In an earlier article we discussed a company called Nanosteel which is targeting the auto industry with a new steel enabled by nanotechnology which is stronger and lighter than the standard steels used today. In a 2012 report by The Fredonia Group, it is estimated that the worldwide demand for nanomaterials is expected to rise 250% to $5.5 billion in 2016. One other company looking to enter the lucrative nanomaterials market is Modumetal.
Founded in 2007, Seattle based Modumetal is a venture capital backed company which closed its latest round of funding in 2012 with backing from the likes of Chevron Technology Ventures, ConocoPhillips, and Sunshine Tech Limited. Chevron is not only an investor but also a customer. The Company targets the protective coatings market which is driven by cost sensitivities and environmental regulation concerns. In 2012, Modumetal added Siemens as a customer and began a joint venture with Steel Dynamics, all the while ramping up a full production line.
Modumetal is unique in that it grows its metal product in a tank full of acid. Various scraps of metal are dissolved in acid and then recreated with a series of electric charges that alter the atomic structure of the metal. Using electric charges, the metals are shaped as they grow so they conform to a mold placed inside the tank. Alternatively for coatings, an item is placed in a tank containing metal ions. Specialized electrical currents are then applied to bind specific ions to the item with varying degrees of currents binding specific ions.
The result is a layered nanolaminate structure that is applied to the item.
The company targets a number four main areas with their technology; infrastructure, coatings, thermal barriers, and armor. For infrastructure, Modumetal looks to create key component parts of structures for less, with greater durability and longer life cycles. For their coatings offering, Modumetal looks to reduce corrosion and repair costs in oil and gas facilities, maritime materials, pulp and paper industries, and infrastructure. Their thermal barriers offering will provide high temp alloys that can be used in propulsion systems, power turbines, aerospace, and other high temperature products. Lastly their armor segment will provide advanced light-weight materials that are as strong as steel and that can sustain rugged use and abuse.
Modumetal has won numerous awards over the past years including Cera Innovation Pioneer 2012, Red Herring 2011 Top-10 Startup, Alliance of Angels 2010 company of the year, and was highlighted last year by Lux Research as a rising star in protective coatings. While the company has maintained a low profile so far, it certainly merits watching going forward.