Editorial Feature

Nanotechnology in Pennsylvania, USA: Market Report

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Pennsylvania, located in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern regions of the United States, and the Great Lakes region, spans a total area of 119,283 km2. As of 2011, it had a population of 12,742,886.

The state occupies 19th place in the overall agricultural production, and its Gross State Product (GSP) was $570 billion in 2010. Pennsylvania has two major sectors—insurance and finance—as well as a number of Fortune 500 companies.

Recently, the advanced manufacturing and materials sector in Pennsylvania started another renaissance in its development. Pennsylvania ranked 5th in the overall manufacturing value, added with $98.2 billion in 2010—5% of the national value. Its manufacturing GSP is the 6th largest in the United States.

Currently, Pennsylvania-based manufacturers account for over 12% of the total output in the state and are facing the best production levels in the state’s history. The state’s employment has increased considerably—as much as 12,100 jobs were generated in 2011 alone. The Jobs First PA initiative, launched by Pennsylvania’s former Governor Tom Corbett, focuses on a two-pronged method of investing in the state workers and collaborating with job creators. The aim of this initiative is to add to this growing employment trend.

Manufacturing productivity outperformed all other industries with a phenomenal increase of 259% over the last four decades, and this is indeed evident. In the past several years, the total manufacturing output has ranged from $64 to $71 billion, while it was $71 billion in 2011.

Pennsylvania has a very diverse manufacturing industry, with no single dominating sector. The core manufacturing sub-industries of the state lie in primary metal manufacturing, chemical manufacturing, plastics and rubber manufacturing, paper products manufacturing, machinery manufacturing, and fabricated metals manufacturing. In terms of GDP, paper and primary metals are respectively ranked second and third in the country.

In Pennsylvania, there are several nationally and internationally recognized research universities, medical and life science research, and device clusters. Moreover, 70% of all research and development costs in Pennsylvania are devoted to manufacturing, with a total annual investment of $9.8 billion in research and development. Manufacturing also accounts for 60% of over 9,500 patents issued between 2001 and 2010.

In 2010, the state directly exported primary metal manufacturing products worth $3.7 billion to the rest of the world. One of Pennsylvania’s biggest international exports is advanced manufacturing products that account for 90% of all exports, thereby supporting 18% of the state’s manufacturing jobs. For the last 10 years, Pennsylvania has been ranked as the commonwealth’s 4th (or higher) largest export industry and has witnessed faster growth than what Pennsylvania exports in general, over two times the value from $1.4 billion to $3.7 billion from 2001 to 2010.

Nanotechnology Organizations

Given below is a short description of leading nanotechnology-related organizations in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania NanoMaterials Commercialization Center

The center focuses on supporting the commercialization of research on nanomaterials to meet the market needs of the commercial and defense industries. It assists in transforming the concepts of numerous entrepreneurs, companies, and researchers into new companies and products. In addition, the center contributes to developing prototypes of nano processes and products.

ASTM International

The Committee E56 on Nanotechnology is purely a technical committee, the aim of which is to develop standards for nanotechnology and nanomaterials through training programs, conferences, and workshops.

Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development

The Pennsylvania Initiative for Nanotechnology (PIN) works toward establishing the state of Pennsylvania as a top nanotechnology state in the globe. In order to achieve this standard, PIN looks for ways to integrate resources from industry, workforce development assets, and research studies.

Nanotechnology Companies

Pennsylvania has several leading nanotechnology-related companies that are given below along with a short description to each of them.

Industrial Science & Technology Network, Inc. (ISTN)

ISTN is an advanced innovation firm dealing with the development of nanotechnology-enabled products. It is dedicated to supplying valuable products and solutions that enable its customers to increase cost efficiency and performance in biomedical, optical, and industrial applications.

ISTN’s proprietary technology platforms are the result of world-class polymer chemistry expertise and development funding from the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the United States Department of Energy.

Nanomaterials Company

It is the first nanotechnology company in the Philadelphia metropolitan area and focuses on developing, processing and applications pertinent to nanomaterials, and related enabling technologies.

