Editorial Feature

Nanotechnology in Illinois, USA: Market Report

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As of 2011, Illinois has a population of 12,869,257 and a total area of 149,998 km2. The state has a huge economic base with major activities happening in its industrial and agricultural sectors. The southern part of Illinois has copious natural resources like coal, petroleum, and timber.

Since the early 2000s, Illinois has relied on high-value-added services to accelerate its economic growth rate. These services include logistics, financial trading, higher education, medicine, and law. The 2010 GDP per capita of the state was US$45,302.

Illinois has developed into one of the pioneering states in the United States for nanotechnology, on the strength of its research institutions, infrastructure, talent, and a cluster of conventional companies and start-ups.

Illinois is well placed to focus on four sectors with considerable growth potential: energy, personalized medicine, clean water, and state-of-the-art manufacturing.

To leverage these opportunities and preserve its leadership in nanotech, Illinois is working to widen the resources and facilities available to nanotechnology start-ups and draw more private investment.

Nanotechnology Organizations

A short introduction to the main nanotechnology-related organizations in Illinois is provided below.

International Institute for Nanotechnology (IIN)—The institute aims to educate people from various professional and educational backgrounds and of all ages, about nanoscience and nanotechnology through several novel educational efforts. The IIN supports research in the following areas:

  • Nanomaterials
  • Nanodevices
  • Nanolithography
  • Nanoelectronics
  • Nanomedicine/bionanotechnology
  • Nanotechnology energy solutions

Illinois Science & Technology Coalition (ISTC)—This is a non-profit organization that focuses on drawing investments and supporting more research on new technology by partnering with industry, academia, and government to promote Illinois as an international hub for innovation, entrepreneurship, and research. ISTC emphasizes the significance given to the field of nanotechnology in Illinois.

American Bar Association Section Nanotechnology Project—This association began a nanotechnology project in 2006 that encompassed subjects dealing with laws and policies concerning the field of nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology Companies

The key nanotechnology-related companies in Illinois are mentioned below along with a short introduction to each of them.

Nanocor—It is a new operating subsidiary of AMCOL International Corporation. It is the biggest global supplier of nanoclays precisely designed for plastic nanocomposites. Over the last 10 years, Nanocor has created patented technologies for making nanoscale clays appropriate for including in plastics and technologies for manufacturing nanocomposites themselves.

Nanocor’s Technical Center is situated in Hoffman Estates IL, close to the corporate headquarters. At the Center, they can develop a broad range of Nanomer® nanoclays, disperse them into polymer systems to develop nanocomposites and assess their performance.

Advanced Diamond Technologies, Inc. (ADT)—The company was launched in December 2003 to market Ultrananocrystalline Diamond™ (UNCD™) technology from Argonne National Laboratory. ADT is the licensee to the Argonne portfolio of application and process patents for producing and using UNCD films.

Advanced Thin-Films (ATFI)—It is an advanced materials company that develops thin-film technologies to fulfill the requirements of defense, aerospace, energy, and other industries. ATFI’s four platform technologies provide wide and disruptive attributes that can enhance the performance of currently available products or enable new products and/or offer substantial reduction in manufacturing/operational costs. Each technology segment is epitomized by a new material form or composition, and a related low-cost, scalable, and eco-friendly process.

Nanophase Technologies Corporation—This company is a global leader in supplying nano-engineered materials to facilitate innovative products that enhance people’s lives. Its aim is to know its customers’ unmet requirements and to deliver excellent value to help them win. By making its customers successful, Nanophase provides advantage to its employees, shareholders, and community. It carries out its business in an ethical, safe, and environmentally responsible manner.

Nanophase develops, produces, and sells an integrated class of nanomaterial technologies. It creates engineered nanomaterial products for use in a range of sectors including plastics, automotive, exterior coatings, textiles, animal hygiene, personal care, electronics, scratch-resistant coatings, and architectural windows.

Nanosphere—It develops, produces, and markets a sophisticated molecular diagnostic platform, the Verigene System, which allows simple, economical, and highly sensitive nucleic acid (RNA and DNA) and protein testing on one platform.

Its innovative technology assists hospitals enhance patient care and bring down costs by offering time-critical information, allowing earlier discovery of disease and more targeted treatment.

EcoloCap Solutions, Inc.—It combines the engineering, technology, and operational management for the successful development of ecologically significant projects and products.

EcoloCap aims to deliver quality products and services that signify outstanding value, and consistently defines industry standards. It is devoted to refining the environment through the products it creates and the way it does business. Its products include nano Processing Waste units and nano Processing Units.

SmalTec International LLC—The company’s micro-technology machines offer Micro-Milling, Micro-EDM, Micro-Turning, Nano-Grinding, Micro-Polishing, and Micro-Drilling to develop the only true microscale machining and three-dimensional (3D) contouring and shaping in the industry. In the years to come, the company intends to launch a wide range of products and technologies from nano-pulse EDM to integrated devices utilizing many technologies within a single platform.

SmalTec International’s micro-technology machines offer the GM703 created with high-precision 3D nano-motion. The GM703 is the next-generation Micro EDM containing Nano Grinding technology.

Alpha Precision, Inc.—Originally founded in 1965 as Photo Instrument Tooling Co. in Yorkville, Illinois, the primary business focus of the company was to design and manufacture specialty camera equipment. Alpha Precision has frequently used its strengths in design and building specialty tooling and equipment to make custom glass parts.

In 1979, Alpha started production of ceramic and glass substrates for the semiconductor pressure sensors. Alpha became an innovator in ultrasonic drilling and machining of substrates, and more than 25 years later, it is a key supplier of glass wafers, delivering wafers worldwide.

