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Fuentek Marketing Plays a Role in Successful Nanotechnology Licensing at NASA

An innovative new process developed by NASA and marketed by Fuentek, LLC is making a big impact in nanotechnology. In early 2006, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (link opens new browser window) in Greenbelt, Maryland licensed its patented technique for manufacturing high-quality single-walled carbon nanotubes (CNTs) to Idaho Space Materials (ISM). As a result, CNTs based on this process can be more easily used in the next generation of composite polymers, metals, and ceramics that will impact almost every facet of life.

ISM founder Wayne Whitt was searching for an innovation with which to start an advanced materials company when he discovered the technology on Fuentek’s Web site in a catalog of technologies available for licensing. He contacted Fuentek consultant Nannette Stangle-Castor who quickly introduced him to Darryl Mitchell, the technology manager for the CNT process at Goddard’s Innovative Partnerships Program (IPP) Office (link opens new browser window).

"IPP leverages every opportunity for exposure we can when seeking to license a technology or identify partners. The success of Fuentek's marketing activities in finding a licensee for this technology clearly demonstrates the value Fuentek brings to Goddard's IPP Office,” said Darryl Mitchell.

About the Technology

One of the basic nanotechnology structures, a carbon nanotube is a graphite sheet one atomic layer thick of carbon that is wrapped on itself to create an extraordinarily long, thin, strong tube. Although CNTs were discovered more than 15 years ago, their use has been limited due to the complex, dangerous, and expensive methods for their production.

However, Goddard researcher Dr. Jeannette Benavides developed a simpler, safer, and much less costly manufacturing process for single-walled CNTs. The key to the innovation developed by Dr. Benavides, which recently received a Nano 50 Award from Nanotech Briefs, was the ability to produce bundles of CNTs without using a metal catalyst, dramatically reducing pre- and post-production costs while generating higher yields of better quality product.

“Licensing NASA’s technology allowed us to begin operations and rapidly commercialize an innovative product without the traditional R&D costs and time,” said Mr. Whitt, who founded ISM in Boise. “We were able to focus on process enhancement and commercialization, which resulted in significant improvements in yield and production capacity without sacrificing product quality.”

Having successfully commercialized NASA’s manufacturing process to increase production capacity while maintaining quality, ISM can produce single-walled CNTs at a rate of 50 grams per hour. These CNTs then can be used in a wide range of applications.

“ISM believes that carbon nanotubes will be a building block for a better world, making people’s lives better through a wide range of uses, including medical advances, fuel cells, video displays, solar cells, and a host of other applications,” explained ISM vice president Roger Smith. “Getting single-walled CNTs into the hands of researchers will help accelerate their transition from a conceptual idea to a practical product, and that’s why we offer our product at a reduced price for researchers.”

“I’m very excited to see that this agreement is now making CNTs more readily available, particularly for academic and other research programs,” said the recently retired Dr. Benavides, who demonstrated the technology to ISM and provided expertise during the company’s commercialization of her technology. “The fact that they now have access to lower cost CNTs bodes well for the future of nanotechnology.”

While the initial contact was made as a result of Fuentek’s marketing efforts, the technology transfer success was made possible by NASA’s Innovative Partnerships Program (IPP), which has a two-part focus: (1) forming partnerships between NASA and industry, academia, or other government agencies to support the space program and (2) transferring NASA technology to new applications.

“NASA is committed to working with small businesses so they may be successful. It’s good for technology, for NASA, and for the U.S. economy,” said Nona Minnifield Cheeks, chief of IPP’s office at Goddard. 

For More Information

To learn more about this technology transfer success, contact:

Fuentek, LLC
(919) 249-0327


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