Nanotechnology in North Carolina, USA: Market Report

North Carolina is located in the southeastern part of the United States of America. As of 2011, the population of the state was 9,656,401. The state covers a total area of 139,390 km2. North Carolina is a national leader in agriculture, financial services, and manufacturing sectors.

North Carolina is rapidly becoming a nanotechnology leader in the US. The region has a strong history of public investment in the sciences, and nanotechnology research in North Carolina is benefitting from this culture of investment - the North Carolina Department of Commerce has had a roadmap for investment in nanotechnology since 2006. The innovation in industry in this area is driven by discoveries in it's impressive number of prestigious universities and research facilities.

Research and industry in North Carolina cover a broad range of nanoscience disciplines. However, the region is especially rich in expertise in the fields of bio-nanotechnology, life sciences, and nanomedicine.

Nanotechnology Organisations

North Carolina has many organisations and networks committed to promoting nanoscience as well as exploring the challenges and future of nanotechnology. A brief introduction to the key nanotechnology-related organisations in North Carolina is given below:

Center of Innovation for Nanobiotechnology (COIN) - is a non-profit organization that helps to increase commercialization of nanobiotechnology in North Carolina and beyond. COIN's goal is to create synergy among existing statewide resources and bridge any gaps that are potential barriers to growth.

International Technology Center - The ITC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit research corporation that was started to foster economic development via innovation in advanced microfabrication technologies. They are involved in Nanodiamond Research of a variety of diamond-based materials at the nanoscale including pure-phase diamond films, diamond particles and their structural assemblies.

Nanodermatology Society - The members of this Society consists of physicians, dermatologists, physicists, chemists, policy makers, regulators, nanotechnology scientists, and students involved in nanotechnology that is specifically related to dermatology. They conduct yearly conferences.

RTI International - RTI focuses on improving human condition by turning knowledge into practice via cutting-edge study and analysis in health and pharmaceuticals, education and training, surveys and statistics, advanced technology, international development, economic and social policy, energy and the environment, and laboratory and chemistry services. Our mission is to ensure that our discoveries, innovations, and research findings ripple throughout society to improve the human condition.

Nanotechnology Companies

North Carolina has a strong culture of public and private investment in nanotechnology, and a steady supply of new innovations from academia - this makes it an ideal breeding ground for new nanotech companies. Some of the major nanotechnology companies in North Carolina along with a brief introduction to each of them:

Blue Nano - Blue Nano is a nanomaterials manufacturer that develops high quality, cost effective and reliable nano-focused industrial solutions in the highest volumes available anywhere. They serve universities, independent research labs and OEM manufacturers in a wide variety of sectors ranging from automotive to energy to healthcare. Blue Nano’s scientists have developed a process to produce higher quantities of nanomaterials at higher qualities than current manufacturing methods. This process is unique to Blue Nano, and dramatically different and much lower cost than traditional nanomaterials production (which is slow, wasteful, high-cost and capital-intensive).

Coventor - Coventor provides automated design solutions for micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS). Its software tools and expertise address the challenges of integrating these devices into a growing number of products– from smart phones to gaming systems. Coventor offers tools for the complete MEMS product development team, including: process engineers, MEMS device designers, IC integration engineers, as well as system architects.

Nano-Tex - Founded in 1998 by Dr. David Soane, former polymer chemist and Vice Chairman of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of California at Berkeley, the company’s team of scientists set out to replicate the natural water-repellency of plant surfaces and animal coats. Today, Nano-Tex is a leading fabric innovation company providing nanotechnology-based textile enhancements to the apparel, home and commercial/residential interiors markets. Nano-Tex is headquartered in Oakland, California with operations across the United States, Asia and Europe. To date, more than 80 textile mills worldwide are utilizing Nano-Tex treatments in products sold by more than 100 leading brands Worldwide.

Flow Sciences Inc. - Flow Sciences' provide containment systems for laboratory, pilot plant and manufacturing areas. The products are designed to protect operators from exposure to hazardous particulates and vapors while performing delicate operations.

InsituTec - Insitutec was established in 2001 as a spin out company from the Center for Precision Metrology at UNC at Charlotte. Their quality products focus on extracting or manipulationing nanoscale information in industries ranging from advanced nanoscale manufacturing to chemical and biological.

Nano Vector – An early stage therapeutic drug company, NanoVector Inc. is commercializing a patent pending nanoparticle drug delivery system developed at North Carolina State University (NCSU).

