David has been the founder and CEO of Canatu (carbon nanomaterial based electronics), Teicos Pharma (inhalation formulation of pharmaceuticals), Particle Stream Technologies (drug particle formulation) and StreamWise (optical fiber manufacturing), a Senior Research Scientist in Applied Physics at the Helsinki University of Technology in Finland, a Fulbright Fellow in Atmospheric Physics at Tartu U. in Estonia and a science and engineering consultant worldwide. He has a PhD in Environmental Engineering and an MSc in Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics from the U. of Cincinnati and a B.S. in Aerospace from the U. of Michigan. He is passionate about taking groundbreaking innovations from the lab to the market … and sailing. He also composed and played the guitar music in the Qii video!
What is the Qii and who is making it?
Qii is the world’s first, truly mobile user interface accessory for your smartphone or tablet. It’s based on a flexible touch sensor that allows you to turn virtually any surface, soft or hard, flat or curved, into a full functionality touch surface. The first Qii is a QWERTY keyboard including a number pad and function keys which turns your smartphone or tablet into a portable and usable pocket computer. Its wirelessly connected via Bluetooth, so it’s easy and practical. Because its ultra thin and flexible, Qii is both full sized and pocket sized, so you’ll be able to effortlessly type and surf anywhere you go. Qii’s case is also a touchpad, allowing you to point, tap and scroll for easy surfing and graphical editing. It has an anti fingerprint coating to keep it clean and a textured surface for easy touch typing. It’s dirt and water resistant, so you don’t have to worry about spilling and it’s easily washable with soap and water. And, since Qii’s rollable electronics are printed, it’s tough. Nanotechnology and organic electronics make it possible.
The critical enabling component of Qii, the transparent and flexible touch surface and the novel touch algorithm, are made by Canatu, a Finnish nanotechnology company. The funding, component sourcing, productization and distribution are being done by Roll-Qi, a Florida consumer products company. Final manufacturing and assembly are now being arranged with a third party OEM.
What is NanoBud?
Canatu has developed a new material, the Carbon NanoBud®, which is a hybrid of Carbon Nanotubes and fullerenes. Nanotubes are rolled sheets of graphene and fullerenes are graphene balls. Both have nanometer scale dimensions. The hybridization is achieved directly in the material synthesis process and the resulting material combines the best features of both fullerenes and nanotubes.
NanoBuds® have many applications and enable a variety of new nano-components to be developed. This novel material has already been demonstrated to have numerous advantages in mechanical, electrical, chemical and optical properties as compared to traditional nanotubes.
Traditional carbon nanotubes, despite their many unique properties, are largely chemically inert and thus do not bond well to other molecules. Typically, in order to do this, the tubes must be damaged to create usable reaction sites. These defects, however, reduce the performance of the material.
In Canatu’s proprietary NanoBud® material, on the other hand, reactive fullerenes are combined with nanotubes without creating defects. Thus, the amazing properties of nanotubes are maintained while allowing additional useful chemical enhancement.
Where do you see NanoBud thriving, and how do you think this will affect the commercialization of graphene?
Carbon NanoBuds® enable excellent optical performance with elegant simplicity. NanoBuds® have tunable electrical conductivity, high strength, low density, high thermal and mechanical stability and high electrical and thermal conductivity like traditional carbon nanotubes, but also high reactivity, low work function and chemical functionalizability like fullerenes. In addition, they have been shown be much superior field emitters than traditional nanotubes and have the added benefit that they need not be aligned for the purpose. This makes NanoBuds® ideal for a tremendous range of applications.
Canatu’s first products focus on taking advantage of the high conductivity, high aspect ratio, low work function, chemical stability and mechanical flexibility of NanoBuds® to make the world’s highest performance carbon based transparent conductive film for transparent conductors in touch, haptics, displays and photovoltaics. These films, consisting of randomly oriented deposits of NanoBuds on polymer or glass substrates, are flexible, bendable, stretchable and have excellent transparency conductivity performance. Since 2007 Canatu has been able to double the conductivity at a given transparency approximately every 12 months (Brown’s Law). Moreover, Canatu is able to deposit on very thin (below 30 um) substrates, resulting in ultra thin componets with no optical tint, haze below 1% and an index of refraction closely matching both glass and PET.
We see NanoBud films as the leading transparent conductive technology in the world, surpassing graphene and all other transparent conductive materials in all the key performance metrics; transparency, conductivity, stability, color neutrality, haze, flexibility, stretchablity, contrast enhancement.
What other things do you do at Canatu, other than making NanoBud? What is the business model and where is the company headed?
Canatu, as a small company, if largely focused on the transparent conductor market for touch applications. In the near future, we will expand to other transparent conductor applications for photovolotaics, displays and lighting. We are now working to use the semiconducting properties of our material to produce transistor arrays, first for display backplanes and later for other integrated electronics. Other applications in the longer term pipeline include supercapacitors, thermoacoustic speakers, nanoparticle filters, femto second pulsed lasers and field emission displays.
Our business model is simple. We produce customer specific films and thin film based components for component and device makers. In the touch market, we thus produce touch sensors, the patterned films that are integrated into displays. These components include the NanoBud film, silver traces to connect to the driving and sensing electronics, hardcoats, anti-reflective coatings, etc. For the Qii product, we will also print graphics and anti-fingerprint coatings.