Nanotechnology in South Dakota, USA: Market Report

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Nanotechnology Companies
Nanotechnology Research and Education
Recent Developments


South Dakota is located in the Midwestern region of the United States. It covers a total area of 199,905 km2 and has a population of 824,082 according to 2011 data.

South Dakota’s economy that was dominated by the agricultural sector has now become a lot more diversified with contributions by the service industry that includes healthcare, retail and finance industries. Agriculture still retains a vital position in the rural areas despite the increasing number of industries. The economy is now more dependent on tourism and defense spending.

Meat packing and the production of ethanol and agricultural products such as corn, wheat, cattle, hogs and soybeans have contributed to the growth of South Dakota’s economy. In 2010, the state’s GSP was US$39.8 billion and per capita personal income was $38,865.

South Dakota claims to be one of the best states to locate a business. These claims are supported by results of studies, which also promote its quality of life. In terms of science, since 2002, South Dakota has established 10 Centers of Excellence that conduct cutting edge research into such things as nanoscience and photonics.

South Dakota also continues to invest in research through the 2010 research Initiative. They view this investment as a catalyst for economic development. Since its inception in 2004 when a previous iteration was introduced, it has generated hundreds of jobs and an economic impact of over $111m.

Nanotechnology Companies

Zyvex Performance Materials - Zyvex Performance Materials Inc. (dba Zyvex Technologies). sells high performance materials based on its proprietary and revolutionary technology for processing carbon nanotubes into both thermoset and thermoplastic polymers and epoxies.

Providing advanced materials with up to 50% greater strength than the best conventional carbon fiber composite materials, ZPM sells to the sporting goods industry, aerospace and defense, and other industries ranging from consumer products to oil field down-hole applications. ZPM has facilities in Ohio, South Dakota, and Texas.

Nanotechnology Research and Education

Some of the leading academic institutes in South Dakota offering courses and research programs in nanoscience and nanotechnology are listed below:

South Dakota School of Mines & Technology- Promotes nanotechnology-based study and research through the following program and research laboratory:

  • Nano Science and Engineering Ph.D. Program: Deals with the engineering and science of nanomaterials. Some of the research areas that the students could be exposed to include:
    • Nano-energetic materials
    • Polymer chemistry
    • Theory of spintronic devices
    • High resolution electron microscopy
    • Synthesis and characterization of nanocomposite materials
    • Photo-activated nano-inks for direct write applications
    • Nano-scale spectroscopy utilizing the near-fields of ultrafast lasers
    • Development of next generation solar cell technologies utilizing semiconductor nanostructures
  • The Nano-fs laboratory: This ultrafast laser spectroscopy facility at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology deals with nanophotonics research using near-field microscopy. The key research areas of the laboratory include:
    • Energy- and Time-resolved Near-Field Photoluminescence Imaging
    • Ultrafast Apertureless Nearfield Microscopy
    • Single Molecule Imaging

University of South Dakota - Promotes research in the field of nanotechnology through the below mentioned research group:

  • Photo Active Nanoscale Systems (PANS) Research Group: Offers nanotechnology-based research and focuses on developing new devices in the area of photo-active nanoscale systems. This group is also involved in addressing several research challenges related to solar energy, photovoltaics, usage of nanostructured materials for converting solar energy into chemical fuels and direct-write electronics. The research areas include
    • Reconfigurable Antennas on Flexible Substrates-Broadband Multilayer Filters
    • New Generation Luminescent Solar Concentrators based on Metal-Surface Enhancement
    • Cost Effective Excitonic Solar Cells

South Dakota State University - Promotes nanotechnology research through the following facility:

  • Nano Labs: Focus on the study of engineer electronic and photonic properties of materials at the nanoscale. The research areas include:
    • Nanomaterials
    • Nanosensors
    • Nanocrystalline silicon
    • Graphene, dye-sensitized solar cells, organic solar cells
    • Nanoscale structure and optoelectronic properties, self- assembly, evolution of structural and optoelectronic properties, charge transport, order-disorder related properties
  • Micro-Nano Materials and Fabrication Laboratories: Provides good clean room facilities that can be used for microelectromechanical systems, fabrication of nanosensors, piezoelectric sensors, surface acoustic wave (SAW) microsensors and plus equipment for electronic packaging.

Recent Developments

A new technology to print invisible quick-response (QR) codes to prevent counterfeiting was recently developed by researchers at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and the University of South Dakota. These quick-response codes have the capability of holding more information in comparison with conventional bar codes, with the added benefit of being able to be scanned with smart phones. While originally developed for documents, the technology can potentially be applied to any solid object.

Nanoparticles in the ink used for these quick-response codes are invisible under normal lighting conditions, but become visible when exposed to light in the near infra-red part of the spectrum. The process called upconversion involves absorption of photons at a certain wavelength and then emission of the photons at a shorter wavelength.

South Dakota has made great strides in recent times, with their commitment to research and technology yielding dividends. In 2009, South Dakota ranked 5th in the percentage of total research being funded by the state in 2009. This equated to South Dakota being raked number 1 in state investments in research.

Despite a lack of commercial and industrial nanotech activity, South Dakota has a strong background in agriculture and manufacturing. This should lead to the to development of expertise in biosciences and biotechnology, including biomedical device manufacturing and biofuels.

Commitment to this area has lead to the establishment of nine PhD programs in bioscience, covering areas such as Biomedical Sciences, Biological Sciences, Biomedical Engineering, Chemical & Biological Engineering, Chemistry, Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, and Pharmaceutical Sciences. These will no doubt act as a springboard for nanotechnology growth in South Dakota in the near future in conjunction with research incubators to help establish small bioscience companies.


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