Editorial Feature

Nanotechnology in South Dakota, USA: Market Report

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Situated in the Midwestern region of the United States, South Dakota spans a total area of 199,905 km2. As per 2011 data, the state had a population of 824,082.

Previously, the economy of South Dakota was dominated by the agricultural industry, but now, it has become much more diversified with contributions by the service sector, including finance, retail, and healthcare industries. Despite the growing number of industries, agriculture continues to hold a significant position in the rural regions. At present, the state’s economy largely depends on defense spending and tourism.

Ethanol production, meat packing, and agricultural products like corn, soybeans, hogs, cattle, and wheat have contributed to the development of the state’s economy. The 2010 GDP of South Dakota was US$39.8 billion and its per capita personal income was $38,865.

South Dakota is said to be one of the best states to start a business. Such claims are supported by study results, which also support its quality of life. In the science field, the state has established 10 Centers of Excellence since 2002. These centers perform breakthrough research on photonics and nanoscience.

Through the 2010 research Initiative, South Dakota continues to invest in studies. The state considers this investment as a catalyst to boost economic growth. Ever since it was established in 2004 following the launch of a former iteration, South Dakota has generated hundreds of jobs and an economic impact of more than $111 million.

Nanotechnology Companies

Zyvex Performance Materials

Zyvex Performance Materials Inc. (dba Zyvex Technologies) specializes in supplying high-performance materials based on its groundbreaking and proprietary technology for processing carbon nanotubes into both thermoset and thermoplastic epoxies and polymers. The company offers sophisticated materials that have up to 50% greater strength when compared to the most optimized traditional carbon fiber composite materials.

Zyvex Performance Materials caters to the aerospace and defense, sporting goods industry, and other industries like oil-field down-hole applications, consumer products, etc. The company has facilities in Texas, South Dakota, and Ohio.

Nanotechnology Research and Education

The following sections list some of the top academic institutes in South Dakota providing research programs and courses in nanotechnology and nanoscience.

South Dakota School of Mines & Technology

The school supports nanotechnology-based study and research via the program and research laboratory mentioned below:

  • Nano Science and Engineering PhD Program: This deals with the science and engineering of nanomaterials. Following are some of the research domains that can benefit students:
    • Theory of spintronic devices
    • Polymer chemistry
    • Nano-energetic materials
    • Photo-activated nano-inks for direct write applications
    • Synthesis and characterization of nanocomposite materials
    • High-resolution electron microscopy
    • Development of advanced solar cell technologies using semiconductor nanostructures
    • Nano-scale spectroscopy using the near-fields of ultrafast lasers
  • The Nano-fs Laboratory: Based at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, the Nano-fs laboratory is an ultrafast laser spectroscopy facility focused on nanophotonics research utilizing near-field microscopy. The laboratory’s major research areas include:
    • Single-molecule imaging
    • Ultrafast apertureless near-field microscopy
    • Energy- and time-resolved near-field photoluminescence imaging

University of South Dakota

The university supports nanotechnology research through the research group given below:

  • Photo Active Nanoscale Systems (PANS) Research Group: Provides nanotechnology-based studies and is dedicated to developing novel devices in the field of photo-active nanoscale systems. In addition, the group addresses a number of research challenges relating to photovoltaics, direct-write electronics, solar energy, and usage of nanostructured materials for changing solar energy into chemical fuels. The study areas are mentioned below:
    • Cost-effective excitonic solar cells
    • New generation of luminescent solar concentrators based on metal-surface enhancement
    • Reconfigurable antennas on flexible substrates-broadband multilayer filters

South Dakota State University

The university supports studies relating to nanotechnology through the facilities mentioned below:

  • Nano Labs: Focuses on the study of manipulating photonic and electronic characteristics of materials at the nanoscale. The research areas are given below:
    • Organic solar cells, graphene, and dye-sensitized solar cells
    • Nanocrystalline silicon
    • Nanosensors
    • Nanomaterials
    • Self-assembly, nanoscale structure and optoelectronic characteristics, charge transport, evolution of optoelectronic and structural properties, and order-disorder related properties
  • Micro-Nano Materials and Fabrication Laboratories: The lab has excellent cleanroom facilities that can be used for producing piezoelectric sensors, nanosensors, surface acoustic wave (SAW) microsensors, as well as for microelectromechanical systems and electronic packaging equipment.

Recent Developments

Scientists at the University of South Dakota and the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology have developed an innovative technology to print invisible quick-response (QR) codes in an effort to prevent counterfeiting. These QR codes can hold more data when compared to traditional bar codes. They can also be scanned with smartphones, which is an additional benefit. The technology, though initially developed for documents, can be used on all solid objects.

While nanoparticles in the ink applied to these QR codes were not visible under normal lighting conditions, they became evident upon exposure to light in the spectrum’s near-infrared part. In the process known as upconversion, photons are absorbed at a specific wavelength and then emitted at a shorter wavelength.

In recent times, South Dakota has made excellent progress with its dedication to research and technology that yielded dividends. South Dakota was ranked 5th in the percentage of total research being financed by the state in 2009. This corresponded to South Dakota being ranked 1st in state investments in research.

In spite of the dearth of industrial and commercial nanotech activity, South Dakota has a robust background in manufacturing and agriculture. This is expected to result in the development of expertise in biotechnology and biosciences, including biofuels and biomedical device manufacturing.

Dedication to this field has resulted in the establishment of nine PhD programs in bioscience, spanning fields like Biological Sciences, Biomedical Sciences, Chemistry, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Nanoscience and Nanoengineering. Undoubtedly, these will serve as a catalyst for the development of nanotechnology in South Dakota in the years to come, in association with research incubators, to help establish small bioscience firms.

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