The largest maker of nanotube technology in the world is relocating production of its tiny electronics to the West End, an area that is steadily becoming one of the Atlanta's innovation attractions.
Carbice Corp. is moving to 1050 White St. SW, which has 23,000 square feet of labs, offices and distribution. The startup spent the past 11 years in a 2,000-square-foot office Georgia Tech's ATDC business incubator.
Carbice CEO Baratunde Cola believes the company can make the equivalent of 20 football fields a year of nanotubes, the components that help prevent electronic devices from overheating. He's going to need more people — up to 80 by the end of 2024.
Applications for nanotube technology are wide and varied, such as in the aerospace industry, but one key area is Atlanta's data center sector, Carbice is pitching its nanotubes to companies like Microsoft Corp., Google LLC and Facebook LLC, saying their computer maintenance processes will be more reliable and cost 25% less than options in the traditional cooling material used by data centers.
"In seven years, there will be nearly $5 billion in thermal interfaces used in data centers and power modules used in applications like electric vehicles, solar cells, and industrial equipment," Cola said during remarks at the headquarters grand opening Aug. 31. "Every application in this space loses its initial performance in less than one year because the liquid material used as a thermal interface always pumps out.”
Preventing electronic overheating
Carbice, one of Atlanta Business Chronicle's Startups to Watch in 2021, creates a product that uses carbon nanomaterials that removes heat to prevent electronics from overheating.
For electronic products, liquid and solid thermal interface materials are used to prevent them from blowing up or melting. Whereas liquid TIMs easily degrade and solid TIMs comprise performance, Carbice says its products, named Carbice Nanotubes, are dependable over time and are easier to work with.
Carbice's products have applications in nearly every part of the global electronic and material use industry, which Cola says is one of the largest parts of the global economy with a market size of over $1 trillion.
The startup also addresses a longstanding problem for satellite construction. The traditional way of constructing satellites includes using liquid thermal interface materials to glue hundreds of electronic boxes by hand in a multi-day process. With Carbice, the process reduces to a few hours and can save $1.1 billion in taxpayer money, according to Cola.
"What we have done so far to change how satellites are built will stand the test of time, because the value to science and to business is too strong and cannot be unseen," said Cola, one of the Chronicle's 40 under 40 honorees in 2015.
What we have done so far to change how satellites are built will stand the test of time, because the value to science and to business is too strong and cannot be unseen.
Carbice Founder & CEO
In 2015, Carbice raised a $15 million Series A round led by Downing Ventures to scale the manufacturing of its product. It raised a $1.5 million seed round in 2017 led by Tech Square Labs and GRA Venture Fund to start its commercial adoption. Co-creator of the iPod and iPhone Tony Faddell recently became an investor, according to the company.
The story of Dr. Cola
Cola, once a college football star for Vanderbilt University, tore his ACL three times, spurring him to graduate school, where he received a Ph.D in Heat Transfer and Nanomaterials from Purdue University.
His accolades include the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers and the 2017 Alan T. Waterman Award from the National Science Foundation that denotes the top scientist for engineering in the U.S. under the age of 35.
Cola's inspiration to become an entrepreneur in the nanotechnology space occurred when he was a professor at Georgia Tech, The Carbice product was a result of research he performed as part of a program with the federal Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
"Heat density in electronics became a problem 12 years ago and the industry never knew how to deal with it because we don't teach it, so the problem is that people don't understand how to solve it," Cola said, “What we're doing is helping customers understand what the problem looks like."