Tech and biotech: Middleton firm’s nanomaterial could wind up in airplanes

May 4, 2013 by  
Filed under Wind Energy Tips

Xolve, a Middleton company with a new way of producing graphene, said it has signed an agreement to work on projects with NTT Carbon Fiber Group, of London.

Xolve’s graphene will be inserted into epoxy resins that NTT Carbon Fiber can use to create products for the aerospace industry.

The result could be airplane component parts or even a wing of a plane, said Xolve president and chief executive John Biondi. But it could take anywhere from 18 months to five years to reach that point, he added.

Graphene, a nanomaterial made of carbon, is known for its strength and light weight. Xolve’s process makes a high-quality form of graphene believed to increase its effectiveness and cost less to manufacture.

Based on technology developed at UW-Platteville, Xolve has eight employees and could be up to 15 by the end of 2014, Biondi said.

He said the company is moving toward commercialization and hopes to have its first large-scale batch of graphene ready this summer. Biondi said a contract manufacturer will be named this spring.

Medical isotope project

SHINE Medical Technologies and Phoenix Nuclear Labs, both of Monona, say they’ve reached an important achievement on the road to manufacturing a critical medical isotope.

Phoenix said its neutron generators have created the appropriate level of fusion reactions to work with SHINE’s technology.

“We need to produce a certain number of neutrons per second in order to generate the quantity of molybdenum-99 that our customer, SHINE Medical, will be producing at the facility they’re building in Janesville,” said Evan Sengbusch, Phoenix’s vice president of business development.

When molybdenum-99 decays, it produces technetium-99m, used in imaging procedures performed on 55,000 patients a day to diagnose heart disease and cancer, and to study brain and kidney function.

“This milestone is a big step forward in proving that SHINE has a viable solution for securing a reliable supply of Mo-99 for millions of patients in the U.S.,” said SHINE chief executive Greg Piefer.

Phoenix, meanwhile, is involved in several other projects, as well. It has received a Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research contract for $150,000 with the Air Force Research Laboratory to design a neutron diffraction test platform that can be used to check the structural integrity of airplane components. Right now, that process is generally performed at large nuclear reactors, Sengbusch said.

Another $150,000 Phase 1 SBIR grant is from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop a device planned for use by the Fermi National Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., that will create charged particles for use in scientific research.

And Phoenix has installed its first neutron generator to be used for radiography at the U.S. Army Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey. The Army plans to use the system to examine artillery shells and other explosive materials to make sure they don’t have any defects.

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