Tim Feren

"We really took off once we came to Columbus," said Lance Criscuolo, president of Zyvex. "We went from in-lab, pilot scale (projects using nanotechnology) to turning it into larger-scale products. The boat is the first large-scale product we've rolled out. We believe it to be the largest structure ever built from nano composites."

Moving to Columbus to develop marine-focused applications might not seem logical, but Zyvex's leader disagrees.

"We're polymer chemists," Criscuolo said. "If I wanted to start a semiconductor business, I would probably move to Silicon Valley. Well, the same applies if I want to get into polymer and nano composites. Ohio has a lot of partners there and a lot of customers there. Ohio has a lot of the talent to make materials.

"So the talent, the ecosystem and the supply chain are all in Ohio."

The carbon nanotubes used by Zyvex are microscopic sheets of graphite that roll up into tubelike structures. On a microscopic scale, they act like pebbles in concrete, adding extreme strength to a structure while also being highly conductive of electric current or heat.

Nano-enhanced materials offer such great strength at lower weight that the materials in Piranha, for example, are 40 percent stronger than a metal such as aluminum while being 75 percent lighter than that metal.