NanoFoil’s® story began in the mid-1990s, when LLNL materials scientist Troy Barbee, Jr. and then-postdoctoral researcher Timothy Weihs pooled their expertise in multilayered, ultra-thin, metallic films—known as nanolaminates—to develop improved refractive lenses for optic systems. As they explored the properties of various nanolaminates, they discovered that foils using thin stacks of aluminum and nickel exhibited near-instantaneous energy transfers when excited by a heat source. Though unappealing for optic systems, this reactive property offered vast opportunities to the precision bonding industry—a sphere often fettered by the long-term degradation of epoxies, the compositional demands of welding, and the temperature limitations of soldering processes. Barbee and Weihs recognized that this reactive nanolaminate could be perfected, and possibly could become a cost-saving tool that would revolutionize the way manufacturers assemble their products.
In 1995, Weihs joined the faculty of Johns Hopkins University, where he met Omar Knio, a professor of mechanical engineering and material science. The two researchers further investigated the reactive properties of this unique nanolaminate, ultimately developing NanoFoil®—a material that can be placed between the soldering faces of two parts. When triggered by an external heat source, NanoFoil® rapidly and uniformly transfers heat across the foil’s shape, thereby melting the solder from the inside without damaging the external parts.
With a license for the foundational intellectual property from LLNL in hand, Weihs and Knio founded Reactive NanoTechnologies (RNT) in 2002 to act as the manufacturing hub for NanoFoil®. The company and the product made such a splash that Indium Corporation purchased RNT, its intellectual property, and the NanoFoil® license in 2009. As a world-wide materials supplier, Indium Corp. has expanded NanoFoil’s® reach by degrees of magnitude. Their work builds upon the foundation laid at LLNL and showcases the transformation we can achieve when we combine the scientific explorations of a national laboratory, a team of innovators ready to translate discovery into opportunity, and a streamlined approach for relaying technology to industry and the world.