CEO Interview: Richard Czerw, NanoTechLabs

A lot of the 'hype' over nano is diminishing, and people are looking more for product performance improvements and cost reduction.

Q: Where is your technology finding a home?

A: Our company, Nano TechLabs focuses on the development and production of military and commercial products using nanotechnology. Currently we produce nanotubes, nanowires, nanoparticles and specialty chemicals.

We provide an additive for the oil industry to increase oil recovery. We also have several products under evaluation for electromagnetic shielding (EMI), primarily for the DoD aerospace market. EMI shielding is our primary target market.

Q: How are these products an improvement in the manufacturing process?

A: Currently metallic foils, grids, or coatings are used but they are generally difficult and costly to incorporate in the manufacturing process. They also add considerable weight back in and have corrosion and CTE (coefficient of thermal expansion) problems. Our products can be directly incorporated into the manufacturing process as part of the composite layup saving labor, reducing weight, and eliminating corrosion and CTE problems.

Q: How do you address the issue of safety with regard to concerns that have arisen over the use of these nanomaterials?

A: We do not generally sell raw nanomaterial to our customers. Normally, we sell an intermediary such as a polymer blend or a "prepreg." This significantly reduces the risk, and generally our customers are comfortable dealing with the materials in these forms. We have done toxicity testing and some manufacturing testing and have also been working with NIOSH. There is still a lot of uncertainty with regard to the EPA.

In order to address global legal, regulatory, environmental, health, and safety issues related to the responsible commercialization of their products, last year, 12 companies involved in the commercialization of carbon nanomaterials and products announced the formation of the NanoSafety Consortium for Carbon.

Q: Looking ahead over the next few years how do you see your products, and the field in general changing?

A: A lot of the "hype" over nano is diminishing, and people are looking more for product performance improvements and cost reduction. I think nanomaterials will become more accepted and common in the marketplace. There are still significant challenges in manufacturing and cost reduction ahead.

Q: What is the growth module for this field?

A: I see a lot of growth in the next 30 years as the military increases its application of this technology. Part of the reason is that unlike commercial applications which must be done on a very large scale, the military can operate at a smaller scale. The government has a National Nanotechology Initiative, begun in 2001, that involves the nanotechnology-related activities of 25 Federal agencies, 15 of which have specific budgets for nanotechnology R&D.

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