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Metal Rubber From NanoSonic

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  • RemyC
    From: http://www.mdatechnology.net/techsearch.asp?articleid=634#listing Spinoff Technology: # 634 December 2004 Metal RubberTM Contact Information: Richard
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 3, 2005

      Spinoff Technology: # 634

      December 2004

      Metal RubberTM

      Contact Information:
      Richard Claus
      NanoSonic, Inc.
      1485 South Main Street
      Blacksburg, VA 24060
      (540) 953-1785 Fax:(540) 953-5022
      roclaus@ nanosonic.com


      NanoSonic, Inc. (Blacksburg, VA), used modifications of its electrostatic
      self-assembly (ESA) process to develop a new flexible, conductive, and
      environmentally robust material called Metal RubberTM. MDA funded the
      company to develop optical thin-film coatings and materials using processes
      similar to those used to form Metal Rubber. Potential applications include
      using Metal Rubber as flexible interconnects or strain sensors for the
      missile defense system's large, flexible communication and tracking
      platforms. Near-term, the material may also be used in flexible circuits and
      strain sensors for consumer electronics and aerospace applications.

      Technology Description:

      NanoSonic developed Metal Rubber using modifications of its room temperature
      ESA (see ''NanoSonic Demonstrates Self-Assembly Process'' MDA Update Summer
      2001) manufacturing process. This automated process can produce thin-film
      coatings and free-standing materials with nanoscale-level molecular
      uniformity. In its most basic form, ESA involves dipping a substrate into
      aqueous solutions containing anionic and cationic materials such as polymer
      complexes; metal and oxide nanoclusters; cage-structured molecules such as
      fullerenes; and proteins and other biomolecules. Individual molecules
      seeking least energy configurations-the tendency of any substance to change
      to the state of least energy-achieve nearly perfect molecular order in
      multiple deposited layers. Absorbed from the water solutions, these
      molecules bond with others already attached at the substrate surface as the
      coating grows layer by layer. The properties of the resulting materials are
      dependent upon the constituents incorporated into each of the layers, and
      the order of the layers deposited.

      The resulting self-assembled multilayer multifunctional materials are
      fundamentally different from similar materials formed using conventional
      manufacturing methods. For example, conventional thermal management
      materials blend flexible, conducting matrix materials and highly thermal
      conducting fill molecules. This requires a high percentage of micron-size
      filler, which sacrifices the mechanical properties of the material. Instead,
      NanoSonic can use its modified ESA manufacturing process to create
      nanocomposites, which effectively combine the matrix and filler in a way
      that preserves the mechanical properties of the matrix. This process enables
      the fabrication of nanocomposites such as Metal Rubber, which can be made
      using only parts per million of metal thus reducing the cost. Metal Rubber
      also incorporates an elastomeric polymer backbone, which enables it to
      stretch up to 300 percent its size and then recover its original shape and
      conductivity. The chemical process also allows NanoSonic to design Metal
      Rubber's characteristics (conductivity and modulus) to meet specific
      engineering requirements.

      BMD Origins:

      MDA originally funded NanoSonic's use of its modified ESA process to develop
      nonlinear optical (NLO) thin films and electrically conducting claddings for
      optoelectronic devices, which can be used in systems to replace mechanical
      telecommunications components and improve speed and reliability. Funding was
      also provided to demonstrate the feasibility of using similar processes to
      integrate such multiple functions as electro-mechanical actuation,
      semiconductor junction-based signal processing, thermal transport, and
      optical switching and modulation into nanostructured organic/inorganic
      thin-film actuator materials, all of which have potential use in spacecraft
      materials, structures, instrumentation, communications and control.

      Metal Rubber may also be used as flexible electronic or mechanical
      interconnects or as structural health monitoring sensors in the missile
      defense system. Lockheed Martin Corporation recently signed an alliance
      agreement with NanoSonic due in part to interest in its novel materials and
      their processing. There may be potential to use Metal Rubber in the
      development of flexible, conductive, radiation-resistant components such as
      interconnects for flexible communication and tracking platforms. Flexible
      aerospace structures also require flexible strain sensors. Conventional
      electrical or optical fiber strain gages typically debond, or fall off the
      surface of highly elastic structures as they are deformed. Metal
      Rubber-based sensors instead could deform elastically and follow the shape
      of the structure without debonding.

