Tech Tuesday Partner Profile – BNNT, LLC

Technology that began at Jefferson Lab is now being developed by a Newport News spin-off company

NEWPORT NEWS, VA – It is not that unusual for a new tool or process to come out of research at Jefferson Lab, but in the case of BNNT, LLC, one of Jefferson Lab’s small business partners, it led to the development of the company as well.

In 2009, researchers developed a now-patented process to synthesize high-quality Boron Nitride Nanotubes (BNNTs) in collaboration with NASA Langley Research Center and the National Institute of Aerospace and what started as an idea is now a full-fledged business. The nanotubes produced by BNNT have very desirable characteristics -  they are very narrow and long; are as strong as carbon nanotubes; have few walls; are highly resistant to heat, high voltage, and neutron radiation; and are made of pure boron nitride, which suggests they likely are not harmful to living cells. The company now has a facility in Newport News that manufactures and offers for sale high-quality BNNTs for scientific investigation, application research and development, and commercial products. Potential applications of this material include cooling electronic circuits, neutron detection, medical devices, ceramic composites, polymer composites, electrical and radiation shielding, extreme high vacuum pumping, high and low temperature vibration damping, high temperature wiring, and aerospace products.

Jefferson Lab now works with BNNT, LLC as a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) partner. That relationship between the lab where the technology was developed and the company that is taking that technology to the marketplace benefits both the lab and the company. “We find the creative engagement with the lab’s scientists and engineers very stimulating for advancement of our BNNT related applications.  Additionally, DOE’s support of the applications and technologies via the SBIR [program] is valuable for accelerating their development.” says Roy Whitney, BNNT, LLC President.

Currently the lab and BNNT are working together using a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) on several applications of potential benefit to Jefferson Lab. These include a BNNT based Extreme High Vacuum (XHV) cryopump that could eliminate the potential contamination due to hydrocarbons present in traditional charcoal cryosorbers, prototypes utilizing the viscoelastic behavior of BNNTs for vibration damping in superconducting cavities, position sensitive neutron detectors, and novel charged particle beam profile monitors. “The kinds of partnerships we forge with companies like BNNT,” says Jefferson Lab Chief Technology Officer Drew Weisenberger, “help us to develop technologies not only that the lab can use, but that ultimately can have applications beyond our science mission.”

Contact: Deborah Dowd, Jefferson Lab Communications Office, 757-269-7180, dowd@jlab.org

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Jefferson Science Associates, LLC, a joint venture of the Southeastern Universities Research Association, Inc. and PAE, manages and operates the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, or Jefferson Lab, for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.