November 23, 2020

Solving thermal management with carbon nanotubes: Our investment in Carbice

By Jim Adler.

Having held a variety of roles throughout my career, from engineering avionics systems for rockets to leading hardware startups to now investing in them, I’ve seen firsthand how thermal management can disrupt and delay the best-laid product plans. It’s a vexing artifact of our universe’s physics — electronic devices generate excess heat. This heat must be dissipated to avoid degrading safety, performance, and reliability. Heat dissipation is the bane of electrical design engineers. However, the solutions fall to thermal engineers — a perennially underserved group.

The good news is that there’s plenty of room for innovation, making it a potentially ripe area for disruption. That’s why I’m excited to announce our latest investment in Carbice Corporation, which produces Carbice® Carbon, a product that dissipates heat away from product packaging, lowering device temperatures, lengthening product lifetimes, and improving safety and reliability.

Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Carbice was founded by Dr. Baratunde Cola, CEO, in 2011 as an intellectual property holding company, before setting up within the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2016 to begin commercial development. Bara has spent more than eleven years as a professor in heat transfer and nanomaterials at Georgia Tech. The technology behind Carbice Carbon is derived from his research.

Since 1999, Bara has been working in the field of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) — tiny filaments only tens of atoms thick in diameter. The resulting product, Carbice Carbon, is a composite made of recycled aluminum and aligned CNTs with tremendously high heat-conducting ability. In Bara’s words, Carbice is maxing out the “speed limit” for heat conductivity, because there isn’t anything more heat conductive than bonded carbon atoms. That could make aligned CNT’s the thermal conductivity platform of the future, with tremendous potential for applications across aerospace, automotive, and consumer electronics.

Carbice Carbon forms as a dry adhesive pad, allowing it to be consistently and easily applied and reworked. This novel thermal interface product allows for simplified management over traditional wet thermal pastes and glues. Carbice Carbon is already used in satellites and a variety of applications and environments here on earth. What’s more, their batch manufacturing process has been refined over a decade to grow high-quality material in minutes.

Bara has built a talented team capable of taking the company to new heights: CTO Craig Green has a doctorate in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech and sits on the heterogeneous integration roadmap committee for the global semiconductor industry; COO Hal Laskey is the former vice president of semiconductor sales for IBM; and Bianca Cefalo, director of international business development, is the former thermal products leader at Airbus.

We’re proud to participate in Carbice’s $15 million Series A funding round, led by Downing Ventures. We look forward to supporting Carbice as Bara expands the sales and marketing teams and ramps up production to meet increased demand. Visit the Carbice website or explore the Toyota AI Ventures portfolio to learn more.