An Interview With Advisory Board Member: Paul Ferguson (CHASM Advanced Materials, Inc.)

What is your role and responsibility within your current organisation and how does it fit in with the wider industry?

I am responsible for business development for the Advanced Carbons business unit of CHASM Advanced Materials.

CHASM is pioneering the use of Carbon Nanotubes (CNTs) to create innovative advanced materials to make the world safer and more sustainable. Better connected smart cities, ice-free vehicle sensors and lights, better EV batteries, greener concrete and abundance of pure water are all innovations powered by CHASM Advanced Materials.

Our solution platform includes the SignisTM product line of single-walled and multi-walled carbon nanotubes, as well as a family of CNT hybrid products – CNTs synthesized in combination with another type of particle – under the NTeCTM brand.

In addition to providing game-changing solutions to customers in a variety of industries, CHASM also has a Printed Electronics business unit that applies its nanotube hybrid solution platform to deliver superior performance transparent antennas (for 5G, IoT), transparent heaters and transparent RF shielding to a variety of industries.

Talk us through your career to date, what are your highlights?

I spent the first part of my work life in Information Technology where my career trajectory followed the arc of the computer industry. At the beginning I worked with mainframes and over time, with personal computers, local area networks all the way through to massively parallel supercomputers and handheld wireless devices. We take all of it for granted now, but I was able to experience all of these developments first hand.

After the tech bubble burst, I transitioned into the natural resources industry and spent several years working to develop a graphite company. We could see the tsunami coming in EVs and believed that a domestic supply chain of critical minerals was an absolute necessity but we were a few years ahead of our time and were not able to sustain the business long enough to survive through the drought.

I met the team from CHASM Advanced Materials along the way and when the opportunity presented itself to come on board, I did not think twice about it. I sometimes refer to CHASM as “the unicorn ranch” because of handful of truly big opportunities we have in hand that can materially impact the world – and I am fortunate enough to be along for the ride.

In a more environmentally-conscious world, do you think the advanced-materials industry is doing enough to be more sustainable?

I can’t speak for others, but at CHASM, sustainability is at the forefront of our minds and is embedded in all of our business practices. In fact, sustainability is a key consideration for the private equity groups that have invested in CHASM. Not only do we operate our business sustainably, but we are also working on solutions to some big challenges that, if we are successful, will have a tremendous impact on sustainability.

For example, the technology being developed under our water filtration business unit has the potential to be truly disruptive, delivering unprecedented levels of performance. Access to clean water is absolutely one of the most critical sustainability issues we currently face. We believe that a solution incorporating vertically aligned carbon nanotube membranes will be a game changer.

Another focus area that has huge implications for sustainability is the work that we are doing in cement. It’s a well-known fact that cement has the 2nd largest carbon contributor on earth. It’s also been known for quite a while that the properties of cement can be greatly improved by adding carbon nanotubes, thereby increasing strength and reducing the total amount of material required.

The roadblocks to adoption have been the cost of the materials and challenges around achieving the dispersion required to obtain the desired benefits and in a manner that is acceptable to the industry. We believe that we now have a clear path to viable, and scalable, solutions for both of those problems. We have begun working with major players in the cement and cement additives industries and are really excited about our progress there.

What innovations are you seeing in the world of advanced materials that is exciting for the future of the industry?

A popular and oft-repeated joke that about advanced materials is “The only thing that [fill-in-the-blank] can’t do is leave the lab”, where the blank is filled by carbon nanotubes or graphene or whatever is the latest neat new material or development that has captured the headlines of the day. But as anybody who has worked with advanced materials knows, it can take a long time to journey from the lab to the shelf with a lot of time elapsing between discovery and commercialization.

What is exciting to me is that long after being given up for dead, carbon nanotubes are actually coming into their own. I believe that we are going to see many exciting new developments as these materials become economically feasible for a rapidly growing universe of applications.

What benefits do you think exhibitors and attendees will get from attending the show?

Although we have all learned to work virtually and remotely through the pandemic, there is no substitute for “boots on the ground.” Attending the show provides both exhibitors and attendees the opportunity to benefit from the synergies that can only occur when people are face-to-face with the dialogue and ideas flowing freely. While it is true that much business can be conducted over the Internet, it will never surpass the quality of the interactions and the depth of relationships that can be forged in person.

Bonus Question

  • What year and location would you visit if you had a time machine?

I know it’s boring, but I would put myself right here, right now.  I can’t imagine anything I could be doing that would be more exciting or more fulfilling than what I am doing today, here at CHASM.

CHASM Advanced Materials is revolutionizing design and fabrication of printed electronics and energy storage devices through exclusive development and manufacture of CNT hybrid transparent conductive films and CNT hybrid electrode materials.