Editorial Feature

Nanotechnology in California, USA: Market Report

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Situated in the west coast of the United States, California has a population of 37,691,912 as of 2011. It is also the third-largest state in the United States, covering a total area of 423,970 km2.

California’s economic growth is the fastest in the United States. In 2010, its gross state product was $1.9 trillion, which was the highest in the country. The state’s economy is large enough to rank among the world’s biggest countries, in addition to being the largest state economy in the United States. Globally, California’s economy was the eighth biggest in 2011.

The state’s economy largely depends on financial service and trade sectors. High technology sectors like software, electronic devices, and computing are a major strength in the region. There is a highly active environmental movement in California, leading to a demand for research in and manufacturing of greener products and renewable energy technology.

California’s strong economy combined with healthy research communities has resulted in a huge number of scientific and technology companies making their base in the region. California is a key player in nanotechnology not just within the country but also internationally. This can be attributed to the opportunities available for international and national trade, and associations with many nanoscience research facilities.

Nanotechnology Organizations

California is home to several globally recognized networks and organizations focused on supporting nanoscience, and analyzing the challenges and prospect of nanotechnology. The following sections briefly introduce the leading nanotechnology-related organizations located in California.

National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN)

An integrated partnership of 14 user facilities, NNIN aims to provide opportunities for research relating to nanotechnology and nanoscience. It also holds conferences, seminars, and workshops that cover school-aged children through to adult professionals to raise awareness on exciting and state-of-the-art research in nanotechnology. The National Science Foundation (NSF) supports the NNIN.

Northern California Nanotechnology Initiative (NCnano)

NCnano is an economic development initiative focused at advancing the economy of nanotechnology and nano-bio-IT convergence technology in Northern California. This initiative is because Northern California is famous for its venture capital, hi-tech industries, state-of-the-art technologies, and entrepreneurial spirit.

Nanotechnology Companies

Nanotechnology is a resourceful field with many applications covering a host of sectors. The following sections briefly describe the leading nanotechnology companies in California catering to these different fields.

Keysight Technologies

Keysight Technologies is an international electronic measurement technology and market leader that helps to redefine the measurement experience of its customers through advancements in software, modular, and wireless solutions. The company offers electronic measurement systems and instruments, and associated software design tools, software, and services utilized from beginning to end—that is, design, development, production, installation, deployment, and operation of electronic instruments.

American Elements

A global leader in the industrial application of materials science, American Elements supplies sophisticated engineering materials, including nanomaterials, to an unlimited number of global manufacturers in industry groups such as defense, aerospace, electronics, energy, automotive, pharma/cosmetics, optics and photovoltaics, and green technologies.

Anasys Instruments

Anasys Instruments offers novel AFM and associated accessories that allow thermal, mechanical, and chemical analysis at the sub-100 nm scale. The products and technology of the company are currently used to deal with analysis and metrology challenges in the advanced-materials, polymers, data-storage, and pharmaceuticals markets.

Applied Nanostructures

Applied NanoStructures, Inc. specializes in developing, manufacturing, and delivering numerous nanostructures that include both specialized and traditional SPM probes for a majority of the applications. The company makes use of its elaborate knowledge in nanofabrication technology as well as studies relating to AFM probes to provide the highest quality probes using the most recent technology in the market.

Asylum Research

Asylum Research is recognized as a technology leader in scanning probe and atomic force microscopy (SPM/AFM) for both bioscience and materials applications. The company’s instruments are used in a wide range of nanoscience applications in physics, chemistry, material science, biomaterials, polymers, and bioscience, such as polymer elasticity, protein unfolding, single-molecule mechanical experiments on DNA, and also force measurements for polymers, biomaterials, adhesion, colloidal forces, chemical sensing, etc.

BaySpec, Inc.

BaySpec, Inc. specializes in designing, manufacturing, and marketing sophisticated spectral instruments, ranging from portable and handheld NIR and Raman analyzers to UV-VIS spectrometers for the food, chemical, pharmaceuticals, biomedical, optical telecommunications, homeland security, and semiconductor sectors.

Bruker Nano Surfaces

Bruker Nano Surfaces produces next-generation atomic force microscopes and other nanotechnologies that integrate the latest developments in AFM methods for a broad range of application areas. Its applications range from built-in optics to measurement of forces between surfaces and particles, from data storage devices to polymers, and from biology to semiconductors.


A leader in nanotechnology-based solutions, Cambrios facilitates the production of electronic devices equipped with transparent conductors. Using current production equipment, the company’s proprietary nanostructured materials can be deposited to obtain improved performance of display devices and parts at lower development costs.

