Editorial Feature

Nanotechnology in Michigan, USA: Market Report

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Michigan is situated in the Great Lakes and Midwestern region of the US. As of 2011, it has a population of 9,876,187 and encompasses a total land area of 250,493 km2.

Michigan’s key services and products include automobiles, food products, aerospace, mining of iron ore and copper, military equipment, furniture, and information technology. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the 2011 GDP of Michigan was $385 billion.

Michigan is the international center for vehicle R&D and hosts more than 330 R&D tech centers, which is more than anywhere else in North America. Of the top 50 global auto suppliers, 47 are centered at Michigan.

The dwindling of the auto sector has led to Michigan’s economy becoming more diversified, producing everything ranging from medical devices to military hardware.

In addition, Michigan has 360 research sites dedicated to industrial technology, rendering it one of the highest concentrations of industrial R&D activities in the world.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is also leading the alternative energy charge. They are aligning the main players in industry, government, and academia, as well as customizing incentive packages to draw them to Michigan.

With a 140-year heritage of biotechnology innovation, Michigan is undergoing an ever-increasing presence of start-up companies that develop innovative products for the market. These start-ups also gain from a region rich in scientific and clinical talent together with famous universities. They also gain from a corporate tax rate of float 6%, which is among the lowest in the United States.

Nanotechnology Organizations

A short introduction to the main nanotechnology-related organization in Michigan is provided below.

NanoMSU—This organization helps to promote educational and research programs related to nanotechnology taking place in the Michigan State University, boosts the development of synergistic partnerships, and distributes information associated with nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology Companies

The key nanotechnology-related companies in Michigan are given below together with a short introduction to each of them.

NanoBio® Corporation—It is a privately owned biopharmaceutical company with the goal of developing and commercializing innovative products for the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases, based on its patented NanoStat™ technology platform. The company was set up in 2000 as a spin-out from the Center for Biologic Nanotechnology at the University of Michigan. Its key product is a targeted treatment for acne, pneumococcal disease, herpes labialis (cold sores), onychomycosis (nail fungus), cystic fibrosis, RSV, and mucosal vaccines for influenza.

NanoTen, Inc.—A consulting company focusing on nanotechnology, it has an international team of entrepreneurial researchers as the key source of Nanotechnology Consulting in the United States, Latin America, Europe, and the Asia Pacific. They have wide experience in nanotechnology and are linked to Academic Research, Industry and Government networks in the United States, Europe, Latin America, and Asia.

Nanocerox, Inc.—The company designs, refines, produces, and markets high-technology materials (nanopowders). These nanopowders are used as raw materials for products that need durability, transparency, and heat resistance for use in industrial, medical, military, and aerospace applications, and also for use as additives in the chemical processing sector. The company has developed a proprietary development platform that allows the creation and production of nanopowders used to develop transparent polycrystalline ceramic products. Furthermore, the company’s nanopowders are used as additives and for the base raw material in a range of other products.

Mayaterials, Inc.—This company was set up in January 2003 to market two technologies licensed from the Laine group in Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan. One of the technologies uses new silsesquioxane (SQ) [nanosilica] chemistries to build organic/inorganic nanocomposites for exclusive coating systems.

The second one allows direct production of SQs from agricultural by-products, in specific rice hull ash (RHA). RHA is produced in the United States in quantities of 100,000 tonnes per year and is usually treated as a waste product. Mayaterials, Inc. is a green technology company with many of its products derived from biofuel and agricultural waste products. The same technologies enable them to recycle several of these products, thereby delivering near-zero waste products.

Nanotechnology Research and Education

A few of the top academic institutes in Michigan that provide courses and research programs in nanoscience and nanotechnology are mentioned below:

Central Michigan University—The Central Michigan University Research Corporation (CMU-RC) teams up with individuals, allowing them to explore their novel ideas on food, nanotechnology, healthcare, hospitality, etc.

Michigan Technological University—It offers the following nanotechnology-related courses:

  • Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Nanotechnology concentrates on an advanced study of scientific, engineering, and technological topics in nanotechnology. This certificate course covers features such as:
    • Micro- to nanoscale fabrication and control
    • Devices, systems, and integration
    • Characterization
  • Interdisciplinary Minor in Nanoscale Science and Engineering covers a regular introduction to nanotechnology and also offers courses on:
    • Fundamentals of nanoscale science and technology
    • Independent research/study/co-op/enterprise
    • Societal implications of nanotechnology

Michigan Nanotechnology Institute for Medicine and Biological Sciences—This institute has a team of engineers, pharmacists, chemists, physicians, toxicologists, physicists, (bio) informatics specialists, and biologists who collectively concentrate on the study of nanoscience in biology and medicine.

Michigan State University—The Environmental Nanotechnology Research Group performs studies on:

  • Hybrid treatment systems
  • Environmentally sustainable nanotechnology
  • Multifunctional membranes
  • Membrane processes

Recent Developments

Scientists from the University of Michigan, Northwestern University, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology recently discovered a technique to measure methyl mercury that is hazardous to fish and contaminates drinking water. To avoid this situation, these scientists invented a convenient and economical technique of using nano-velcro to capture pollutants.

Recently, the National Science Foundation took a decision to sponsor engineers and artists from the University of Michigan for about $2 million for a research operation with the goal of exploring the possibility of pushing nanotechnology into the third-dimensional level by using the most ancient art form known as origami. As part of this program, the scientists intend to investigate several methods to create nanoscale devices using several paper-folding methods like origami.

These novel ideas and inventions highlight Michigan’s increasing richness in nanotechnology and also showcase the positive impact of nanotechnology on the environment, which is likely to gain prominence soon. The higher level of nanotechnology activity in Michigan makes it likely to figure prominently in the near future, with life sciences and clean technology being the probable areas of activity.

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