L. Pierre de Rochemont, Founder & GM
Nanotechnology has immense potential to impact every aspect of how the manufacturing industry functions. Yet, it has struggled to satisfy technology investors as the size constraint of a nanoparticle makes nanotechnology less viable commercially. Only if a material is big enough can it be integrated into products of economic value. However, agglomerating a large number of nanoparticles into materials that are sufficiently large for practical utility involves an inevitable risk of losing the exotic properties of these particles. As a solution to this nanotechnology conundrum, Frontier NanoSystems has come up with a globally patented microstructure or a new phase of matter called “Big Nano.” Not only is Big Nano large enough to hold great economic value but it also possesses the exotic physical properties of the nanoparticle equivalent. By introducing a disruptive technology in the form of Big Nano, Frontier NanoSystems has evolved significantly from being just an intellectual property holding company.
In an interview with CIO Applications, L. Pierre de Rochemont, founder and general manager and Darlene Viviani, senior technology director at Frontier NanoSystems elaborate on how the company’s patented manufacturing solutions boost the commercial usability of nanotechnology.
What inspired the inception of Frontier NanoSystems?
de Rochemont: The space missions of the 1960s including Apollo 11 had a powerful impact on me. I would listen to JFK’s speeches back then and lived through the commercialization of transistors with the advent of new materials. Be it displacing vacuum tubes in computers, or the historic transition from Stone Age through the Bronze Age to Iron Age, enhanced materials have always been at the forefront of industrial development. While I was employed with a government contractor in Boston, we worked on a project for NASA, where we had to generate a high-temperature superconducting wire that was cost-competitive with the commonly used copper wire. Although we had proven that we could make complex materials whose costs were comparable to copper along with having precise control over their geometry, the project was canceled. The quest to further find more applications of the complex material technology resulted in the foundation of Frontier NanoSystems.
What are the current trends and challenges in the market, and how do your solutions address them?
de Rochemont: Investors are known to turn their backs on the less commercially-viable nanotechnology.
This disinterest of investors inspired us to work toward finding a disruptive application of the technology with the capability to impact a major industry. I discovered that the most prevalent problems faced by the microelectronics industry involved the amount of time and resources required for critical circuit board assemblies. The passive components that were made out of powdered ceramics had varying temperatures and other properties for different parts. As a result, integrating these components and taking them off the printed circuit boards to eventually fix them in a particular layer of a microelectronic circuit was a tedious task.
By displacing the exhausted printed board technologies and eliminating compositional and grain size variations in the laminated electroceramics, our high-performance Big Nano microstruc tures satisfy the critical performance tolerances needed to achieve the last step of microelectronic integration. Big Nano electroceramics also enable passive components including resistors, inductors, and capacitors to be integrated into semiconductors without damaging the transistors embedded beneath their surface.
We also developed a key application that solves a major part of the management problem associated with transistors. The application allows seamless switching of large currents at any speed without generating excessive heat as a result of the inductance embedded to offset the capacitance of a very large area. The altered computing architecture allows you to get rid of printed circuit boards completely and replace them with semiconductor carriers integrated with power management capabilities. Last year, we also came up with applications for chip stacking on a wafer, resulting in frequencies as high as 20 GHz as opposed to 2.5-3 GHz for the chip on a printed circuit board. We can integrate many more materials into wafers along with producing passive components that are driven by quantum properties and not some solid-state properties.
Darlene: Our focus is mostly on delivering complex material products with superior electrical and mechanical properties while constantly upholding the commercial usability of these products. We intend to revolutionize both power dissipation and package technologies with these products.
What type of clients do you target and cater to the most?
de Rochemont: Primarily, we are finalizing a partnership that will apply our technology in the military space so we can form international relationships in commercial markets. Also, beyond the scope of microelectronics, our technology can be applied to the pipeline sector. Anti-corrosive and damage-resistant pipelines with a high electric conductivity can reduce the percentage of spills to a great extent. Furthermore, we are planning to extend the applications of our technology to the aerospace industry. Since most of the fuel is consumed during an aircraft’s take-off, electrically powered take-offs can profit the aerospace industry significantly. We are working on developing high-energy density capacitors for the same purpose.
What are the factors that set Frontier NanoSystems apart from its competitors?
Darlene: Although the area of radically new materials remains unexplored, we are bringing in new materials, enhancing their properties, and supplying them to companies around the world. Above all, Big Nano is our key differentiating factor, which has made nanotechnology useful on a broader scale. We also got recognized by Red Herring, two years ago, and this year, they have invited us to their award ceremony.
How does the company’s roadmap for the next couple of years look like?
de Rochemont: One of the first products we plan to introduce is a capacitor that polarizes at high speeds. The next important development will be an embedded inductor with enormous resistivity to reduce the losses in power management systems. Also, we look forward to enhancing the computing capabilities of all our offerings in order to prepare them for the future.