Editorial Feature

Nanotechnology in Iowa, USA: Market Report

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Iowa, situated in the Midwestern United States, covers a total area of 145,743 km2. As of 2011, it has a population of 3,062,309.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, in 2011, Iowa’s GDP was $149 billion. It has a diversified economy with the manufacturing sector contributing more than 20% of its GDP. The other key contributors include government, services, trade and finance, and insurance.

Prioritizing cutting-edge manufacturing in Iowa has brought considerable success. Of late, it has steadily realized top 10 rankings (2011) for manufacturing countrywide and a 24.5% growth in manufacturing GDP, much above the national average.

A Batelle report (2010) states that “no other location in the country has such a complete suite of capabilities for bioscience development” indicating that the bioscience sector is thriving in Iowa.

Iowa also has a commitment to renewable energy. The state produces 3.7 billion gallons or 28% (2011) of the country’s ethanol, above any other state. It also ranks third in the nation for biodiesel production, producing 325 million gallons or 12% of the country’s capacity. Iowa also generates the maximum percentage of total wind power at 22.89% (2011). The state also ranks second in wind power generation capacity and output.

Data generated by CNBC (2012) suggests that Iowa featured in the first 10 states of the United States for business friendliness and had the second-lowest cost of doing business (based on a five-year average). Moreover, Iowa is one of the few states to promote innovation in business by means of refundable research activity credits.

Nanotechnology Companies

A brief introduction to the key nanotechnology-related companies in Iowa is given below.

BioForce Nanosciences, Inc.—The company develops and markets consumables, nanotech instruments, and applications for the life sciences. It has been offering consumable support products for atomic force microscopy (AFM) for more than 10 years. In 2005, BioForce created its own flagship instrument platform, the Nano eNabler™ system.

The Nano eNabler system is a molecular printer that quickly and precisely supplies liquids to surfaces like silicon chips in droplets that are 10 billion times smaller compared to a drop of blood. This exclusive capability offers scientists in academia and industry a practical solution to challenges they come across while developing ultraminiaturized devices and techniques, and creates opportunities for additional commercialization of nanotechnology.

Novascan Technologies—Novascan, a nanotechnology company, has been specializing in AFM, since the late 1990s. Its products include typical as well as specialized AFMs that can be combined with a range of complimentary instruments like laser optical traps, confocal microscopes, and a host of optical microscope setups. Novascan’s design team is ready to help users with their special software and hardware requirements.

Novascan also provides tailored AFM tips with particles and surface chemistries, AFM acoustic isolation hoods, UV Ozone surface cleaning systems, and vibration isolation systems. Novascan tools are used internationally by top researchers to visualize, characterize, and control microscopic and nanoscopic settings.

Nanotechnology Research and Education

A few of the top academic institutes in Iowa that offer courses and research programs in nanotechnology and nanoscience are given below.

The University of Iowa—Promotes the study of nanotechnology through the following research programs:

Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Institute: Offers the following nanotechnology programs:

  • Nano Health: This program concentrates on the progress of nanohealth applications in the following fields:
    • Disease detection
    • Bioanalytical assays
    • Drug delivery
    • Imaging
  • Nano Materials: This program provides research and study opportunities on the following subjects:
    • Quantum theory and modeling of condensed phase matter at the nanoscale
    • Synthesis of new nanomaterials
    • Characterization of nanomaterials
    • Development of nanomaterials for defense and other applications
  • Nano Enviro: The projects in this program include:
    • Energy (for example, fuel and solar cells)
    • Green chemical processing
    • Environmental remediation and decontamination
    • Nanoparticles impact on air quality
    • Nanoparticles in the natural environment
  • Nano Tox: This program includes the following nanotechnology-based projects:
    • Human and animal toxicity of nanoparticles
    • Environmental health
    • Nanoparticle protection measures
    • Nanoparticle measurements in the workplace environment

Iowa State University—Promotes nanotechnology research through the following study groups:

  • Lin Research Group: Conducts research on the fundamentals of nanoscopic and microscopic structure formation at surfaces and interfaces. Some of the existing nanotechnology research projects include:
    • Self-assembly of all-conjugated poly(3-Alkylthiophene) diblock copolymers and their use in nanohybrid solar cells
    • Economical, high-efficiency solar cells based on copper zinc tin sulfide (Cu2ZnSnS4) nanocrystals
    • Quantum dots customized with conjugated polymers and their application in solar cells
    • Multi-arm star-like functional block copolymers via RAFT and ATRP
    • Synthesis of upconversion nanocrystals and their use in solar cells
    • Synthesis and applications of ferroelectric, magnetic, and multiferroic nanocrystals
    • Nanocomposites with long-range hierarchical order based on block copolymers embedded with ferroelectric/superparamagnetic nanoparticles
    • Nanocrystal sensitized TiO2 nanotube solar cells
    • Self-assembly of highly ordered complex structures via controlled evaporation of confined microfluids
  • Center for Nanotechnology in Cementitious Systems—Specializes in the science of cementitious materials, and uses nanotechnology to improve the sustainability and performance of roads and concrete structures.
  • Center for Nanoscience and Catalysis—Focuses on constructing heterogeneous solid catalysts using nanoscience methods to explore the selectivity of homogeneous catalysts and biocatalysts with long lifetimes of the catalysts, turnover numbers, and lesser wastages. The center conducts nanotechnology research projects on the following topics:
    • Nanoporous solid catalysts for conversion of soybean oil to biodiesel
    • Multi-functionalized nanoporous silica catalyst for chemical- and regio-controlled polymerization
  • Institute for Physical Research and Technology—Conducts nanotechnology research through the following research centers:
    • Center for Catalysis: Targets on the development of sustainable green chemistry and practical catalysts techniques; conducts studies on the applications of new technologies in environmental science, industrial, and agricultural domains
    • Center for Nondestructive Evaluation: Devises noninvasive approaches and instruments to explore the integrity of materials and structures.
    • Microelectronics Research Center: Designs innovative materials, devices, and process technologies in photonics, solar energy conversion, and semiconductor fields.

Recent Developments

Scientists from Iowa State University have developed a tool that can be used to perform plant cell-deliveries. With the help of this tool, nanotechnology scientists delivered a gene and a chemical into the walls of plant cells to explore the expressions of the genes.

In another new discovery, scientists detected a flaw that can occur in quasicrystals. This new flaw was detected after scientists discovered odd nano-sized areas on the surfaces of the quasicrystals. The defect spread past the surface region and into the bulk of the quasicrystal. This discovery confirms that the usage of nanostructures to explore the link between bulk and surface flaws in materials offers further insights as to why these nanostructures are typically strong.

There seems to be no dearth of nanotechnology research in Iowa. The lucrative business climate and financial credits available, combined with university proficiency, make Iowa a major location to develop a nanotech startup. Within a few years, it is likely that more activity in the nanotech space will be reported from Iowa.

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