The mainstream media often refers to nanotechnology with reference to fantastic science fiction developments like the future dream of using tiny robots in the human bloodstream to run repairs on organs, deliver drugs or excise tumours. The reality is that some nanotechnolgies are already close to being commercially viable and organisations are being developed to take advantage of these technologies and bring them to market.
One such organisation is the National Center for Multiscale Materials and Devices (MMD) located in Corvallis, Oregon. After the Oregon Council on Knowledge and Economic Development (OCKED) recommended that economic growth should be stimulated by investment in "signature research centers" the MMD was created.
The idea is that taking applied research and quickly turning it into commercial realities that can be licensed to existing companies will drive economic development. Although still only very new the MMD already is collaborating with researchers from Oregon's state universities, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Wash., and from the Oregon Graduate Institute at Oregon Health & Sciences University. They also expect to soon be working with companies like Hewlett-Packard, Xerox and Intel.
Projected figures for the nanotechnology industry are astonishing. In the next 15 to 20 years it is reckoned that the market for materials and materials processing will be around $340 billion, $300 billion for electronics, $180 billion for pharmaceuticals and $100 billion from chemical manufacturing. A myriad of small markets in aerospace, tools, automation, health care, agriculture, water and energy will total to another $1 trillion.
The first fully commericalised products are expected within two to three years. These projects include chemically modified gold particles, materials for diodes and sensors, enhanced heat transfer materials and semiconductor materials.