Aculon Offers Cleantech Breakthrough as it Commercializes Nanocoating Technology

7/17/09Follow @bvbigelow

After getting a briefing last month from Aculon CEO Ed Hughes, I would not have thought of the five-year-old San Diego startup as a cleantech company. Nanotechnology? Yes. Materials Science? Absolutely. Cleantech? Nah, not really.

Yet Aculon is announcing today that it has developed a formulation of its proprietary nanocoating technology to replace certain applications of hexavalent chromium, a toxic, cancer-causing heavy metal used to make anti-corrosion coatings, as well as stainless steel, dyes, and wood preservatives, among other things. Hexavalent chromium was found in the drinking water of Hinkley, CA, a small desert town made infamous by Erin Brockovich, who was in turn made famous by the namesake film starring Julia Roberts. Suffice to say it is a nasty toxic substance, and a known human carcinogen via inhalation. It can cause kidney and liver damage, along with nasal, skin, and stomach irritations.

Edward Hughes

Edward Hughes

The Environmental Protection Agency and State of California have banned the use of hexavalent chromium compounds in many applications, although a loophole allows its continued use if there is “no feasible alternative.” So Aculon’s announcement today could be of widespread importance. The company says the use of its nanocoating technology provides that alternative.

It is a little-known fact that paint won’t stick to aluminum, titanium, or stainless steel. So under the “no feasible alternative” exemption, many manufacturers use a chromium-based primer—which is sprayed as an undercoat on baseball bats, beverage cans, bicycles, golf club heads, and electric circuit boards. Aculon says its proprietary SAMP technology, which stands for self-assembled monolayer of phosphonates, can be used instead of hexavalent chromium in paint primers sprayed on metal products.

Aculon was founded in 2004 by Eric Bruner, who obtained his doctorate in chemistry from Princeton University in 2002. The company licensed rights to pioneering work … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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