Akron Ascent Innovations receives NSF Phase II SBIR grant to commercialize electrospun dry adhesives

Despite their immense importance, adhesives really haven’t changed much in the past few decades, or potentially even millennia. Akron Ascent Innovations (AAI) aims to change that with a dry adhesive made from electrospun nanofibers.  This month, AAI received a significant boost in their efforts from the National Science Foundation, who selected AAI for a $736,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II grant.  The grant was provided to enable AAI to commercialize and scale up production of their reusable and cleanly removable adhesive.

AAI was founded in 2012 by Prof. Josh Wong, tenured professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Akron and Dr. Barry Rosenbaum, senior fellow at the University of Akron Research Foundation, to develop and commercialize these unique dry adhesive materials. 

“Modern adhesives are really just synthetic versions of natural rubber, with a few tricks tossed in,” said Prof. Josh Wong.  “They are slow moving liquids with just enough crosslinks to provide cohesion.  At AAI, we are developingfundamentally new kind of adhesive that uses solid fibers.  It works similar to the way that geckos stick to walls.  Their toe pads are made of rigid fibers, but organized in a way to maximize surface area, which allows for weak forces to be multiplied and effectively used for locomotion.”

Dr. Barry Rosenbaum, co-founder and President of AAI, said, “The real innovation here is the ability to scale-up.  Josh had a clever idea to join together different technologies from the University of Akron in a way that combines unique performance with scalability.  The NSF Award will allow us to grow our team and really start to scale-up production over the next year.”

Dry adhesives have applications in a huge range of markets, including industrial and consumer adhesives, automobile and aerospace assembly, packaging, and biomedical devices.  AAI has previously received support from the Ohio Third Frontier Technology Validation and Startup Fund and NSF SBIR Phase I program.  AAI plans to sub-contact about $150,000 to the University of Akron over the next two years as part of the award.