News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Meaden & Moore

Metro RTA


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Science and Technology




Exploradio - A start-up's steep climb
The rocky road from lab bench to factory floor is littered with could-have-beens, but that's not stopping one Akron start-up
by WKSU's JEFF ST. CLAIR
This story is part of a special series.


Reporter / Host
Jeff St. Clair
 
A gecko's foot shows the filaments that give the lizard its amazing sticking ability. Researchers in Akron are commercializing their version of gecko tape.
Courtesy of U. of Akron
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:
New products usually have three phases on the way to commercial use. First is discovery, then the steep learning curve to pilot production, and finally the jump to full-scale production.

In this week’s Exploradio, we look at some of the challenges of taking an idea from the lab bench to the factory floor.
Exploradio - Gecko tape

Other options:
MP3 Download (3:59)


(Click image for larger view.)

The steep climb

In a kingdom in ancient India geckos were used in combat, according to Ali Dhinojwala …

“There was a ruler named Suwaji  and his army was using geckos to scale the vertical cliffs and that’s how they used to attack the fortresses.”

Dhinojwala teaches polymer science at the University of Akron, but his interest in the powers of geckos has led to a new start-up company with its own steep cliff to climb.

Dhinojwala and former student Sunny Sehti , now with his PhD, developed a carbon-nanotube tape based on the clinging powers of the gecko lizard.  They now intend to take their invention to market.    

“Something that we do on a small scale in the lab is not necessarily a sure shot that it will actually work in a commercial enterprise.  Are we going to make money out of it?  Are we going to be able to make large quantities of the stuff?  So there a lot of challenges.”

The new company, ADAP Nanotech, rents space at the Akron Global business incubator.  Partner Sunny Sehti describes his plans for the now empty production facility.

“Since our equipment is really big, they will be breaking this wall here and putting a big door like this, 6 feet wide, so we can get stuff here and in the lab.”

Once the wall is knocked out, Sehti will install custom-built, high-temperature furnaces to make the carbon nanotube tape on a larger scale. It’s a purchase made possible thanks to a quarter-million dollar investment from local venture capital firm JumpStart. 

“After JumpStart’s investment we were able to buy some bigger furnaces and we’ll be turning this lab into a pilot-scale production facility.”

Investing in an idea

The gecko tape they plan to make here won’t be used as tape. With help from business advisors, ADAP’s Dhinojwala identified a more promising market for their invention. 

“And so we decided that the perfect application would be for making your computers cool down rapidly.”  

It’s called thermal management.  And it turns out that carbon nanotubes in the tape are the best material for moving heat away from computers, or laptops, even smart-phone processors. 

It’s this potential use that made ADAP an attractive investment for JumpStart’s Lee Poseidon.

“We think it’s going to revolutionize that market because you can now have electronics that work and dissipate a lot more heat and that’s the gating factor in the processing speed of electronics today.  They generate far too much heat for the size of the footprint.” 

Poseidon estimates only three out of every 10 start-ups survive beyond two years.  But he says he invests not just in promising ideas but in promising people.

“Great ideas can’t really be executed well without great people and you really need both parts of that equation.”

That puts a lot of pressure on Sunny Sehti.

“So my work is mainly building the technology, but I also present to investors, and I write proposals, and do lab experiments, accounting, legal stuff, a lot of things.”

Producing people

Meanwhile Ali Dhinojwala plans to stick with teaching.  He says he will advise Sehti and ADAP Nanotech, but he’s interested in a different product.

“My product here is not whether I make a tape out of this thing or make a company called ADAP Nanotech, but my main product is my students (who) become successful…that’s my product and I want to continue doing that.”

ADAP Nanotech will begin pilot production of the gecko tape in the next couple of months. Output will jump from the few centimeters produced in the lab to several thousand square inches per day in the pilot plant.  If they’re successful, full-scale production could happen in a couple years, otherwise, it’s back to the lab for ADAP Nanotech.

I’m Jeff St. Clair with this week’s Exploradio.


Related Links & Resources
ADAP Nanotech

Akron business incubator


Related WKSU Stories

Exploradio - Orchid obsessions
Monday, February 20, 2012

Exploradio - Outwitting ice
Monday, February 13, 2012

Exploradio: From the belly of the beast
Monday, September 30, 2013

Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook



Support for Exploradio
provided by:








Stories with Recent Comments

HOF's Canton expansion could take an island and make it a village
I live in the block from Broad St to the Hall of Fame and will be impacted by the expansion. I am in the process of selling my home and planned to long before i...

Cleveland redeploys police to replace rejected red-light traffic cameras
Periodic rotational enforcement without warning does NOT change behavior and the city officials know that. This is the basis of all officer-run enforcement trap...

New enrollment period offers more insurance options
The removal of federal funding for healthcare CO-OPs may limit the growth of the CO-OP movement. http://www.healthcaretownhall.com/?p=6381

The family of Boardman vet killed in Vietnam receives his medals
My name is Mike Eisenbraun. I am Larry's brother. I was 14 years old when Larry was killed in Vietnam. He has been gone for 46 years but it seems like yester...

Cleveland seniors are creating new wealth -- and facing new challenges
Why is anyone surprised that we people over 65 are not retiring? If you have been paying attention, defined company funded pensions were phasing out in the eigh...

Ohio company cuts off a dairy supplier after allegations of animal abuse
these people should be held accountable for their actions. i would be more than pleased to see a year or more behind bars. i will NEVER eat anything that comes ...

Goodyear recruits thousands of vets
What a wonderful interview! Excellent reporting skills by a talented young reporter! I look forward to hearing more from Ms. Schley!

Ohio Democratic Party begins the rebuilding process
I agree 100% with Sen. Brown. I think it is absolutely critical for the Democratic Party in Ohio to engage in the long, tedious, hard task of re-building from t...

They're talking again in the Macedonia bridge dispute
Norfolk Southern says the Ledge road bridge meets regulations for train traffic, however it was built as an overpass for a roadway and/or farm usage. I think t...

Cleveland City Council to consider transgender public restroom law
this is sick. I do not want my daughter in the same bathroom as a perverted 45 year old man. this proposed legislation could seriously damage the security of ch...

Copyright © 2014 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University