STC's Newest Start-Up Finds Home and Funds in New Mexico

Reprint from New Mexico Business Weekly, July 9, 2010

Albuquerque, NM - July 9, 2010 Lotus Leaf Coatings Inc., STC.UNM's newest start-up company, has found the "right stuff" right here in New Mexico. The nanotechnology, a multifunctional, super-repellent coating, was developed by researchers at the University of New Mexico and Sandia National Labs. Seed funding and management of the company will come from the ranks of the New Mexico Angels. To read more about this promising company and its remarkable technology, see the reprinted article from today's edition of the New Mexico Business Weekly.


July 9, 2010
Impenetrable coating mimics lotus leaf
Startup markets super-protective repellant

Pour red wine on a lotus leaf and it will bounce right off, without leaving a trace of residue, or even moisture.

Scientists have tried to mock that super hydro resistance for decades, to develop coatings that can protect things like textiles against stains or metals against corrosion.

Now, a homegrown nanotechnology developed at the University of New Mexico and Sandia National Laboratories virtually mocks the lotus leaf in terms of its hydro resistance. And a new startup — created by members of the New Mexico Angels — is marketing the technology as a coating for consumer and industrial applications.

The company, Lotus Leaf Coatings Inc., will address a range of market applications, from self-cleaning surfaces for medical devices and protective coatings for electronics to corrosion resistance for boats and metal-based products, said CEO Lawrence Chavez.

"We'll sell very repellent coating materials to solve expensive problems, such as water damage, corrosion, fogging and ice buildup," Chavez said. "We're talking with potential customers now to determine market focus, appropriate sales channels and scale requirements."

The firm has forged a partnership with a large medical device maker to develop coatings for medically related markets. The partner's identity is confidential, but it sells goods worldwide, Chavez said. It will make a substantial in-kind investment in Lotus Leaf, providing assistance from a 15-member research and development team, and access to state-of-the-art laboratory facilities.

"That company will become our first customer, with exclusive distribution rights in its market," Chavez said. "We hope to start selling product within three to six months."

Lotus Leaf obtained an option to license the coating technology in April from UNM's Science and Technology Corp. The STC and Sandia jointly own the technology and will share income from it, but UNM has the licensing rights, said STC President and CEO Lisa Kuuttila.

"It's one of those technologies that really catches your eye because it's so remarkable," Kuuttila said. "Water just sort of bounces off it."

The technology was developed by a professor of chemical engineering and a doctoral degree student in UNM's Nanoscience and Microsystems Program.

The professor, Jeffrey Brinker, is also a Sandia Fellow. He won an award for the technology, dubbed "superhydrophobic coating," from R&D magazine in 2007 as one of the 100 most outstanding advances in applied technologies.

The student, David J. Kissel, was lead researcher and principal inventor of the technology at UNM. Kissel graduated in 2008 and is now the chief technology officer for Lotus Leaf Coatings.

Kissel said the technology manipulates materials at the nano-scale to make a glass-like substance that can be sprayed, brushed or dipped onto surfaces.

"We're basically making glass without using sand and fire," Kissel said. "We use chemistry to make fundamental nano-structures similar to the natural coating on the surface of a lotus leaf."

The coating has "super-repellent" properties, like a slick glass surface where moisture runs off, Kissel said. It's also self-cleaning.

"Water rolls off the surface and picks up dust and contaminants and removes them," Kissel said. "It provides a low-energy way to clean things."

The technology caught the eye of Wolf Appliance Inc. last year, a Wisconsin-based oven and cooking equipment manufacturer that obtained an option to license the coating from STC. Wolf has tested the coating on its appliances, but its license option has expired, Kuuttila said.

"They're still doing tests, but they don't want to make the coating themselves," Kuuttila said. "They could become a Lotus Leaf customer."

Lotus Leaf is headed by the New Mexico Angels. Chavez is an Angel investor and a Flywheel Ventures associate who previously headed Flywheel's gap fund for seed investments.

J.T. Michelson, board chairman for the N.M. Angels, is also an investor in Lotus Leaf and a member of the new startup's board of directors. Angel investor Mark Walztoni is the chief business development officer for Lotus Leaf, and patent attorney and Angel member Luis Ortiz serves on the company's board of advisers.

Lotus Leaf is raising $125,000 in seed funding from the N.M. Angels. The company plans to raise a $500,000 Series A round in early 2011, Chavez said.

For a demonstration of the product, please visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ql9ly2Dq4hE.

Source: Kevin Robinson-Avila, NMBW Staff

For more information, contact:

Kevin Robinson-Avila
505-348-8302
krobinson-avila@bizjournals.com

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