The company acquired its process technology from major technical achievements at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and since then, it has constantly expanded its technology base. Its business is dedicated to exploiting size-reliant characteristics that are displayed by materials with nanometer-scale architecture and to the design and development of proprietary enabling processing equipment.

Polysciences, Inc.

It is a top producer of fine and specialty chemicals, polymers, monomers, laboratory products, electronics, biotechnology, histology, microscopy, and specialty products for the personal care and pharmaceutical sectors. Polysciences’ nanotechnology products include Cholesteryl Nonanoate, Carboxyl PEGylated Gold Nanoparticles, and Amino PEGylated Gold Nanoparticles.

Aerotech, Inc.

Since 1970, the company has engineered and created positioning systems, positioning tables/stages, and motion control, with highest performance, for its customers in science, industry, research institutions, and governments worldwide.

Precision motion control products from Aerotech offer the vital performance for present challenging applications in various markets like life sciences and medical devices, photonics, flat panels and semiconductors, laser processing, data storage, automotive, research and development, test, assembly, electronics manufacturing, aerospace/military, and other markets where high-throughput and high-precision motion solutions are needed.

Aerotech uses its extensive experience obtained over four decades in the area of digital control systems, electronics, magnetics, computing, mechanics, and electromechanical systems engineering to create a range of products to fulfill both the present and future needs of the nanotechnology sectors.

Exclusive long-travel nanopositioners from Aerotech are meant for applications where sub-arc-second and nanometer accuracies are required. They are well suited for industrial and laboratory applications.

Nanoscience Labs

Troy Houston, Co-founder and President, and Tim Irwin, Co-founder and CEO, revived Nano Science Labs from the first steps of “just talking” to the “requirements and hurdles” related to creating Next-Generation Carbon Nano Tubes (NG-CNTs).

Irwin began to work on the initial phase and analyzed “market needs” for better quality CNTs. In particular, greater purity and higher yields would be possible, which the nanotechnology industry has never received from manufacturers.

Nanoscience Labs, supported by a powerful board of directors and NASA, has sophisticated technology and personnel who have the required certification to develop high-quality CNTs. It provides a particular range of products that are customized to meet and surpass the rising industry demand for cost reduction and purity, and is now producing the NG-CNTs.

NanoHorizons, Inc.

NanoHorizons integrates technology and science to create, design, and produce next-generation nanoparticles that offer safe, effective, permanent, and low-cost antimicrobial protection in a wide range of products. The company’s early work included the fabrication of high-performance analytical chemistry devices, nanomaterial-based sensors, and flexible electronics.

At present, the company creates, designs, and produces sophisticated nanoscale silver additives that add cost-effective, permanent, and eco-friendly performance-enhancing and antimicrobial properties to industrial, commercial, and consumer products. NanoHorizons focuses on applying innovative studies to develop new technologies that not only have advantageous and practical applications, but also offer value to both consumers and manufacturers.


Established in 2005, NanoLambda focuses on the development of plasmonic and nano-optic-based sensor devices. The company develops nanoplasmonic sensor platforms for personal day-to-day applications.

Versilant Nanotechnologies (VN)

It is the first materials-based nanotechnology company in Pennsylvania, headed by Dr Cynthia Kuper. VN purchases raw nanotechnology materials and employs patent-pending processing techniques to create these materials for commercial applications in the aerospace, avionics, automotive, and sporting goods industries.

Keystone Nano

The company specializes in producing novel nanoscale products to diagnose and treat human disease and thus enhance the quality of life. The company’s nanoparticles can deliver pharmaceuticals or chemicals to the target sites in a more effective and accurate manner compared to other techniques, through nontoxic and stable technology.

The company works with an array of active ingredients and can produce nanoparticle surfaces with either active or passive targeting strategies. Actives can be either sparingly soluble or water-soluble, and can be new or already approved chemical entities.

Nanotechnology Education

Pennsylvania is home to some of the top academic institutes that provide the following research programs and courses in nanotechnology and nanoscience.

