In 1997, Professor Al Weimer of chemical and biological engineering and Professor Steven George of chemistry began collaborating on a novel process of coating surfaces with the thinnest of materials possible, known as atomic layer deposition (ALD).

Each ALD layer is roughly the thickness of an atom—about a million times thinner than a human hair.

Weimer and George eventually filed a number of patents and started a spinoff company, ALD NanoSolutions (ALD Nano), which initially relied on federal grants, including funding from the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation. Now, commercial revenue keeps the company thriving.

ALD Nano develops customized coatings for particles and plastics to improve the performance of new and existing products. These coatings are helping to transform industries such as lighting, consumer electronics, water purification and energy storage, including improving lithium-ion batteries.

What’s next? “One of the exciting things is that many of the applications for our technology have not been discovered yet,” Weimer says.