Editorial Feature

Nanotechnology in North Carolina, USA: Market Report

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

North Carolina is quickly turning into a nanotechnology leader in the United States. The region has a robust history of public investment in different scientific fields, and nanotechnology research in North Carolina is profiting from this culture of investment. Since 2006, the North Carolina Department of Commerce has had a roadmap for investment in nanotechnology.

The advancement in industry in this area is stimulated by discoveries in its remarkable number of prestigious universities and research facilities.

In North Carolina, research and industry cover a wide range of nanoscience disciplines. However, the region is particularly rich in expertise in the areas of life sciences, bio-nanotechnology, and nanomedicine.

Nanotechnology Organizations

North Carolina has a number of organizations and networks dedicated to promoting nanoscience as well as investigating the challenges and future of nanotechnology. A short introduction to the main nanotechnology-related organizations in North Carolina is provided below.

Center of Innovation for Nanobiotechnology (COIN)

COIN is a non-profit organization that helps to improve the commercialization of nanobiotechnology in North Carolina and other areas. COIN’s goal is to develop synergy among current statewide resources and close any gaps that are potential barricades to growth.

International Technology Center

The ITC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit research corporation established to promote economic development via innovation in advanced microfabrication technologies. It is involved in Nanodiamond Research of a range of diamond-based materials at the nanoscale, including diamond particles, pure-phase diamond films, and their structural assemblies.

Nanodermatology Society

This Society comprises physicians, physicists, dermatologists, chemists, regulators, nanotechnology scientists, policymakers, and students involved in nanotechnology, particularly related to dermatology. The society conducts annual conferences.

RTI International

It aims to enhance human condition by converting knowledge into practice via innovative study and investigation in health and pharmaceuticals, surveys and statistics, education and training, international development, advanced technology, energy and the environment, social and economic policy, and laboratory and chemistry services. Its mission is to ensure that innovations, discoveries, and research findings pass throughout society to enhance the human condition.

Nanotechnology Companies

North Carolina has a great culture of public and private investment in nanotechnology, and a consistent supply of new innovations from academia. These aspects make it a perfect breeding ground for new nanotech companies. Some of the big nanotechnology companies in North Carolina along with a short introduction to each of them are given below.

Blue Nano

It is a nanomaterials manufacturer that designs high quality, economical, and dependable nano-focused industrial solutions in the highest volumes available anywhere. It serves independent research labs, universities, and OEM manufacturers in many different sectors ranging from energy to automotive to healthcare.

Researchers at Blue Nano have formulated a process to create higher quantities of nanomaterials at improved qualities than existing manufacturing techniques. Exclusive to Blue Nano, this process is significantly different, and relatively costs less than traditional nanomaterials production (which is slow, high-cost, wasteful, and capital-intensive).


It provides automated design solutions for micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS). Its software tools and expertise resolve the challenges of incorporating these devices into an increasing number of products—from gaming systems to smartphones. Coventor provides tools for the entire MEMS product development team, including IC integration engineers, MEMS device designers, process engineers, as well as system architects.

Flow Sciences Inc.

It provides containment systems for pilot plants, laboratories, and manufacturing areas. The products are built to safeguard operators against exposure to dangerous vapors and particulates while carrying out delicate operations.


This was set up in 2001 as a spin-out company from the Center for Precision Metrology at UNC, at Charlotte. The company’s quality products focus on manipulating or extracting nanoscale information in industries ranging from cutting-edge nanoscale manufacturing to biological and chemical.

Nano Vector

An early stage therapeutic drug company, it commercializes a patent-pending nanoparticle drug delivery system created at North Carolina State University (NCSU).

NanoTech Labs Inc. (NTL)

NTL is a small, disabled veterans-owned business, set up in 2004. NTL designs and produces commercial and military products that have performance advantages through the integration of nanotechnology. A number of the materials presently used by the military were created to meet very difficult design specifications, at the expense of several other useful properties.

This limitation has led to the use of materials that are not completely optimized to match DoD specifications. NTL’s exclusive technologies create composite materials that provide significant improvements over existing technology such as greater flexibility, considerable weight savings and better performance and service life.

QuarTek Corporation

It is a privately-owned nanotechnology company based in High Point, North Carolina, situated in the heart of the Piedmont Triad between Winston-Salem and Greensboro. QuarTek’s aim is to create new nanotechnology applications for the 21st century, including smart materials for advanced textiles, energy management, water treatment, biofuel processing, and nanosensors for diagnostics.

Xintek Inc.

The company is located in the Research Triangle Park of North Carolina. It designs and manufactures nanotechnology-enabled products for a wide range of applications such as homeland security, diagnostic medical imaging, and information display. Xintek’s technologies are covered by more than 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 its in-house R&D efforts.

Protochips Inc.

It is a quickly growing early-stage company aiming to provide the world’s leading materials and life sciences research breakthrough analytical tools for targeted research and development of nanoscale materials. However, a fundamental issue exists currently: the tools used to observe and work with nanoscale materials are distinct and independent.

A robust market need exists to integrate these tools into an in-built platform. Using its own exclusive technology, Protochips is looking at this exciting market need by altering the most extensively used tools in nanotechnology—electron and optical microscopes—from cameras into comprehensive nanoscale laboratories.

