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Iowa Powder Atomization Technologies wins John Pappajohn Iowa Business Plan Competition

Company uses Ames Laboratory-developed technology to make titanium powder

DOE/Ames Laboratory


IMAGE: Iowa Powder Atomization Technologies, a company based on technology developed at the US Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory, won grand prize in the 2012 John Pappajohn Iowa Business Plan Competition.... view more

Credit: Ames Laboratory -- USDOE

AMES, Iowa -- 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.

"This competition was a great opportunity to develop our commercialization pathway, and the assistance we received from the Iowa State University John Pappajohn Entrepreneurship Center was invaluable," said Joel Rieken, co-founder of Iowa Powder Atomization Technologies. "The award certainly reaffirms our business model and provides us with more confidence as we move forward."

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. 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 Andy Heidloff, 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 the two problems IPAT is seeking to solve."

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.

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

Iowa Powder Atomization Technologies plans to use the John Pappajohn Iowa Business Plan Competition prize winnings to further develop its business strategy, including a series of tests to determine how large they can scale the operation.

Earlier this year IPAT also was a winner of the Department of Energy's America's Next Top Energy Innovator Challenge, which recognizesd some of the most innovative and promising startup companies that took an option to license DOE-funded technologies through the America's Next Top Energy Innovator program.

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


To learn about Ames Laboratory technologies available for licensing, visit the ISU Research Foundation's web site at 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: Enter "Ames Laboratory" in the search field.

The Ames Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science national laboratory operated by Iowa State University. The Ames Laboratory creates innovative materials, technologies and energy solutions. We use our expertise, unique capabilities and interdisciplinary collaborations to solve global problems.

Iowa Powder Atomization Technologies is an Iowa-based start-up company whose goal is to use advanced processing techniques to create a paradigm shift in the cost and availability of high-quality spherical titanium powders.

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