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Nano-reinforced aluminum
Gamma Alloys’ nano-reinforced aluminum can be extruded into bars. (Gamma Alloys Photo)

Boeing’s latest venture-capital investment, in a company called Gamma Alloys, aims to give a boost to next-generation aluminum alloys that may show up one day in Boeing’s airplanes.

The investment by Boeing’s HorizonX venture arm, announced today, is the first to focus on advanced materials and machining development and applications.

Gamma Alloys, founded in 2008 with its headquarters in Valencia, Calif., is developing alloys that use alumina nanoparticles (Al2O3) to reinforce aluminum. Boeing says the alloys provide increased stiffness, improved wear resistance and greater strength than current materials across a wider range of temperatures.

Nano-reinforced alloys are particularly well-suited for applications in aerospace and automobile manufacturing.

“The wear, strength, durability and machining characteristics of Gamma’s materials have the opportunity to further reduce the weight of our products,” Steve Nordlund, vice president of Boeing HorizonX, said in a news release. “The traction that Gamma Alloys has gained in automotive, energy and aerospace reinforces our confidence that Gamma has a unique set of materials.”

Gamma Alloys CEO Mark Sommer said the opportunity to partner with Boeing “was too compelling to pass up.”

“With funding from Boeing, we will explore compelling applications across demanding industries such as aerospace while accelerating our nanoparticle material development and the full-scale industrialization of our manufacturing processes,” Sommer said.

Gamma currently has about 10 employees and is in expansion mode. The size of Boeing’s investment was not disclosed, but HorizonX investments are typically in the seven-figure to low eight-figure range.

Boeing has announced six venture investments since HorizonX was established in April. The other five companies include:

  • Pennsylvania-based Near Earth Autonomy, which is developing technologies for autonomous flight.
  • Pennsylvania-based C360, which leverages augmented reality and virtual reality for immersive videos.
  • Virginia-based Upskill, which provides augmented-reality solutions for industrial settings.
  • Kirkland, Wash.,-based Zunum Aero, which is working on a new class of hybrid electric airplanes.
  • Texas-based SparkCognition, which focuses on artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things.
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