Cambrios’ first product—ClearOhm™—is a wet-processable and directly patternable transparent conductive film set to substitute the sputtered indium tin oxide (ITO), which is an industry standard.

Chemat Technology

Chemat Technology, Inc. was established in 1990 and, since then, it has positioned itself as a global leader in the development of next-generation materials through sol-gel technologies. Chemat, based in Northridge, California, in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, shifted to a 34,100-foot office/industrial building in 1999.

Research and development laboratories of Chemat Technology are fully equipped with sophisticated processing and analytical equipment. The company has facilities for the design and development of equipment, chemical precursor synthesis, as well as processing and characterization of advanced materials.


Fluidigm specializes in developing, manufacturing, and distributing systems made up of integrated fluidic chips (IFCs), allowing new efficiencies in industry and science. Leveraging a variation on nanoscale photolithography, IFCs are developed to produce chips with tiny valves, pump, channels, and other components.

Hewlett-Packard (HP) Labs

Based in Palo Alto, HP’s research facility pursues developments in numerous fields like digital imaging, business-process innovation, utility computing, experimental economics, streaming media, and customized printing. Simultaneously, researchers at HP Labs are studying more radical technologies, such as computational bioscience and nanotechnology.

IBM Research: Amalden

Amalden, California-based IBM facility, has a rich history of innovations that comprise the first data mining algorithms, the potential to place individual atoms and the distributed relational database. Also notable are the IBM Microdrive (the smallest disk drive in the world), breakthroughs in data storage technology, and racetrack memory. Currently, scientists are focusing on the latest breakthroughs in many different fields like services science, nanomedicine, and atomic-scale storage.


Intel employs approximately 12,600 people in California at two important locations in Folsom and Santa Clara. Smaller research and development locations are based in Irvine and Berkeley. Intel Labs is focusing on a number of research areas, most of which have strong connections with nanotechnology. These domains include silicon photonics, sustainability, transportation, and efficient computing.


nanoComposix deals in the development, characterization, and incorporation of nanomaterials into systems and products. Its aim is to enable its customers to increase the potential advantages of nanotechnology via the use of accurately designed and highly defined nanomaterials.

Nanōmix, Inc.

Marvin L. Cohen and Alex Zettl, professors at UC Berkeley and award-winning physicists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, founded Nanōmix in 2000 as a Berkeley Lab spinout to market their proprietary nanotechnology. Their aim was to identify a wide range of biological gases and molecules for industrial process control, disease management, and the identification of pollutants in water and air.

Nanōmix has created a carbon nanotube-based electronic biosensor called Sensation™ for use in decentralized point of care (POC) testing settings, including non-lab environments.

Nanosolar, Inc.

Nanosolar, Inc. is renowned for producing cost-efficient thin-film solar panels and cells. The company coats copper, indium, gallium, selenium (CIGS) and nanoparticle inks on cost-effective aluminum foil using an “industrial” printing process. This results in the lowest-cost solar cells and solar panels in the industry.

Nanosolar has solar cell manufacturing and headquarters in San Jose, California, and also an automated panel assembly facility located outside Berlin, Germany. These facilities allow the company to develop an effective global distribution network to provide cost-efficient solar power.

Nanosys, Inc.

An advanced materials architect, Nanosys designs and develops innovative materials at the molecular level to enhance the capacity of battery storage and improve the performance of LCD color. The company’s solutions allow exceptional electronic products using known and practical manufacturing procedures.


NeoPhotonics Corporation is a prominent developer and vertically integrated producer of sophisticated integrated optical modules and subsystems. These products are developed not only to enhance the performance but also to lower the costs relating to backbone and access optical networks.

The company spearheads the long-sought-after incorporation of passive PLC, active semiconductor, and MEMS multi-dimensional switching functions into one product. This combination is attributed to high-tech integration, fabrication technologies, nanoscale design, and nanomaterials.

Park Systems

In 1989, Park Systems created the first commercial AFM in the world, presenting new opportunities in research and development. The company offers original and groundbreaking AFM solutions for the most precise nanoscale measurement.

Seagate Technology

Seagate, established in 1979, specializes in hard drives and storage solutions. The company provides the industry’s widest range of solid-state drives, hard disk drives, and solid-state hybrid drives. Seagate also provides an array of retail storage products for small businesses and consumers, together with data-recovery services for any make and model of digital media and hard drive.


Tekon® is a leading company focused on green eco-friendly surface cleaners, polishes, and protective coatings. It specializes in protective sealing products and cleaners for wood, metal, glass, and other artificial surfaces. As the industry leader, the company has widely studied, created, and field-tested its products with its Tek Home® Division in the last seven years.