Liquidia Technologies

The company has set up a robust and adaptable nanotechnology-based product development platform that is transforming the way companies build healthcare products. By leveraging fabrication methods from the semiconductor sector, Liquidia Technologies has the ability to quickly design and produce precisely engineered particles of almost any shape, size, or composition. This unique ability to exactly engineer particles, allows researchers to examine new product frontiers that, thus far, have been out of reach.

Using its exclusive PRINT Platform, Liquidia Technologies is developing precisely engineered therapeutics, vaccines, and other health-related products. Through its original nanoparticle technology platform and expansive intellectual property, the company is all set to be a leader in the development of nanotechnology-based healthcare products, and a catalyst for the growth projected across this industry.

Fusion Innovative Technanogies

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

Catalytic Materials LLC

It has created the most advanced technology for the production of high-purity multi-walled carbon nanotubes and graphite nanofibers. It is the leader in the design and architecture of carbon materials and has a large patent range spanning a broad range of applications for these products.

Nanotechnology Education

North Carolina has several universities that provide research and educational opportunities in nanotechnology. Listed below are academic institutions and universities in North Carolina and the academic courses or research opportunities offered by them in different aspects of nanotechnology.

North Carolina State University (NCSU)

NCSU is a public, coeducational, research university situated in Raleigh. It promotes the following nanotechnology-based research and educational facilities:

Nanoelectronics—This research unit is headed by Professor Ki Wook Kim. His team investigates quantum phenomena of nanoscale structures to find and engineer effects that can be practically employed for high-performance computing and telecommunications applications, and for advanced concepts in biophysics and sensor devices.

Nanofabrication Facility—Situated at Centennial Campus, the facility offers users with a wide range of nanofabrication capabilities to support a varied set of projects. It provides seven nanotechnology courses.

NANO@NC STATE—It serves as an entry point for industry leaders, students, researchers, K-12 educators, and other community members who are keen to learn more about NC State University's nanotechnology efforts. It highlights inter-disciplinary efforts among faculty in the fields of textiles, chemistry, biology, physics, engineering, and veterinary medicine at the nanoscale level.

University of North Carolina (UNC)

UNC is a public research university, located at Chapel Hill. It supports the following nano-based research and educational facilities:

Institute for Advanced Materials, Nanoscience and Technology—Based at Chapel Hill, the Institute manages research in nanomaterials, polymer science, and nanobiosciences.

North Carolina Center for Nanoscale Materials (NCCNM)—It integrates the theoretical and experimental research at NCSU and UNC in order to comprehend and regulate the materials chemistry and physics of nanotubes, and nanotube-based materials, to assess their potential applications in structural reinforcement and energy storage, and to build prototype nano-mechanical and electronic devices.

GateWay University Research Park—It was set up as a joint venture between North Carolina A&T State University and The University of North Carolina Greensboro (UNCG). The aim was to enable partnerships between world-class scientists and businesses so as to take scientific discoveries from the lab to the marketplace, thus helping the local community, area, and North Carolina.

Center for Nanotechnology in Drug Delivery—One of the main reasons for this research center is to use nanotechnology and advanced drug-delivery systems to lower the failure rate of new drugs. About 50%–60% of the failure rate is due to poor absorption, excretion, metabolism, distribution, and toxicity.

Carolina Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence—CCCNE is mainly set up for cancer management via improved treatment modalities and early diagnosis. It utilizes advanced carbon nanotube and nanoparticle technologies created at UNC Chapel Hill, to realize its main goal.

Duke University

A private research university situated in Durham, North Carolina, it aids the following nanotechnology-based research and educational facilities:

Center for Environmental Implications of Nano Technology—CEINT works at analyzing the relationship between a vast range of nanomaterials and their potential biological effects, environmental exposure, and ecological impacts. The nanomaterials could be manufactured, natural, and even those created incidentally by human activities.

Department of Computer Science—It has a Biological Computing and Nanotechnologies Initiative.

Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials, Wake Forest University

The center addresses the demands of human beings (particularly Biomedical Technologies, Green Technologies, and new materials) by using the tools of nanosciences. The center has developed a series of materials innovations in the field of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency.

Recent Developments

In October 2012, NLITe™ nanofiber lighting enhancement technology of RTI International was selected as a finalist for two significant international awards—the Energy Institute’s Innovation Award and the World Technology Summit Award. NLITe™ will be an advanced platform for the lighting industry as it allows considerable energy savings, and creates aesthetically attractive light.

Similarly in October 2012, Dr Yuntian Zhu and his team of scientists from NCSU created a new breakthrough method that enables carbon nanotubes to be stretched and used to develop carbon composites that can be used as stronger and lighter materials in virtually any product. In a time, when lightweight materials are in huge demand, particularly for designing lighter airplanes resulting in improved fuel efficiency, this method should find applications in a range of industries.

A substantial proportion of the latest technology news from North Carolina has emerged from Wake Forest University’s Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials. The center, led by Professor David Carroll, created two revolutionary materials in 2012. It announced the discovery of “Power Felt”—an efficient thermoelectric fabric which can be used to produce electricity from waste heat.

In December 2012, Wake Forest was again in the limelight for creating an electroluminescent polymer engineered to substitute traditional fluorescent lights, providing an alternative to OLEDs and LEDs in lighting and display devices.

With this strong scenario of innovation and investment, and the broad array of research activities happening in North Carolina, the state is quickly becoming one of the leaders in nanotechnology in the United States.

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