Ƶ

Cirrus Materials Science: Better, cleaner coatings

Initiative type:
Start-up
Sector:
Advanced materials; Cleantech
Website:
UniServices Contact:

Opportunity

Look around you. Almost everything you see – and a lot of what you don’t – has a coating on it.

Whether it’s paint to colour it, a polymer layer to make it more durable, metal plating to increase its conductivity or a chemical spray to prevent corrosion, coatings are useful in many ways.

Traditional coatings, however, are often energy-intensive and contain high levels of toxic chemicals. They can scratch, peel off or degrade. They can contribute significantly to weight and thickness. They can use major quantities of scarce resources such as precious metals.

Cirrus Materials Science is using next-generation advanced materials science to tackle these environmental and performance challenges and thus disrupt the coatings industry.

image across 2 cols

Surface finishing for a sustainable future

Cirrus Materials Science has its roots in the laboratory of Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of ƵProfessor Wei Gao, who among many honours is an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

The Chemical and Materials Engineering professor, who won the University’s Commercialisation Medal in 2020, has made major contributions in areas including nanomaterials and nanocomposite materials; thin films and coatings; light alloys; and corrosion prevention.

In 2016, UniServices helped Gao spin out some of his and his lab’s innovations by licensing them to a start-up, Cirrus Materials Science. With Gao preferring to keep his focus on research, experienced start-up executives Glen Slater and Chris Goode led the formation and running of the company. Slater remains CEO today, while Goode is chair and CTO.

One of the company’s foundational technologies is Cirrus Dopant, a nanoparticle library of non-toxic additives that can improve electrodeposited coatings in ways including improved wear resistance, reduced friction, increased strength and corrosion resistance.

right image
Chris Goode
“It is well known that particles in coatings can improve their mechanical, electrical or other surface properties. Dopant is a unique way of creating particles in coatings that is environmentally friendly, safe to handle and low cost.”
Chris Goode,
Chair and CTO

“It is well known that particles in coatings can improve their mechanical, electrical or other surface properties. Dopant is a unique way of creating particles in coatings that is environmentally friendly, safe to handle and low cost,” says Goode.

Cirrus has also developed paint-free colour for light metals – a significant breakthrough because paint processes for products such as cars tend to be energy-intensive, flammable and high in volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

“We imitated the nanostructures that colour the wing of a butterfly to develop a coating that helps eliminate up to 60% of the energy consumption and 95% of the VOC emissions from typical automotive manufacture,” says a company statement. “The result is a full-stack sustainable coating innovation that is as durable and beautiful as paint – just 90% thinner.”

Paint-free colour is ideal for aerospace applications, where lightness is crucial. In fact, Cirrus is collaborating with the University’s Te Pūnaha Ātea – Space Instutitute to evaluate the technology on a space vehicle.

right image
image
“We imitated the nanostructures that colour the wing of a butterfly to develop a coating that helps eliminate up to 60% of the energy consumption and 95% of the VOC emissions from typical automotive manufacture. The result is a full-stack sustainable coating innovation that is as durable and beautiful as paint – just 90% thinner.”
Cirrus Materials Science

Performance

Cirrus has worked with a variety of major players including Fortune 500 companies, the U.S. Department of Defense and the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor.

The company maintains tight connections with the University to ensure it stays on the cutting edge of research. It often hires students for internships – and PhD graduates for permanent jobs.

Cirrus raised further investment in 2022 and opened a new Ƶlaboratory the same year.

Could your idea grow into the next great start-up?