It started with a simple idea: What if you could hide antennas in plain sight?
Drawing on his 20 years of engineering experience, Chamtech Technologies founder Anthony Sutera began experimenting and eventually created a liquid composed of nanoparticles, that when dried, could function as a highly efficient antenna--whether painted onto a building or injected directly into the molding of a cell-phone case.
"Think of it this way: We have a whole bunch of nanoparticles that are covered with different materials," he says. "Those particles go into the liquid, and when that liquid dries, those particles combine to create a lot of very small capacitors."
Infinitely portable, highly effective
In other words, Sutera created a "liquid" antenna. It's effective, too. One experiment showed that a quarter inch tab of the spray-on antenna boosted a GPS signal by 300 percent.
Chamtech has stayed relatively quiet about the technology, but it has amassed six issued patents and 13 pending patents. This interview with Inc. was one of Sutera's first press interviews.
Initially, the company identified the military as its target customer, so Chamtech marketed its earliest products as a way to equip troops abroad with antennas that wouldn't give away their camouflage. But Sutera saw a bigger opportunity.
"Once we realized that we were able to make the technology work the way it does, we realized it was obviously a larger play than just the government side," he says.
Sutera also believes the technology can play an important role in emergency situations--such as when a natural disaster takes out an entire electrical grid.
After Hurricane Sandy, FEMA contacted Sutera and wanted him to create a product designed for precisely these emergencies. Sutera obliged, and began work on a communications "box" that's about the size of a suitcase. It's a solar-powered computer, only it doesn’t rely on any existing wireless infrastructure, since its built-antennas serve that function. That product is going into production in April.
In the future, the company plans to work with manufacturers and cellular companies to integrate the technology into more systems.
"Any wireless device on the face of the earth is a possible candidate for this technology," Sutera says. "That's what makes it so exciting from a business standpoint."