Creating an excellent product or service with dedication comes with a unique challenge. Not in the invention, but to help the others see the value that the invention has to oﬀer. Steve Wilcenski and Jason Taylor, the founders of BNNano, a Burlington NC-based nanotechnology manufacturer, share their experience of creating a unique product that supports the increasing demand with modern challenges of the industry.
Wilcenski and Taylor shared a vision of launching a joint venture ever since they started working together in the late 1990s. Their material science background coupled with the penchant for invention and innovation came together to launch BNNano in 2016. Talking about their experience, Wilcenski, the Chief Executive Oﬃcer and co-founder says, “our materials science background combined with a history of invention, innovation and commercialization guided us in our search for a novel material that could make disruptive products. We are determined to become the premium suppliers of Boron Nitride Nanotubes.”
Though nanotechnology is a booming sector, the choice in material looks unusual at ﬁrst sight. But once you delve deeper into the needs of the world across various verticals, the choice becomes apparent. Taylor, the Chief Technology Oﬃcer and co-founder at BNNano comments, “we chose Boron Nitride Nanotubes because this novel material had suﬃcient research to identify potential but appeared diﬃcult to manufacture. We recognized a growing demand for a product very few claimed they could make. Our backgrounds made us uniquely suited to take on this challenge of developing a process to make this material.”
“BNNano's first novel nanomaterial is a unique morphology of Boron Nitride Nanotubes called the Boron Nitride NanoBarb.”
Their proprietary product, NanoBarb™, contains an engineered surface that has enhanced reinforcing properties. Taylor comments, “While a smooth nanotubes would likely work, a better approach is to modify the surface to be more jagged (mimicking rebar used to reinforce concrete,) while maintaining the integrity of the nano-material. This thought process inspired the development of NanoBarb™. What we have developed is a Boron Nitride Nanotubes with a nanoparticle of Boron Nitride plated on the outside of the nanotubes. When examined under electron microscopy, it looks like rock candy that has been nucleated on a string. This was our rebar.”
The challenges with inventions are the increasing need for perfection. Often function becomes the secondary endpoint in the experiment. Taylor adds, “some in the nano-community have commented that we have an ugly material, but that is OK with us, our material works better by prioritizing function over form.”
He added, “We quickly recognized that success demanded a pioneering, inventive approach that diﬀered signiﬁcantly from the previous attempts by nano- material companies. We sought to create a material that could use all the fantastical properties of a nano- material but would keep a consistent high-quality composition, be simple to use, and low enough cost that economics would not create a barrier for use. Our experience has taught us that no matter how interesting or exciting new materials technology might be, is that it remains a business. New technologies, no matter how interesting, must bring value to customers. For this reason, we spent as much time mapping out cost structures and pricing roadmaps as we developed the technology.”
Describing the culture of the organization and the values that they hold close to the heart, Wilcenski says that it is important to become focused on needs versus wants. Wilcenski comments, “we did not come out of another group, team, company or lab. We are cultivating our own ideas and Intellectual Property. Our funding is from a team of investors that are our personal contacts, so we feel an added pressure and motivation to succeed so that the entire BNNano family will enjoy our success. We are needs-focused and put our wants on the back burner. We pride ourselves that we have succeeded with so little funding and are proud to say that our facilities are remarkably underwhelming and elegantly simple.”
BNNano is currently a small team that is aiming for expansion as the needs increase. With the expansion, the company is also looking forward to expanding in rural America . “We want our company to provide more than a paycheck to our employees, we want to ﬁnd ways to make a diﬀerence for our people and our community,” said Taylor. BNNano has patents pending for Aluminum Master Alloy that demonstrates the strength from steel while retaining the density and formability of aluminium. Wilcenski says, “our Aluminum Master Alloy transforms Aluminum alloys into high-value materials for industries such as Space, Aerospace, Automotive, Sporting Goods, and Ballistic protection. Aluminium and its alloys can potentially replace hard to process titanium, brittle carbon composites, and even steel. We believe our patent-pending Master Alloys are poised to demonstrate transformational improvements to the Aluminum Industry. Our Master Alloy will make 1000 series aluminium perform like advanced alloys and will enable signiﬁcant improvements through the entire family of aluminium alloys.”
Steve Wilcenski (Co-Founder / CEO)
For over 20 years, Steve has been an active member of teams designing and developing technologies and products on the micro and nano-scale. Many of these products have enabled disruptive technologies within the Defense, Aerospace, Biomedical, Automotive, Communications, and Consumer Electronics markets. Before co-founding BNNano, Steve was the President and General Manager for the MEMS Business Unit of MEMSCAP, SA. Steve earned a B.S. in Material Science and Engineering from North Carolina State University, an M.S. in Chemistry from Clemson University and an MBA from North Carolina State University.
Jason Taylor (Co-Founder / CTO)
Jason began his career as a Process Development Engineer, working to identify critical factors and optimize multilayer GaN epitaxy for LED products initially introduced in the dashboards of cars, cellphones, and video screens. Working directly with customers and internal R&D groups, Jason helped innovatively and address market opportunities while being issued ten US patents. Concomitantly, Jason found Boron Nitride Nanotubes while searching for new materials that could lead to the next revolution. Jason earned a B.S. and M.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from Virginia Tech.
Mark Edmond (Employee #1 / Director of Operations)
Mark is the Director of Operations at BNNano. Before joining BNNano, Mark helped start an upstart lighting company, LED Lighting Fixtures, Inc. (LLF), develop the ﬁrst commercially viable LED general lighting products. After Cree purchased LLF in 2008, Mark held roles as Product Development Manager and R&D Researcher in LED lighting, inventing concepts for Cree's CR series of LED lamps and developing Cree's line of consumer light bulbs. Mark has 31 issued US patents and earned a B.S. in Ceramic Engineering from Alfred University.
About BNNano, Inc.
BNNano, Inc. is a manufacturer of Boron-Nitride nanotubes and NanoBarbs™ which are Boron-Nitride nano-materials for use in a variety of advanced and innovative applications. Boron-Nitride nanotubes and NanoBarbs™ are oﬀered in quantities of a few grams for R&D to kilograms for development and production activities
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