The World’s Oldest and Biggest Nanotechnology Company
When George W. Bush signed the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act in 2003, it wasn’t too long after that before investors began driving up the price of any stock that contained any variation of the word nanotechnology. In a previous article, we highlighted 6 companies that used the hype surrounding nanotechnology to burn through vast amounts of money before leaving investors holding the proverbial bag. However, not all nanotechnology companies that were around prior to 2004 have perished. One company that claims to be the oldest nanotechnology company around, Zyvex Technologies, was just acquired yesterday by OCSiAl in what has been described as the creation of the world’s largest nanotechnology company.
Zyvex was founded in 1997, as the first molecular nanotechnology company with the vision of developing atomically precise manufacturing. Over the years, Zyvex became structured as a holding company having three entities; Zyvex Technologies, Zyvex Labs, and Zyvex Instruments (sold to DCG Systems). Of the remaining two entities, Zyvex Technologies is the most promising having 10 years of development history behind the chemistry of carbon nanomaterial additives. Out of this research was born Kentera™, the trade name for Zyvex Technologies’ unique chemistry that creates ‘bridges’ between nanomaterials and resin systems. By 2007, the Kentera platform had already been used to commercialize several products. One of the Company’s products, Arovex®, is a carbon fiber prepreg which shows superior properties when compared to widely adopted competing materials as seen below:
Another product which was introduced in 2010 is Epovex, a next generation adhesive that incorporates carbon nanotubes into a 2-part epoxy adhesive that shows superior properties when compared to other competing adhesives:
Zyvex Technologies is targeting many applications across many industries. In 2012, Zyvex partnered with ENVE Composites to build new mountain bike rims, powered by Arovex®, which reduced fractures per season from 75 to zero. Typically aluminum rims were changed 180 times per season, but the new Mountain DH rims were used without replacement for an entire season, and carried ENVE-sponsored rider Greg Minnaar to victory at the 2012 World Cup opener in South Africa. This is a very niche market though, as these rims are made for downhill mountain bike racers who will need to part with around $1000 to ride on one of these rims.
In the aerospace industry, Zyvex developed a new carbon fiber variant of Arovex® for one of the largest global aerospace manufacturers for use in commercial engines. The nano-composite was tested against other composites over a period of two years and came out ahead of all other composites with +42% toughness, 0% weight gain, and competitive pricing. Nothing is said about adoption of this product following the test.
In what seems to be well outside the bounds of a materials company, in 2010 Zyvex Technologies produced the world’s first commercialized carbon nanotube enhanced unmanned boat named “the Piranha unmanned surface vessel“. Estimated to cost around $2 million, the Piranha claimed to offer a 75% reduction in fuel consumption costs due to the lightweight carbon hull, translating to increased range and lower operating costs. While the Company sold their first 54-foot lightweight boat in 2011, not much has been said since about the success the Company is having with future sales of this unique craft. If the hull is that efficient, why restrict it only to unmanned boats?
Zyvex seems to be following suit with past nanomaterial companies that target niche applications across multiple industries in hopes of capturing as much opportunity as quickly as possible. For some firms with truly innovative materials technology, an “Intel inside” approach may work where a licensing model is used to receive royalties off the product development efforts of others. For other firms, trying to target too many industry verticals leads to a lack focus and none of them manage to capture meaningful revenues. In this case Zyvex’s technology and products must have shown some promise for OCSiAl to purchase them though nothing is disclosed about the actual purchase price. Zyvex appears to have had around 13 employees when acquired bringing the total employees for the combined company to 160.
In a coming article, we’ll take a closer look at the acquiring company OCSiAl, a company that unveiled in November 2013 the world’s largest industrial plant for the synthesis of single walled carbon nanotubes (up to 10 tons per year).