By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
“This product leapfrogs us in front of everyone else that says they do scratch testing,” Warren Oliver, Co-Founder and President of Nanomechanics Inc., told us in a recent interview.
He was referring to Gemini, a new product offering from the Oak Ridge-based technology company that is being unveiled this week in San Diego at the 44th annual “International Conference on Metallurgical Coatings and Thin Films.” The company has a booth at the event, and Oliver is making a presentation Thursday morning.
“It’s a quantum leap in what you can measure laterally,” he says of the technology that is the world’s first commercial, isometric multi-dimensional instrument for studying the dynamics of tribology and mechanical testing at the nano-scale. The device can measure the interaction of two objects that are sliding across each other – not merely making contact.
Nanomechanics, founded more than 30 years ago as Nano Instruments, established an international reputation for its expertise in developing and manufacturing nanoindentation testing equipment.
“We’ve been focused on straight-up indentation testing done as well as it can possibly be done,” Oliver says. “We’re at a level (with that technology that) no one else can do.”
While the company’s current offerings make an indentation or vertical insertion into the surface of a material to test its mechanical properties, Gemini allows a lateral examination.
“Just like nanoindentation was a leap forward, the Gemini is a leap forward for any scratch, wear or collision experiment that has been done before,” Oliver explained. “It is taking all the technology we’ve developed to do the experiments better and now we’ve made it possible to test in both directions simultaneously.”
The underlying technology behind Gemini was developed 12 years ago by Oliver and several others. About two years ago, Nanomechanics licensed the patented technology and began developing Gemini.
“We had to take the patent and turn it into a product,” Oliver explained. “It (Gemini) is the cutting edge in the industry.”
In fact, the product is so new that Nanomechanics is still exploring the myriad of possible applications. To vet those opportunities, the company has been providing beta systems to scientists around the world to more fully explore uses.
“There’s a ton of applications,” Oliver says. They include the ability to measure wear, thin film strength, adhesion of films, and elastic properties. One study that is underway illustrates just one potential for Gemini.
“We are working with David Golsby at the University of Pennsylvania to study earthquake effects,” Oliver says, using the term “stick and slip event” to describe the movement that occurs during an actual earthquake.
“Without this tool, you would not be able to see those lateral effects,” he says. “Now, we believe we could predict that a slip event is about to happen.”
Nanomechanics serves both industry and academic customers, providing both turnkey solutions and modular components that integrate nano-scale mechanical testing with advanced visualization.