Pyrograf III and Black Ice are hardly household names among the casually tech-savvy. But in the rarified circles of research scientists and high-tech braintrusts, the products pioneered by Cedarville-based Applied Sciences Inc. are considered integral to the next wave of technological wonders.
Those are just two of several products turned out by ASI, a pioneer in nanofiber technology. Founded in 1984 by defense researchers with funding from the state, the company was producing carbon nanofibers -- in reality, nanotubes -- before the term was actually coined.
Offering low-density, high-strength attributes as well as unique qualities in thermal and electrical conductivity, nanofibers are omnipresent in almost all electronics today. Because of those unique properties, they have a wide range of applications, from medical and industrial products to aerospace uses, energy storage and computer components. And ASI was in on the ground floor.
"When people were making milligram samples of nanofibers in labs, we were already applying an industrial model, assuring quality control and making huge quantities of nanofibers," says the company's director of research and development, Dave Burton.
ASI's Pryograf line is now the gold standard for improving the electrical, thermal and mechanical properties of polymer-based materials. Black Ice, a "thermally hyper-conductive diamond/carbon/carbon composite" incorporates a thin, diamond coating to the fibers that the company has developed with its partner, Nano Graphite Materials Inc.
Well suited for electrical systems that require high heat dissipation, Black Ice is seen as a key component for the next generation of compact, high-power electronics like smartphones and electronic tablets -- it was recently named one of the 100 most technologically significant new products by R&D Magazine.
Meanwhile, the work continues at ASI, with its horizons ever-expanding.
"Initially, there were only a few applications that we targeted for nanofibers, but as time goes by we keep finding more and more uses," adds Burton. "Every month, we get calls from someone else who want to use our products for applications that no one has thought of. It's a constantly growing field."
Source: Dave Burton, Applied Sciences Inc.
Writer: Dave Malaska