Thursday, June 21, 2012

NanoSteel wins fifth R&D 100 award from R&D Magazine

NanoSteel's unassuming applications engineering shop on Shoup Avenue, in downtown Idaho Falls.
Nanosteel, a 10-year-old company with its roots in the Idaho National Laboratory, has received its fifth R&D 100 award from R&D Magazine.

This year, the company has been recognized for NPM 3100, a new class of high-strength nano-structured stainless steel in powdered form. Because the steel molecules of this substance are 10 times smaller than the molecules in any other stainless steel on the market, parts made from it are much more resistant to corrosion and wear.

Nanosteel's corporate headquarters are in Providence, R.I., but its research and development and applications engineering take place at two locations in Idaho Falls, one off Hitt Road and the other downtown, across Shoup Avenue from the Frosty Gator. The company was started by Dan Branagan, who took processes and patents he developed at the INL and spun them out for licensing to industry.

Company spokesman Greg Nixon said NPM 3100 is already for sale, but a full product rollout still has to take place. He said it should be particularly useful in the oil and gas industry for pipeline and slurry valves. The company has also been involved in "hard banding" metallic coatings for drill pipes.

NanoSteel employs 13 full-time people in Idaho Falls. "Everything originates in Idaho," Nixon said.

Earlier this week, the company announced it has developed three classes of advanced high-strength steel that will give automakers new ways to safely stretch steel in the design of lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles. “Previously, sheet steel made of nano-structures was considered too brittle (no elongation) to form the shapes required for automotive parts," Branagan said. NanoSteel’s materials are based on newly discovered mechanisms to form nano-structures during production which eliminate the cause of this brittleness.”

By using conventional steel processes and avoiding the use of exotic alloying elements, it also should allow the auto industry to continue using the steel industry’s existing infrastructure. This would preserve scale and efficiencies that would be lost by switching to other lightweight materials with higher costs, longer cycle times and limited availability.