ALD NanoSolutions, Inc.
Incorporated in 2001, this Colorado-based company has developed state of the art ALD techniques that have resulted in over 50 industrial partnerships. The company also has exclusive licensing rights for the intellectual property on ALD techniques developed at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The company has patented its Particle ALD™ , Polymer ALD™ and ALD onto MEMs/NEMs technology (the patents have issued in the U.S., Europe, and Japan).
There is increasing interest in using nanoparticles and nanomaterials to provide improved, more customized solutions to industry. The coating of these substrates provides improved functionalities, such as wear resistance, corrosion resistance, scratch resistance, hardness, hydrophobicity, hydrophilicity, catalytic activity, etc.. However, successful large-scale production of conformal thin coatings or films on substrates has been a significant commercial challenge. Conventional techniques such as chemical vapor deposition have been commercially employed to produce nanocoatings but suffer from drawbacks such as agglomeration of nanoparticles on the substrate (which often deactivates the functionality of the coated material), non-uniform coatings, line of sight dependency and wastage of valuable precursors.
In this context, ALD NanoSolutions’ inventions are notable. The Company has been the first to develop the novel Particle ALDTM technique that produces conformal, uniform, pinhole free, high purity, inorganic nanocoatings on the surface of dry individual nanoparticles. To achieve this, the research team at ALD NanoSolutions efficiently synchronized the unique fluidization characteristic of nanoparticles known as dynamic aggregation and the self-limiting sequential surface reaction provided by the ALD technique. The Particle ALDTM process is carried out in a fluidized bed reactor making it easily scalable. The thickness of the coating produced via this technique is independent of the time, flux or location in the fluidized bed reactor. In addition, the coating is chemically bonded to the particulate substrate.
This technique can be employed to produce passivated magnetic nanometals that have applications in areas such as drug delivery, magnetic resonance imaging materials, and powdered magnetic cores. The technique can also be used in developing thermal fillers with improved properties, improved battery systems, polymer/ceramic nanocomposites, improved lighting materials, low-energy high-sensitivity sensors, thermites, dental fillers, catalytic materials and quantum tunneling surge protection devices.
The company has also introduced a variant of the Particle ALDTM process called Polymer ALDTM through which is it possible to deposit inorganic nanocoatings on either polymer particles or substrates, independent of the chemistry or shape of the polymer. The coating process is carried out at low temperatures. Hermetically sealing OLED devices used in making flexible displays is an example of the compelling applications for this technique.
ALD NanoSolutions has developed reactors ranging from pilot to small production scale that can produce nanocoated particles. The company is able to increase its reactor capacity 10X depending on customer demand.
To date, the company has received over $7M Phase I and Phase II awards from funding agencies such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to develop specific applications for its ALD technique. So far, ALD NanoSolutions has validated and demonstrated the success of the technique by converting seven of the Phase I programs to Phase II.
The Company has received numerous recognition awards, including a 2004 R&D 100 Award for Particle ALD and the 2006 Frost and Sullivan Award for Excellence in Technology in Advanced Coatings and Surface Technologies.