Skolkovo nuclear cluster resident Optogard Nanotech has completed a six-day trip to China that saw the firm sign a contract to supply the country’s largest pipeline manufacturer, Shandong Trustpipe Industry, with cutting-edge laser technology that toughens the pipes’ surfaces.

The signing ceremony in Linyi. Photo: Pavel Smirnov

The two parties inked a provisional agreement on the supply of a laser-plasma unit at the Open Innovations forum in Moscow in October, and at the Linyi headquarters of the company last week, the deal was cemented.

Optogard general director Pavel Smirnov revealed to that the intervening period has seen “months of difficult negotiations of the technical specifics of the task.”

“But now we see our agreement has taken a legally binding form – the supply contract,” he added.

Photo: Pavel Smirnov.

After undergoing Optogard’s patented laser-plasma treatment, pipeline surfaces are as hard as the armor that protects battlefield APCs, guarding against blockages caused by the buildup of impurities by providing an ultra-smooth and friction-free coating.

The pipes will be used for everything from oil delivery through the nuclear industry and community utilities.  

Smirnov said Shandong Trustpipe Industry, which now has an exclusive license to use the technology anywhere in China, had plans that he had not foreseen.

“When we arrived in China to sign the contract, we were surprised to find that our partners plan to treat not only the external surfaces of pipes, which we talked about initially, but also the internal surfaces and  connections,” Smirnov said. “The flexibility of our solution allows us to fulfill this wish too, even though we found out about it at the last minute.”

It will take a year for Optogard to construct the huge laser-plasma unit – whose laser block alone takes up 30 square meters - at its technological base in Novosibirsk. It is to be constructed from exclusively Russian parts, though that may change in the future.

“The Chinese hope to produce with this unit up to 100,000 tons of tube a year. Depending on the diameter that’s one or two million square meters,” Smirnov noted.

“In other words, when Shandong Trustpipe Industry enters full-scale production volumes, it could cover half the area of Skolkovo every year,” he added.

The Skolkovo Innovation Center is four square kilometers in area.

Photo: Pavel Smirnov

Meanwhile, Smirnov felt a keenness on the part of his Chinese hosts to see other Skolkovo innovations implemented in Linyi, a city of more than 10 million in Shandong province, and across China.

“Every day in Linyi we met with local authorities including the first deputy mayor of the city … as well officials from the [municipal] science and technology department. They confirmed on more than one occasion their interest in implementing not only our technology, but that of other Skolkovo companies,” he said.

The executive director of Skolkovo’s nuclear cluster, Igor Karavaev, said Optogard was one of the first Skolkovo residents to enter the Chinese market.

“In the next two or three years we expect an increase in the international sales of our participants, the innovations of whom, thanks to Skolkovo, are globally competitive,” he said.

As Optogard’s project manager at Skolkovo, Kirill Danilenko, put it: “the supply of this unit for strengthening  pipe surfaces in China will, we hope, become a foundation to expand bilateral cooperation for promoting this technology on the Chinese and Asian markets.”

“This is only the beginning. In the future we expect to expand the sphere of application of this technology, the assortment of objects it can treat, and the quantity of deliveries of such units,” Danilenko said.