Lehigh University

The Center for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology offers research in the areas given below:

  • Nanoparticles
  • Nanofabrication
  • Nanocharacterization
  • Sustainable Nano

Drexel University

The university supports research on nanotechnology through the center mentioned below:

A.J. Drexel Nanotechnology Institute

The institute provides interdisciplinary research education, as well as research and outreach in nanotechnology. Its Nanomaterials Group focuses on fundamental and applied aspects of synthesis and characterization of the materials mentioned below:

  • Composites
  • Ceramic nanoparticles
  • Nanotubes
  • Nanodiamonds
  • Nanoporous carbons

BioNanoTechnology Research

It offers nanotechnology research in the areas given below:

  • NanoBiosensor
  • NanoScale Imaging and Sensing
  • NanoScale Skin
  • Nanoscale Micro-encapsulation
  • NanoTissue Engineering
  • NanoScale BioMechanics
  • NanoScale X-Ray Imaging

College of Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University

The university supports research on nanotechnology through the center mentioned below:

Carnegie Mellon Nanofabrication Facility

It is a university-based facility focused on developing micro/nanodevices and thin films. The facility organizes studies in the following fields:

  • MEMS
  • Quantum structures
  • Integrated electro-optics
  • Process development of data storage materials and devices
  • Semiconductor materials

Nanorobotics Lab

The laboratory develops innovative methods for designing, manufacturing, and controlling high-impact micro/nano-robotic systems in micro/nano-manipulation systems, miniature mobile robots, and bio-inspired fibrillar adhesives.

Center for Nano-enabled Device and Energy Technologies (CNXT)

CNXT performs research activities related to nanotechnology and provides the nanotechnology courses given below:

  • ECE 18-819 Nanoscale Electronic Devices: Science, Materials, and Potential Applications
  • ECE 18-817 Fundamentals of Semiconductors and Nanostructures
  • Chem 09-723 Proximal Probe Techniques: New Tools for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology
  • Phys 33-398 Nanoscience and Nanotechnology

Pennsylvania State University

The university supports research on nanotechnology-related fields via the center given below:

Center for Nanoscale Science

It provides nanotechnology research in the following topics:

  • Nanomaterial synthesis and fabrication
  • Complex oxide thin films
  • Nano- and micro-motors
  • Low-dimensional electronic nanostructures
  • Integrated optical metamaterials

PennState Center for Nanotechnology Education and Utilization (CNEU)

CNEU provides education, research, and development in fields relating to micro- and nanotechnology. The CNEU provides nanofabrication displays, workshops and various other presentations for students and educators.

PennState NanoFabrication Facility (Nanofab)

It offers studies in the following fields:

  • Materials, chalcogenide glass, and metamaterials
  • Graphene and carbon nanotubes
  • Fuel cells, solar cells, and electronics
  • Ferroelectric, pyroelectric, and piezoelectric complex oxides
  • Microfluidics
  • Sensors
  • Nano-electromechanical Systems and micro-electromechanical systems
  • Self-assembly and directed self-assembly
  • Biological and bioengineering
  • Physics, chemistry, plasmonics, optics, and electro-chemical

Biofunctionalized Nano-Electro-Mechanical-Systems (BioNEMS) Laboratory

The laboratory explores nanoscience and nanotechnology with a focus on physics, biology, materials, and engineering.

Recent Developments

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has recently acknowledged the University of Pennsylvania researchers for creating better nanotech design principles that focus on drug delivery. With the help of this novel technology, the scientists hope to tackle diseases much more easily. The technology will help in improving the application of nanotechnology in drugs.

A group of Pennsylvania researchers used cadmium sulfide nanowires to develop the very first all-optical photonic switch. Through this latest discovery, the investigators emphasized that there would be a shift from “consumer electronics” to “consumer photonics” in the years to come.

A more recent study in nanotechnology resulted in the discovery of a process that prevents cracks or defects when depositing thin films of nanoparticles. The National Science Foundation and the Penn Materials Research Science and Engineering Center supported the research.

With these latest discoveries and breakthrough studies in the area of nanotechnology, Pennsylvania may probably witness continuous advancements in nanotechnology in the future, from numerous research centers, educational institutions, and companies.

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