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  • Staff photo by Don Himsel


    Electricians, painters and other contractors work on one of the former Nashua Corp. buildings in Merrimack that will soon house Nanocomp, a carbon tube manufacturer.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel


    Jason Fellows of One Source Security and Automation works in a former Nashua Corp. building in Merrimack Tuesday, April 3, 2012. Nanocomp, a carbon tube manufacturer, will develop the building closest to the Daniel Webster Highway in three phases.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel


    Nanocomp is renovating one of the former Nashua Corp. buildings in Merrimack on the Daniel Webster Highway.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Nanocomp expanding into former Nashua Corp. site in south Merrimack

MERRIMACK – One of the state’s most unusual companies, a firm that creates wispy “smoke” made of carbon nanotubes and spins it into yarn and fabric, is moving into a long-empty Nashua Corp. factory in south Merrimack.

Nanocomp Technologies is expanding from its Concord home to meet production needs for its products, which use the properties of nanotechnology substances to create materials with unusual strength and ability to deflect or conduct heat, electricity, and electromagnetic signals.

Large equipment was recently moved into 40,000 square feet of the site. Workers are laying carpet, tile and installing office equipment, said Ellen Antoinette, custom design consultant for the company.

Nanocomp hopes to have perhaps 50 employees in and working by the end of the month.

They have options on roughly 140,000 square feet of the former factory, between Daniel Webster Highway and the Merrimack River, near the Nashua line. Nashua Corp. closed the facility about a decade ago.

CEO Peter Antoinette said the firm would like to be using the entire space within three years. Research and development will remain in Concord.

“There is a scheduled rollout. The timing really depends on what the market will demand,” said Mark Banash, vice president of quality and regulatory affairs for Nanocomp.

Nanocomp’s products are based on carbon nanotubes, which are tubes in the nanometer (billionth of a meter) dimension made of carbon atoms.

Nanotubes are incredibly strong yet extremely light, have unusual electric properties, and can absorb microwave or radar signals. Many laboratories and companies are working with them, but Nanocomp is unusual, perhaps unique, in its ability to turn them into large sheets of fabric that can be used for everything from body armor to protective material for satellites.

“We have a micro-meteorite shield for NASA. It looks exactly like a trashbag, except you can shoot a micro-meteorite at it, at several kilometers a second, and it doesn’t go through,” Banash said.

Because nanotubes conduct electricity, unlike most fabric, they can even be turned into lightweight wires for spacecraft and aircraft, where weight is critical.

One Nanocomp material was incorporated into the Juno spacecraft, launched last August to protect against electrostatic discharge as it heads to Jupiter.

Because nanotubes absorb radar signals, they have potential shielding applications for the military.

Last fall, Nanocomp was elected by the federal government to provide carbon nanotube yarn and sheet material for the Department of Defense, “as well as to create a path toward commercialization for civilian industrial use.”

That requires large-scale, high-speed production, which will be the goal of the Merrimack facility, because Nanocomp’s Concord home is too crowded.

Nanocomp was launched in West Lebanon using a proprietary method of creating carbon nanotubes as long as a millimeter, which is long for nanotechnology material.

The firm pumps secret “fuel” into a chemical vapor deposition furnace that creates a floating organo-metallic catalyst, which collects carbon molecules that creates the tubes – so tiny, perhaps 10 atoms wide, that even by the millions, they look like smoke.

The company won a New Hampshire High Tech Council prize three years ago for weaving that smoke into nanoyarn, and is one of six New Hampshire firms chosen this year as a “disruptivator,” or innovative company whose technology can disrupt existing industries.

They will present at the Disruptivate 2012 conference on April 11 in New Castle.

The Merrimack facility is key to the company’s future, said Banach.

“In three years, we hope to have hundreds of people working there, running 24/7/365.”

It shows, he added, that U.S. firms can compete in the global manufacturing sector: “We can compete by choosing smart materials.”

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashuatelegraph.com.