(EDITOR’S NOTE: John Morris is a long-time player in the Knoxville-Oak Ridge entrepreneurial ecosystem. He’s a serial entrepreneur as well as a provider of services to help start-ups. More recently. Morris has been assisting Consolidated Nuclear Services, managing contractor for the Y-12 National Security Complex, make prospective licensees around the Southeast aware of the organization’s available technologies. This is the first article in a five-part series examining those technologies. One article in the series will appear each week until completed.)
By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Two of the Y-12 National Security Complex technologies that John Morris has been pitching in his recently completed multi-city tour of Southeast cities are infrared bonding and a product named RonJohn. Both are different “takes” on the challenge of stripping materials from a surface.
The first technology was developed to meet a need at Y-12, but it is applicable to many commercial uses.
Morris explains there are three ways to debond or remove paints and adhesives from a surface – heat which can cause a fire if left unattended, chemicals which are expensive and toxic in some cases, and dry stripping which can’t be used for lead.
The approach developed by scientists at Y-12 uses high wavelength infrared technology, which is invisible radiant energy. There’s an environmental benefit among others.
“It’s a pretty easy process that does not use chemicals to strip,” Morris explains. It is between one-third and one-half standard irradiant heat, easy to position so that it requires minimal effort and eliminates mechanical processes associated with other options.
Morris says the global solvents market is expected to exceed $29 billion by 2018, so it is an attractive space. And, while there is existing competition such as infrared heaters, he sees a B2B (or business-to-business) model for a licensee to manufacture and sell industrial-sized debonding equipment.
This technology takes a different approach to the challenge of removing solvents and adhesives.
“It is similar to the infrared stripper, but it is a chemical,” Morris explains. “Chemicals used today are hazardous, but this one is a safe solvent.”
RonJohn can be applied as a liquid to flat surfaces or as a gel for vertical surfaces.
“It removes polymers and urethane adhesives, epoxy and powder coatings, as well as char from thermally-decomposed polymers,” Morris says, adding that RonJon also complies with federal environmental regulations. These include the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAP) regulations.
In addition to those advantages, Morris sees two others. One is RonJon’s success in removing the coating with one application, something that competitors in the market don’t always achieve. The other is its readiness.
“It is TRL9,” he says, referring to the highest level possible in this evaluation system for technology readiness. The description of this level is as follows: “actual system proven through successful mission operations.”
Morris says it is in use at Y-12 but not being sold to the general public. As such, it would be an ideal commercialization opportunity for a company focused on selling a product to customers who would use it in environmentally-controlled environments. Potential customers are high security sites like government facilities and Fortune 50 companies, theme parks, educational campuses, and mining and other high-hazard industrial facilities.
Individuals interested in learning more about these technologies should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.