Entrepreneur Gets $1.5M To Help Overcome Challenges Of Overheated Electronics
A Georgia Tech nanotechnology spinoff company has received $1.5 million in seed investment to help overcome the dangerous and expensive problem of electronics that overheat and sometimes explode, Atlanta Business Chronicle reported.
Carbice Nanotechnologies, Inc. has developed a thermal tape that helps prevent electronic devices from overheating and potentially catching on fire.
Baratunde “Bara” A. Cola, CEO of Carbice, is credited with pioneering new engineering methods and materials to control light and heat in electronics at the nanoscale. An associate professor at Georgia Tech’s George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, Cola this year received the National Science Foundation‘s Alan T. Waterman Award. The award comes with a $1 million, five-year grant for research.
Cola founded Carbice in 2012. Heat management has been a constant challenge for manufacturers. It’s one of the biggest technological challenges and opportunities for his company.
“Some people are trying to figure out how to store it, some people are trying to figure out how to convert it to electricity,” Cola said in a Georgia Tech News Center report. “We’re trying to figure out how to dissipate it. Carbice is at the center of all of that.”
The company holds three patents — two are based on Georgia Tech research — and has been making the rounds to potential investors as it seeks to scale to the next level.
Atlanta-based TechSquare Labs and GRA Venture Fund led a $1.5 million seed investment to develop the heat-dissipating product.
In addition to safety threats, exploding consumer electronics are a public relations nightmare for the companies that manufacture and sell them. Some examples include hoverboards, e-cigarettes, laptops and smartphones. Samsung in 2016 had to recall its entire line of Galaxy Note 7 devices due to a growing number of explosion reports. Samsung blamed battery failures and eventually decided to stop selling them, The Merkle reported.
The Carbice technology uses heat-conducting tape made of aluminum foil and carbon nanotube material (cylindrical carbon molecules) to remove heat from computer chip testing stations. This allows for faster, cheaper testing of chips during production, according to the National Science Foundation. The technology could eventually dissipate heat and result in smaller, faster, more powerful computer chips in smartphones, supercomputers, cable set-top boxes and other devices.
The tape, which looks like Reynold’s wrap spray-painted black, is eight times more conductive than copper, Cola said, according to an Atlanta Business Chronicle report. The tape replaces four heat-dissipating materials used in cable set-top boxes, reducing the cost by 40 percent.
“It’s the greenest adhesive material in the world for the semiconductor industry,” Cola claimed. “Our raw materials are recycled aluminum, iron and carbon gas, and the tape is easy to remove to help reduce electronic component waste.”
Carbice — it stands for Carbon Interfaces Cooling Electronics — is prototyping the tape and plans to manufacture the product in Georgia.
Cola was introduced to nanotechnology as an undergraduate, “and it blew me away,” he said in a Georgia Tech News interview. “I was a big-time football guy and went to college (Vanderbilt University) to do engineering and play football, but I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur.”
In 2015, Cola and his team were the first to overcome more than 40 years of research challenges to create a device called an optical rectenna, which turns light into direct current more efficiently than today’s technology. The device could lead to highly efficient solar cells with the potential to power new generations of cell phones, laptops, satellites and drones, the National Science Foundation reported.
The technology uses carbon nanotubes that act as tiny antennas to capture light. Light is converted into direct current by miniature nanotechnology-enabled mechanisms called rectifier diodes. The research has the potential to double solar cell efficiency at one tenth the cost, according to Cola.
Computing speed and battery life aren’t the real obstacles to technology innovation — it’s heat management, said Allen Nance, partner at TechSquare Labs, a tech business incubator and corporate innovation center.
“Addressing that is a huge opportunity to drive innovation and build a big meaningful company,” Nance said, according to Atlanta Business Chronicle.
Carbice will use the seed investment to test the product with customers including IBM Corp. and a major set-top box maker. Cola expects customers to introduce devices with Carbice’s product in 2019.
Carbice is looking for investors that can help it calibrate where it is in the market, Cola said in a 2016 Georgia Tech News Center interview. “A seasoned person that brings a lot of value beyond the money in terms of connections and helping us scale up and deliver to these big customers”:
“Carbice has all of the top 10 chip manufacturers in our customer pipeline and we have gotten to the point where were closing deals with some of those people and we really could have this exponential growth up to the 10s of millions of dollars in revenue very fast. We have a good team but we also understand that the right type of investor can bring so much value in helping us capitalize on that opportunity and accelerate further. So there’s space for us to bring in someone strategic like that, someone who can help with getting us to that next level of capital expenditures. We also want someone to help us with the Series A raise. We’re a materials company. We make a high-value product, but our core value pre-revenue is this IP that we have and carving out this market. And so we want someone who gets excited about that and who likes the idea of bringing nanotechnologies and nanomaterials to the market in a big way, to address one of the biggest technical challenges on the planet, which is managing heat.”
Even if Carbice is able to successfully commercialize its technology, there’s a long sales cycle, Tech Square Labs’ Nance told Atlanta Business Chronicle:
“Electronic devices are in design for years before they go into production, Nance said. “The sales process is long and complicated.”
Cola said he was attracted to Atlanta and Georgia Tech because of the “endless supply of talent. Georgia Tech also has one of the largest and most magnificent nanotechnology centers in the country,” he said:
“I’m not interested in who is the Silicon Valley of today, but where are the opportunities for the future. To me, there’s no better place than the Southeast. Part of nanotechnology’s struggles have been the difficulty with translating a lot of the great science from the science labs into engineered products and there’s no place that trains more engineers and better engineers at a bachelor’s level than Georgia Tech. That’s an endless supply of talent. Georgia Tech also has one of the largest and most magnificent nanotechnology centers in the country and has resources that have allowed Carbice to — through agreements — use its facilities to bring the products to customers.”