Hitachi High Technologies America, Inc. (HTA)—is a privately owned global affiliate company that works within the Hitachi Group Companies. HTA sells and services scientific instruments, semiconductor manufacturing equipment, analytical instrumentation, bio-related products as well as electronic devices, industrial equipment, electronic and industrial materials, wireless mobile telephones, consumer electronic products, and hard disk manufacturing systems.

The business development team at HTA is commissioned with recognizing products and technologies, whether disruptive or evolutionary, that will benefit from HTA’s diversity of market leadership, expertise, and established global network. Areas of interest include, but are not limited to, biotech, nanotech, cloud-based services, environmental, electronics, health, new energy, etc.

Nanotechnology Education

Some of the top academic institutes in Illinois that offer courses and research programs in nanotechnology and nanoscience are mentioned below.

University of Illinois

  • Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory has BioNanotechnology Laboratory (BNL) comprising individual laboratory areas that offer concurrent research on nanotechnology, biological, and micro-related fields. These labs are efficiently used for BioMEMS and BioNEMS research.
  • Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology offers research on nano-identification, nanomaterials characterization, and nano-fabrication.
  • Center for Nanoscale Chemical-Electrical-Mechanical Manufacturing Systems (Nano-CEMMS) sets up one-day workshops and summer institutes for K-12 teachers, as well as the following student programs:
    • Summer undergraduate programs comprise:
      • The Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP)
      • The Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)
    • Program for graduate students comprises:
      • Graduate Student Group that covers research presentations by faculty and students.
      • Foreign research experience program through which Nano-CEMMS sponsors five graduate students allowing them to go through a foreign experience at research institutions in Asia and Europe.
    • High-school student program includes:
      • Nano Challenge—after school program
      • Principal’s Scholars Program that focuses on improving the analytical and critical thinking skills of the student and also improves their level of academic confidence.

Northwestern University (NU)

  • Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center (NSEC) for Integrated Nanopatterning and Detection Technologies concentrates developing robust detection technologies for biological and chemical analytes based on materials that are nano-engineered. Scientists at this center continually organize workshops and deliver lectures.

The NSEC offers the following programs:

  • The Frontiers in Nanotechnology Seminar Series
  • The Nanotechnology Corporate Partners (NCP) program
  • The annual International Institute for Nanotechnology Symposium
  • The Small Business Evaluation and Entrepreneurs (SBEE) program

Educational outreach programs conducted by the NSEC include:

  • The Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program
  • The Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program
  • Nanotechnology Town Hall meetings
  • The Center-published Nanoscape—The Journal of Undergraduate Research in Nanoscience
  • Northwestern University Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence (NU-CCNE): The center develops nanomaterials and nanodevices that can be used in brain, pancreatic, and breast cancer diagnostics and therapeutics, and trains future teachers, technicians and researchers. The NU-CCNE manages the following projects:
    • Nanostructured matrices for cancer cell biology
    • Preclinical validation of polyvalent siRNA gold nanoparticle conjugates as anti-glioma therapeutics
    • NanoFlares for cancer stem cells detection
    • Theranostic magnetic nanostructures for the molecular imaging of cancer
  • Center for Quantum Devices—The center offers high-level research in nanotechnology and compound semiconductor science. Its undergraduate and graduate curriculum covers nanotechnology studies.
  • Northwestern University Atomic and Nanoscale Characterization Experimental Center (NUANCE): The center offers three research centers that gain support from Northwestern University’s Nanoscale Science & Engineering Center (NSEC). The three research centers include:
    • Keck Interdisciplinary Surface Science (Keck-II)
    • Electron Probe Instrumentation Center (EPIC)
    • Nanoscale Integrated Fabrication, Testing, and Instrumentation (NIFTI)

Argonne National Laboratory Center for Nanoscale Materials offers research opportunities in the following areas:

  • Theory and modeling
  • NanoBio interfaces
  • X-ray microscopy
  • Electronic and magnetic materials and devices
  • Nanophotonics
  • Nanofabrication and devices

Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology: Performs studies on “Molecular & Electronic Nanostructures” to form a rudimentary understanding of chemical and physical processes dealing with structures on the nanoscale. Molecular & Electronic Nanostructures research groups include:

  • Autonomous Materials Systems
  • 3D Micro- and Nanosystems
  • Theoretical and Computational Biophysics
  • Computational Multiscale Nanosystems
  • Nanoelectronics and Nanomaterials

National Center for Learning and Teaching in Nanoscale Science and Engineering (NCLT):

  • Publishes instructional modules containing nano-based applications
  • Develops a network of multi-sector nano education groups
  • Offers professional training through workshops, seminars, and lectures

Recent Developments

Many research labs and centers in Illinois have been concentrating on the progress of more nanotechnology activities in the state. The 2012 Illinois Nanotechnology Report specified an increase in the worldwide market for nanotechnology products from nearly $11.7 billion in 2009 to about $26.7 billion in 2015.

Many organizations are interested in exhibiting their interest to educate teachers and students on the importance of nanotechnology, and university faculties have also developed new nanotechnology innovations.

One such innovation was bestowed the 2012 IEEE Pioneer in Nanotechnology Award that was given to a professor from ECE Illinois. This new innovation was related to the discovery and applications of the deuterium isotope effect to CMOS technology, and on the enhancements in atomic resolution nanofabrication.

With a growth in the number of innovations and investment opportunities in the field of nanotechnology, Illinois is likely to retain its leadership in nanotech in the future, and continue to support nanotech growth in many main industries.

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