      Spinoff Applications:

      As a flexible, electrically conducting material, Metal Rubber has multiple
      applications in numerous markets. The material could be used in something
      new like flexible space components, or in already existing devices like
      laptops and cell phones, or even in cutting-edge research and development
      such as electrodes for artificial muscles. A search on the Internet yields
      additional visionary ideas like morphing aircraft wings, flexible roll-up
      keyboards, or Metal Rubber jackets that get longer or shorter according to
      the temperature. But, for now, NanoSonic is focused on more near-term
      applications such as flexible circuits, interconnects, and strain sensors,
      and on-going research and development projects in artificial muscles.

      Flexible Circuits: A major problem with electronic devices that bend or
      stretch, such as components in laptops or cell phones, is that the
      conventional flexible circuits that connect the base with the screen will
      fail with too much use. The circuits are more bendable than flexible; they
      cannot be elongated or strained because they cannot mechanically recover.
      Metal Rubber is much more robust than typical flexible circuits. The
      conductive material is capable of stretching up to 300 percent its original
      size and fully recovering its original shape and conductivity without

      Flexible Interconnects and Strain Sensors: Metal Rubber may also be used as
      flexible interconnects or strain sensors in the missile defense system.
      Possible uses may include interconnects for flexible communication and
      tracking platforms. Flexible aerospace structures may also require flexible
      strain sensors. Conventional strain gages debond, or fall off the surface of
      the structure as it changes shape. Metal Rubber could deform elastically and
      follow the shape of the structure without debonding.

      Thus, NanoSonic is investigating the use of Metal Rubber as a strain sensor.
      With the material's good stress/strain linearity and large deformation range
      (several 100 percent strain), it could be used as the jacketing or coating
      for cables used in wiring harnesses. Instead of having to assess each
      conductor of the actual cable, a maintenance technician would inspect only
      the Metal Rubber sensor jacket to determine if the cable had been somehow

      Artificial Muscles: It may also be possible to apply Metal Rubber to the
      development of motion-producing devices called artificial muscles. NASA's
      Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Naval Research Laboratory and other groups,
      companies and universities in the U.S. and worldwide are involved in such
      development. When stimulated electrically, artificial muscle materials react
      by flexing and changing shape and could replace bulky motors,
      electromagnets, and other actuators. But metal wires, which are not as
      flexible as the artificial muscle material, need to be attached to provide
      the electric signals to make the material move.

      NanoSonic President Rick Claus has been a speaker at recent technical
      conferences and has described the benefits of using Metal Rubber instead of
      conventional metal wires as flexible, low-modulus electrodes and
      interconnects for artificial muscle materials and devices. To overcome their
      relative inability to be strained without failure, multiple metal wires are
      typically used to instrument such materials, but the weight of the wiring is
      significant, and their inflexibility constricts material motion. Instead,
      NanoSonic's Metal Rubber may be a low-weight, robust replacement that can
      match the movements of the artificial muscles while conducting required
      electrical charge.


      NanoSonic is working with many well-known government contractors and
      recently signed an alliance agreement with Lockheed Martin Corporation to
      develop technology for aerospace and defense applications. The company is
      discussing manufacturing possibilities that include establishing a
      manufacturing facility outside of its current location and licensing
      manufacturing processes to interested companies for applications in specific
      fields of use.

      NanoSonic is selling Metal Rubber material while supplies last. The company
      has many requests for samples, but needs funding to scale up its
      manufacturing capabilities to keep up with the demand. The company also
      needs funding to explore other useful but thus far unavailable
      multifunctional materials that can be created using similar modifications of
      the manufacturing process.

      Company Profile:

      Founded in 1998, NanoSonic uses advanced self-assembly manufacturing
      processes to synthesize ultra-uniform, nanometer-thick layers of material
      into multifunctional thick coatings, free-standing thick films, and bulk
      materials for commercial and government applications. Currently, NanoSonic
      has a 10,000-square-foot building that houses offices, research and
      development, and manufacturing capabilities. The company employs 51 people.
      Its 2003 revenues were approximately $4 million.

      Note: The Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) and the Strategic
      Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) are predecessors of the Missile
      Defense Agency (MDA).
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