XEI Scientific

XEI Scientific produces and sells the Evactron® De-Contaminator, which eliminates hydrocarbon contamination from various vacuum systems, including FIBs and SEMs. The Evactron® is said to be the only accessory that can be purchased for the SEM and helps improve instrument performance.

Palo Alto Research Center (Xerox PARC)

PARC is a Xerox company, and since its inception, has invented several technology platforms ranging from laser printing and the Ethernet, to the GUI and ever-present computing, and has facilitated setting up of several industries.

Established as a separate, 100% owned subsidiary of Xerox in 2002, Xerox PARC currently continues the computer, physical, and social sciences studies that allow new breakthroughs for its customers’ businesses.


Xradia’s technology helps advance breakthroughs in industry and science by offering unique perceptions through excellent X-ray imaging solutions. The company’s products make use of optics and sophisticated X-ray computed tomography (CT) imaging methodology to nondestructively create three-dimensional (3D) images of objects with excellent spatial contrast and resolution.

Zeta Instruments

Zeta Instruments specializes in manufacturing high-performance imaging systems that can examine low-reflectance and high-roughness surfaces for LEDs, solar cells, and other similar micron-scale manufacturing test applications.

Nanotechnology Education

California has several world-leading universities that provide educational and research opportunities in nanotechnology. The following sections list the various academic institutions and universities in California offering research opportunities or academic courses in different aspects of nanotechnology.

California Institute of Nanotechnology

The institute not only supports research and development but also offers professional education and training in the field of nanotechnology to fulfill the requirements of the evolving industry for the benefit of society.

University of California

Established in 1868, the University of California works across 10 campuses throughout the state. It is recognized in many areas of subjects, including scientific disciplines such as engineering, physics, and chemistry.

  • UC Berkeley
    • The umbrella organization—The Berkeley Nanosciences and Nanoengineering Institute (BNNI)—focuses on expanding and coordinating Berkeley educational and research activities in nanoscale science and engineering.
    • The Biomolecular Nanotechnology Center (BNC) is an 11,500 square-foot class 1,000/10,000 cleanroom facility situated in Stanley Hall on the UC Berkeley campus. The BNC is a special fabrication and experimentation facility dealing in microfluidic devices and Biomedical Micro-electromechanical systems (BioMEMS).
    • Supported by the National Science Foundation, the Center of Integrated Nanomechanical Systems (COINS) is a multidisciplinary nanoscale science and engineering center (NSEC). COINS has its headquarters at the University of California at Berkeley, and satellite campuses located at Stanford, Caltech, and also at the University of California at Merced. COINS aims to create and combine advanced nanotechnologies into a multipurpose platform with numerous ultra-selective, ultra-sensitive, mobile, self-powering, wirelessly communicating detection applications.
  • UC Davis—The Northern California Nanotechnology Center (NCNC) is the world’s leading research, development, and teaching center dedicated to microtechnology and nanotechnology. It is based at the UC Davis College of Engineering. The laboratory, established in 2004, is a 10,000 square-foot, class 100 cleanroom facility. It is focused on fostering and supporting research, development, and teaching activities in the field of microtechnology and nanotechnology. It also offers an effective environment for non-conventional applications of standard microfabrication.
  • UC Irvine—UC Irvine has several groups working in nanotechnology. These include Professor Peter Burke’s research group, and a number of investigators within the Henry Samueli School of Engineering.
  • UC Los Angeles—Located at UC Santa Barbara and UCLA, the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) aims to support university partnership with industry. This integrated research facility also allows the quick commercialization of discoveries in nanotechnology and nanoscience.
  • UC Merced
    • At UC Merced, the core interests of the Nanotechnology and Renewable Energy research team include both traditional and emerging topics. The conventional topics are condensed matter physics like related magnetic phases and coupled quantum systems, while the evolving topics include multi-disciplinary themes like plasmonics-based optoelectronic devices and hybrid solar cells.
  • UC Riverside—Studies conducted in the Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology Group are dedicated to designing, synthesizing, and processing nanostructured materials such as carbon nanotubes, thin-film zeolites, and nanotubes and nanowires of semiconductors and metals. Such nanostructured materials are arranged into multifunctional devices for a variety of applications like biosensors, spintronics, dielectrics, thermoelectrics, and membranes and fuel cell catalysts.
  • UC San Diego (UCSD)—UCSD’s Department of NanoEngineering deals with a wide array of topics, but focuses mainly on molecular materials and nanomaterials, computational nanotechnology, nanotechnologies for energy conversion, and biomedical nanotechnology.
  • UC San Francisco (UCSF)—The UCSF Nanofab enables scientists to develop and define biomedical micro-systems and nano-systems. Nanoscale probes for imaging, microfluidic cell-based assays, regenerative medicine, drug delivery platforms for tumor targeting, and biomaterials for orthopedic applications are the specific areas facilitated by this resource.
  • UC Santa Barbara (UCSB)
    • The UCSB Nanofabrication Facility promotes a wide range of reactive ion etching, thin-film deposition, lithography, and characterization tools to support the development of devices for a wide range of materials, such as Si, SiC, GaN, GaAs, InP, and other innovative materials.
    • At UCSB, the NSF Center for Nanotechnology in Society operates as a national research and education facility. It serves as a network center among educators and researchers concerned with societal problems relating to nanotechnologies, and also a resource base for investigating these problems in both the United States and overseas. The center deals with education for a new group of nanoscience and social science professionals, and it also performs studies on breakthrough processes and worldwide diffusion of nanotech, on the traditional context of the nano-enterprise, and on the public sphere and risk perception.
    • The UC Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology (UC CEIN) explores how nanomaterials have an impact on various biological systems in marine, freshwater, and terrestrial environments. Based on this study, the UC CEIN will create a detailed risk-ranking model, based on nanomaterials’ possible toxicity, persistence, and mobility.
  • UC Santa Clara (UCSC)—Several research teams are working in the field of nanomedicine and nanoscience at UCSC, including scientists in the NASA Ames University Affiliated Research Center and the Biomedical Research Group. In addition, there is a Nanochemistry Cluster in the COSMOS Summer School for Mathematics and Science.

