Thursday, June 11, 2015

Small Canadian Firm Uses Tiny Materials to Big Effect

          By Chuck Black

A $200,000 CDN award made under the Canadian Space Agency's (CSA) Space Technology Development Program (STDP) on May 28th, 2015 to “test and optimize a novel nano-material that has equivalent or better performance than aluminum in mechanical strength and stiffness” has highlighted the expertise of a small firm focused on the electroplating and electroforming of nanocrystalline metals.

CEO Gino Palumbo relaxing at the Integran offices. The COLT carbon fibre hockey stick he’s holding is coated with a Nanovate™ nickel cobalt (NiCo) application, which makes the stick 50% stronger than a regular hockey stick and guards against micro-fractures or catastrophic failure during use. The coating also provides 21% more load and release potential (POP) for the equivalent power, which makes slap shots both harder and faster. The stick, built and sold independently using licensed Integran intellectual property, has been promoted in Dragon’s Den, Money Sense and on TSN. Photo c/o author

All of which sounds pretty boring until you meet Gino Palumbo, the president and CEO of Integran Technologies and he slips into his story telling mode. 

We started out in the 1990’s as the research group of what was then Ontario Hydro Technologies. Our job was to develop a way to remotely repair localized corrosion in steam generator (SG) tubing at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station,” he said, during an interview at the Integran offices in May 2015. 

The solution came through the use of electroplating to produce high strength nanocrystalline materials and eventually became the Electrosleeve™ process for nuclear steam generator repairs.

Shortly afterwards, Integran was spun out as a separate entity with its major shareholder being Ontario Power Generation and Babcock and Wilcox, which had been involved in the commercialization of the technology. In 2004, the company was restructured as part of a management employee buyout.

A paper focused on the “Electrosleeve Process for in-situ nuclear steam generator repair,” outlined the process which was used to perform repairs at the Ontario Hydro Pickering Nuclear Generating Station from 1992 - 1994. The full paper is available on the International Atomic Energy Association website at

According to Palumbo, the real secret of what is now called the Nanovate™ process is that it doesn’t just repair objects; it can also make them stronger and lighter when compared to more conventional materials.

The current technology uses nanocrystalline alloys of nickel, iron, cobalt and copper to coat parts made of plastic and carbon fiber in order to create high performance components which are lighter, stronger, harder and cheaper than aluminum; waterproof; corrosion and wear resistant; shielded against low frequency magnetic interference and even able to efficiently absorb energy and noise.

The company is also open to technology licensing for appropriate mass production opportunities and has already licensed to manufacturing partners in Canada, the United States, Mexico and China.

Integran COO Andrew Wang, R&D unit manager Brandon Bouwhuis, VP R&D Dr. Jon McCrea and CEO Palumbo in front of a variety of parts created using the Nanovate™ process.  As outlined in the May 29th, government of Canada backgrounder on the May 28th, 2015 CSA STDP awards, the purpose of the award is to "test and optimize," but not reinvent the current process, which makes it typical of the recent CSA awards under the STDP program. The award was also bolstered by a $77,993 CDN Integran contribution for a total project cost of $277,993 CDN. Photo c/o author.

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