Ready, set, launch

Xinyu Zhang, faculty member in the Department of Polymer and Fiber Engineering, is working with a team to develop stronger composite materials using carbon nanotubes, such as more durable wind turbine blades. Zhang’s team, which includes Adam Ficken, a recent graduate of Auburn’s MBA program and former intern in Auburn’s Office of Technology Transfer (OTT), and OTT’s Brian Wright, recently earned a prize in the Alabama Launchpad competition. The team’s proof of concept to solve mechanical failures in composite materials used by the wind energy industry was one of three chosen among 13 finalists to receive a portion of $100,000 in funding. Their company, Carbon NanoTube Engineered Surfaces, or CNTES, was formed to explore continuous production of the team’s microwave approach to growing carbon nanotubes on carbon fiber materials, which can be expensive and difficult to reproduce in large quantities. The team conducted small-scale tests with sections of 6-inch-long composite material that showed an improvement in interlaminate strength by as much as 40 percent. Their work on surface modification using carbon nanotubes could also help to improve a material’s thermal and electrical properties. The Alabama Launchpad competition was formed seven years ago as part of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama Foundation.


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