to their customers. You have to play all sides.”
Nanocomp is now at the beginning of an expansion phase. “Several aerospace companies have taken our products to a technology readiness level of 6 and are ready to go, in both satellites and aircraft,” says Antoinette. Commercial avionics providers are showing customers data-network and inflight entertainment applications using Nanocomp's CNT core conductors and shielding to reduce cable weights.
The company has opened a 30,000-sq.-ft. pilot plant in Merrimack, N.H., and has capacity for further expansion “when we understand where we are in the adoption cycle,” he says. With higher production rates will come lower costs. “We're about four times the cost of current cable, but at 60% weight savings, no fatigue fracture and no bend restrictions, we are at the threshold for adoption. Within the next 24 months we will be at a nice price point.”
As an investor in the $25 million Series C financing round now underway, DuPont plans to use CNT materials in its ballistic-protection and honeycomb core-structures markets. “DuPont brings us money, market access and help in scaling up,” says Antoinette.
Nanocomp, meanwhile, continues to invest in R&D. While the Merrimack plant focuses on customers and production, the company has maintained its original Concord facility as an advanced development center. “We don't want to get sucked into the application side and lose our technology lead,” says Antoinette.