[caption id="attachment_227360" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Brendan DeLacy, founder and president of Ballydel Technologies, discusses his company with the Council on Development Finance on Oct. 24. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
WILMINGTON – The state recently approved a $50,000 grant to Ballydel Technologies, a startup research-and-development firm focused on providing material and technology solutions to the pharmaceutical, defense/aerospace, and energy industries, among others.Led by founder and president Brendan G. DeLacy, a former U.S. Army research scientist who worked at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, Ballydel is investigating a novel material known as MXenes (pronounced Maxines).“It's not a metal but it acts like a metal. There's a lot of great electrical conductivity properties and charge storage capabilities,” DeLacy told the state’s jobs investment board, the Council on Development Finance, at its Oct. 24 meeting. “These are metal carbides that are lighter than metal and they can be cheaper.”The novel two-dimensional material was discovered in 2011 by researchers at Drexel University in Philadelphia, and their development has rapidly improved with Chinese and Europeans researchers now heavily invested too, DeLacy said.The U.S. Air Force is also interested in one of MXenes’ other properties: its ability to absorb and scatter light frequencies. The military is advancing the science internally, but also contracting with outside researchers as well, DeLacy said. Ballydel has been working with Drexel researchers on how to best utilize those properties, and the results so far have been promising.“Things are going so well that the Air Force won't tell us the test results. Everything is classified,” DeLacy said.One drawback to the emerging material is a lack of supply for the research, with Ukrainian, Japanese and Chinese companies being the primary producers at the moment. Ballydel, which is currently located at the Delaware Innovation Space on the DuPont Experimental Station campus near Wilmington, proposes investing in production-scale manufacturing of MXenes and its “paint” used in the research, DeLacy said.“We need to make this material domestically,” he said, adding that he intends to hire Ph.D. chemists to assist.The Council on Development Finance unanimously approved a $50,000 Delaware Technical Innovation Program (DTIP) grant to support Ballydel’s work in the space.DTIP grants are available to companies that have completed Phase I and applied for Phase II of the federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs as they work to bring new products to market. The federal programs work as seed funds for small firms that are working on research and development of technical issues across many different sectors.The SBIR/STTR programs have three phases, with the first awarding up to $250,000 to establish the technical merit, feasibility, and commercial potential of proposed research and development efforts. If successful, Phase II funding can total as much as $1.7 million. Phase III is unfunded, but companies work toward commercialization and/or signing government contracts.Ballydel received a roughly $150,000 STTR Phase 1 grant for the Air Force project last year and is awaiting a decision on its Phase 2 grant application this month. Should it be denied, DeLacy said his small firm would move ahead with their plans anyway, voicing confidence in the material’s future opportunities.“I'm still going to make the MXene. I'm still going to enter the market and start selling R&D quantities to generate revenue from that approach. MXenes are not going away,” he said.
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