California State University

California State University (CSU) is less research-oriented in general when compared to the University of California; however, courses with a nanotechnology component are provided as part of the CSU programs as given below:

  • Electrical Engineering at CSU Fullerton
  • Physics and Electrical Engineering at CSU Long Beach
  • Mechanical Engineering at San Diego State University
  • Engineering at SFSU
  • Materials Engineering and Mechanical Engineering at San Jose SU
  • Manufacturing Systems Engineering at CSU Northridge
  • Mechanical Engineering at CSULA

California Institute of Technology (Caltech)

  • Roukes Group—The group explores new physics at the nanoscale and uses this know-how to obtain sophisticated tools for the life sciences and biomedical fields. It addresses everything from biological analyses allowed by innovative devices, to systematic nanodevice engineering for viable applications, to quantum measurements using nanosystems at very low temperatures.
  • Kavli Nanoscience Institute—The aim of this institute is to drive nanofabrication potential beyond the latest developments. Multi-user laboratories and cleanroom also exist for nanostructure synthesis, characterization, and fabrication.
  • Caltech Nanofabrication Group—Under the guidance of Professor Axel Scherer, the Caltech Nanofabrication Group is mainly engaged in the design, development, and characterization of nanoscale fluidic, magnetic, and photonic systems and devices.
  • The Atwater research group—This group is mostly focused on interdisciplinary device and materials research, covering electronics and photonics, with applications in mechanically active thin-film devices, renewable energy, plasmonics, and Si-based photonics. Plasmonics, nanophotonic materials and devices, nanocrystal electronic materials and devices, ferroelectrics, nano-enhanced and thin-film photovoltaics are current research areas.

University of Southern California (USC)

Directed by Dr Chongwu Zhou, USC Nanotechnology Research Laboratory is focused on a wide range of nanotech fields, such as graphene and carbon nanotubes for circuits and devices, drug delivery, biosensing, and synthesis and applications of nanowires.

Recent Developments

Scientists at The State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY-Buffalo) and the Keck School of Medicine at USC developed a new technique in February 2012, which was used for treating head and neck cancer in mouse models. The technique was shown to boost the effectiveness of radiation therapy by over 50%. The scientists also created a nanoparticle formulation that sensitizes the tumor and, consequently, boosts the efficacy of radiation treatment in a mouse model affected with head and neck cancer by as much as 50%.

In August 2012, a research group headed by Caltech researchers developed a breakthrough mechanical device that can determine the mass of separate molecules one at a time. According to the researchers, the novel technology will ultimately allow biologists to examine viruses and study the molecular machinery of cells, help physicians to diagnose various diseases, and even enable researchers to better determine air pollution and nanoparticles.

In September 2012, a new startup company called Nano-Sharp, Inc. at UC Davis developed surgical tools and razor blades with the help of semiconductor manufacturing technology. The company will be creating these with silicon wafers that will bring down the cost when compared to that of existing ceramic or silicon blades.

In the same month, the University of California Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology at the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA organized a workshop called Challenges and Opportunities for Businesses Engaged in Nanotechnology.

Speakers included international business leaders, government specialists, and scientists, who reiterated the fact that nanotechnology is poised to be a driving force in California’s economic growth in the next 10 years.

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