Nanomics Biosciences, Inc. – Nanomics Biosciences offers services to businesses to “green” their materials.  They specialize in nanomaterials. They are the premier company which uses global screening technologies to assess the effectiveness and safety of materials.  They were established to meet the need of rising apprehension and concern of the effects which engineered nanomaterials may have on human health and the environment. Their NBio product offerings include: NBioExpert, NBioProfile, NBioBlock, NBioCube I and NBioCube II.  NBioCell is a future offering.   

NanoTech Labs Inc. (NTL) - NTL is a small, disabled veteran owned business founded in 2004. NTL develops and produces military and commercial products that have performance benefits through the incorporation of nanotechnology. Many of the materials currently used by the military were developed to meet extremely difficult design specifications at the expense of many other desirable properties.  This constraint has led to using materials that are not fully optimized to meet DoD specifications.  NTL’s proprietary technologies produce composite materials that offer significant improvements over current technology such as substantial weight savings, increased performance and service life, and greater flexibility.

QuarTek - QuarTek Corporation is a privately held nanotechnology company based in High Point, North Carolina, located in the heart of the Piedmont Triad between Greensboro and Winston-Salem. QuarTek's mission is to develop new nanotechnology applications for the twenty-first century, including smart materials for energy management, biofuel processing, water treatment, advanced textiles, and nanosensors for diagnostics.

Xintek Inc. - Xintek is based in the Research Triangle Park of North Carolina. They develop and manufacture nanotechnology-enabled products for a broad range of applications including diagnostic medical imaging, homeland security, and information display. Their technologies are covered by over 40 issued and pending U.S. patents obtained through licensing agreements with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) and Duke University, and from their in-house R&D efforts.

Protochips - Protochips, Inc. is a rapidly growing early-stage company focused on providing the world's leading materials and life sciences research breakthrough analytical tools for targeted research and development of nano-scale materials. A fundamental problem exists today in that the tools used to observe and the tools used to work with nano-scale materials are separate and independent. A strong market need exists to combine these tools into an integrated platform. Using its own proprietary technology, Protochips is addressing this compelling market need by transforming the most widely used tools in nanotechnology – electron and optical microscopes - from cameras into complete nano-scale laboratories.

Liquidia TechnologiesLiquidia has established a powerful and versatile nanotechnology-based product development platform that is revolutionizing the way that companies engineer healthcare products. By leveraging fabrication techniques from the semiconductor industry, Liquidia has the ability to rapidly design and manufacture precisely engineered particles of virtually any size, shape, or composition. This unique ability to precisely engineer particles enables scientists to explore new product frontiers that, until now, have otherwise been out of reach. Using the company’s proprietary PRINT Platform, Liquidia is creating precisely engineered vaccines, therapeutics and other health-related products. Through its novel nanoparticle technology platform and expansive intellectual property, Liquidia is poised to be a leader in the development of nanotechnology-based healthcare products and a catalyst for the growth anticipated across this industry.

Fusion Innovative Technanogies – Fusion Innovative Technanogies manufactures patented nano-ceramic treatments that extend the service life of “friction pairs” such as pistons in cylinders, bearings in races, bullets in barrels, and gears where at least one member of the friction pair is made of steel. These application-specific products work in engines, transmissions, rear ends and bearings, and will improve fuel efficiency while reducing hydrocarbon (HC) emissions.

Catalytic Materials LLCCatalytic Materials LLC have developed the most advanced technology for the manufacture of high purity multiwalled carbon nanotubes and graphite nanofibers. They are the leaders in the architecture and design of carbon materials and have an extensive patent portfolio covering a wide range of applications for these products.          

Optotrack, Inc. - Optotrack is a high-tech company leading in the research and development of novel optical, imaging, chemical, as well as biological sensors and microsystems. The company is dedicated to commercializing its proprietary intellectual properties based on microfabrication and nanotechnology to seize rapidly growing market opportunities in the industries of healthcare, communication, and homeland security.

Xanofi - Headquartered in Raleigh, NC, Xanofi is built around the XanoShear™ process - a novel method of producing high quality nanofibers in high volumes. XanoShear™ provides an alternative nanofiber fabrication process to traditional electrospinning and meltblowing methods.

Nanotechnology Education

North Carolina is home to a number of universities that offer research and educational opportunities in nanotechnology. Given below is a list of universities and academic institutions in North Carolina and the academic courses or research opportunities offered by them in various aspects of nanotechnology.

