Norman nanotechnologies company files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy

Once hailed as an example of a promising Oklahoma tech startup, Norman-based company SouthWest NanoTechnologies has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy

The company produce single-wall carbon nanotubes — tiny, but strong particles used to manufacture touch screens and solar lighting products, among other uses. The nanotubes are about a nanometer — one billionth of a meter — wide. 

The company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, meaning the tech company's assets will be liquidated to satisfy its debts. 

In court documents, SouthWest estimated it had about $5 million in assets and $11.7 million in debts.

Among the company's assets listed in court documents are several U.S. patents, including one described as "a method of producing carbon nanotubes." 

The company was founded by University of Oklahoma professor Daniel E. Resasco, who developed the catalytic process used by SouthWest NanoTechnologies to produce nanotubes.

Reached by phone on Tuesday, Resasco said he was no longer involved with the company and did not know why it had filed for bankruptcy.

"I am a scientist, not a businessman," Resasco said. 

The company's Norman office phone number has been disconnected and attempts to reach an attorney for the company, or SouthWest CEO David Arthur were unsuccessful. 

SouthWest opened an 18,000-square-foot manufacturing and research and development center on an eight-acre site in Norman in 2008.

In December 2014, SouthWest announced it had signed a memorandum of understanding with an Azerbaijani company to develop a major carbon nanotube production plant near the capital city of Baku. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The plant was projected to be able produce about 1,000 tons of nanotubes a year, beginning in 2016.

$4 million loan

The Norman Economic Development Coalition once hosted SouthWest in its business incubator program and also put up the collateral for the $4 million loan used by SouthWest Nanotube a to build a specialized plant on State Highway 9 across from the postal training center, according to a 2011 article in The Oklahoman. 

According to SouthWest's bankruptcy filing, SouthWest owes $89,000 to the Norman Economic Development Coalition, which has a second lien on some of the company's assets. 

Jason Smith, CEO of the Norman Economic Development Coalition, said the coalition was notified of the bankruptcy filing via email Tuesday and declined to comment further. 

SouthWest also lists the University of Oklahoma as a creditor in its bankruptcy filing, listing a $326,250 debt for a 10 percent convertible note and another $183,645 on a note payable.

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