IPAT wins Pappajohn Iowa Business Plan Award

Iowa Powder Atomization Technologies, a start-up company based on technology developed at the Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory, has won the 2012 John Pappajohn Iowa Business Plan Competition. 

The competition honors top business plans of companies in business for four years or less, with an aim of stimulating business development. The prize includes $25,000 in seed money.

Iowa Powder Atomization Technologies plans to use several Ames Lab-developed technologies to make fine spherical titanium powder for use in military, biomedical and aerospace applications. Their process will increase the efficiency of the titanium powder making process and, thus, lower the cost of the powder to manufacturers.

Titanium’s strength, light weight, biocompatibility and resistance to corrosion make it ideal for use in a variety of parts, ranging from biomedical implants to aerospace fasteners. But, working with titanium can be difficult when casting parts because molten titanium tends to react with the materials used to form machine molds. To address that, Iowa Powder Atomization Technologies will instead use gas atomization of titanium, which makes a fine, spherical powder form of titanium. Manufacturers can then press the powder together at high temperatures.

“In addition to getting around the difficulties with using molten titanium, using titanium powder has the benefits of conserving processing time and energy, and it produces less waste material,” said Joel Rieken, co-founder of Iowa Powder Atomization Technologies. “The overall process is better, except for the current problems of higher cost and lower availability of titanium powder. But those are two problems IPAT is seeking to solve.”

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From left: IPAT co-founder Andrew Heidloff, IPAT business developer Doug Moore, John Pappajohn and IPAT co-founder Joel Rieken.

In Iowa Powder Atomization Technologies’ process for titanium atomization, the metal is melted using a standard commercial process then heated and precisely guided by an Ames Laboratory-developed pour tube into a high intensity atomization nozzle, also developed at Ames Lab. The metal is then sprayed out in a fine droplet mist. Each droplet quickly cools and solidifies, creating a collection of many tiny spheres, forming fine titanium powder.

The Ames Laboratory Director, Alex King, said that IPAT’s technology allows lightweight, high strength parts to be fabricated at low cost.  These can be used in biomedical implants as well as in energy-efficient cars, planes and trains.

Earlier this year IPAT also was a winner of the Department of Energy’s America’s Next Top Energy Innovator Challenge, a program that recognizes some of the most innovative and promising startup companies based on DOE-developed technology.

The DOE Office of Science, Office of Fossil Energy, and the Iowa State University Research Foundation funded the original research on the gas atomizer technologies developed at Ames Laboratory.

For more Ames Laboratory technologies available for licensing, visit the ISU Research Foundation’s web site at http://www.techtransfer.iastate.edu/en/for_industry/technology_search/search.cfm. Enter “Ames Lab” in the search field. DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy also sponsors a searchable database of the national laboratories' energy technologies available for licensing, and patents and patent applications: http://techportal.eere.energy.gov. Enter “Ames Laboratory” in the search field.