North Carolina State University (NCSU) is a public, coeducational, research university located in Raleigh. It supports the following nanotechnology-based research and educational facilities:

  • Nanoelectronics – This research facility is headed by Professor Ki Wook Kim. His team explores quantum phenomena of nanoscale structures to discover and engineer effects that can be usefully employed for high performance computing and telecommunications applications, and for advanced concepts in sensor and biophysics devices.
  • Nanofabrication Facilitylocated at Centennial Campus. This Facility provides users with a broad range of nanofabrication capabilities to support a diverse set of projects. The Facility offers seven nanotechnology courses.
  • [email protected] STATE - It acts as an entry point for researchers, students, K-12 educators, industry leaders, and other community members who want to learn more about NC State University's nanotechnology efforts. It showcases inter-disciplinary efforts among faculty in the fields of chemistry, physics, biology, engineering, textiles, and veterinary medicine at the nanometer level.

University of North Carolina (UNC), located at Chapel Hill, is a public research university. It supports the following nanotechnology- based research and educational facilities:

  • Institute for Advanced Materials, Nanoscience and Technology – It is located at Chapel Hill. The Institute coordinates research in polymer science, nanomaterials, and nanobiosciences.
  • North Carolina Center for Nanoscale Materials (NCCNM) -NCCNM combines the experimental and theoretical research at UNC and NCSU so as to  understand and control the materials chemistry and physics of nanotubes and nanotube-based materials, to evaluate their potential applications in structural reinforcement, and energy storage, and to develop prototype nano mechanical and electronic devices.
  • GateWay University Research Park - It was formed as a joint venture between North Carolina A&T State University and The University of North Carolina Greensboro (UNCG) to facilitate collaborations between world-class researchers and businesses so as to move scientific discoveries from the lab to the marketplace thus benefiting the local community, region, and North Carolina.
  • Center for Nanotechnology in Drug DeliveryOne of the primary reasons for the existence of this research center is to apply nanotechnology and advanced drug-delivery systems and decrease the 50-60% failure rate of new drugs caused due to poor absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion, and toxicity
  • Carolina Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence - CCCNE is primarily organized for cancer management through enhanced treatment modalities and early diagnosis. They utilize state-of-the-art carbon nanotube and nanoparticle technologies developed at UNC Chapel Hill, to achieve their primary goal.

Duke University is a private research university located in Durham, North Carolina. It supports the following nanotechnology-based research and educational facilities:

  • Center for Environmental Implications of Nano Technology - CEINT works at exploring the relationship between a vast array of nanomaterials (natural, manufactured, and even those produced incidentally by human activities) and their potential environmental exposure, biological effects, and ecological impacts.
  • Department of Computer Science – They have a Biological Computing & Nanotechnologies Initiative.

Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials, Wake Forest University - The Center focuses on the needs of human beings (especially Green Technologies, Biomedical Technologies and new materials) by using the tools of the nanosciences. The Center has produced a series of materials innovations recently in the field of energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.

Recent Developments

In October 2012, RTI International’s nanofiber lighting improvement technology, NLITe™, was chosen as a finalist for two prestigious international awards, the World Technology Summit Award and the Energy Institute’s Innovation Award. NLITe™ will be an innovative platform for the lighting industry as it enables substantial energy savings and produces aesthetically pleasing light.

In the same month, Dr. Yuntian Zhu and his team of researchers from North Carolina State University developed a new breakthrough technique that allows carbon nanotubes (CNT) to be stretched and used to create carbon composites that can be used as stronger and lighter materials in almost any product. In a time when lightweight materials are in great demand, especially for building airplanes, as lighter aircraft means better fuel efficiency, this technique should find applications in a variety of industries.

A significant proportion of the recent technology news from North Carolina has come from Wake Forest University's Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials. The center, led by Professor David Carroll, produced two groundbreaking materials during 2012. In April, they announced the discovery of "Power Felt" - an efficient thermoelectric fabric which could be used to generate electricity from waste heat. In December 2012, Wake Forest was in the news again, as the center produced an electroluminescent polymer designed to replace conventional fluorescent lights, offering an alternative to LEDs and OLEDs in lighting and display devices.

With the strong culture of investment and innovation, and the wide array of research activities taking place in North Carolina, it is fast becoming one of the leaders in nanotechnology in the USA.

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