Buoyed by the success of its initial nanostructured metal alloy coating for electrical connectors, Marlborough, Mass.-based Xtalic is building on the MIT-initiated nanostructuring techniques to market a replacement for gold known as LUNA and to develop nanostructured aluminum alloys.
More than 4 billion parts have been made using the nickel-tungsten coating developed in the Schuh group at MIT, and Xtalic counts the top 20 Fortune 1000 electronics companies as customers. MIT Department of Materials Science and Engineering head Christopher A. Schuh is Xtalic's chief scientist. Former Schuh group postdoctoral associate Alan Lund serves as Xtalic's Chief Technology Officer.
"After we worked with the XTRONIC material, which really was first developed at MIT and was brought to Xtalic, our customers began asking is there a way you could develop a gold replacement product," Xtalic chief executive officer Thomas Clay says. "So we began work at Xtalic under Chris' guidance and developed the LUNA alloy."
Xtalic has tested the LUNA gold substitute, and the next step is for potential customers to conduct their own production and reliability tests. "Right now we are stepping into making real production parts with this material, which is exciting," Clay says. "We've got some really good customers looking at this in a big way, so it'll be a very exciting product." He expects customers to see LUNA in products they buy towards the end of next year.
A former Schuh graduate student, Shiyun Ruan is directing product development on nanostructured aluminum, which has received funding from the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnology at MIT, the U.S. Department of Energy, and commercial partners. "It's very promising, and we have a substantial team working on it," Clay says. A team of about 10 is engaged in developing the technology, which also is licensed from MIT.
As chief scientist, Schuh spends a half-day to a day a week working with Xtalic, giving direction and coaching on new, early stage products, Clay explains. "Chris has a big vision and the vision is to really upgrade the material sets that we build things out of. We're a part of that, and we are commercializing the first nanostructured alloys with these really impressive material property sets. I would say the association with Chris has been tremendous, and the relationship with MIT has been great. We're happy to be part of really changing what the world builds things out of,"
Clay previously served as CEO of another MIT spinoff, Z Corp., which was acquired by 3D Systems Corp. in January 2012. Xtalic is funded by Matrix Partners and Northbridge Venture Partners. The company has a healthy revenue base in its XTRONIC product line but also continues to invest heavily in LUNA the other technologies, Clay says.