Mar 27 2013
Image Credits: Dean Fikar/shutterstock.com
Situated in the western and southwest regions of the United States, New Mexico spans a total area of 315,194 km2 and, as of 2011, has a population of 2,082,224.
As of 2011, the GDP of New Mexico was $79.4 billion. Tourism and oil and gas production industries are the main revenue gaining sectors in the state. New Mexico is also the third-largest producer of oil and gas in the United States. In addition, federal government spending has an important role to play in the economy of this state.
New Mexico has turned out to be an attractive place for various businesses. Industries like defense, aerospace, value-added agriculture, advanced manufacturing, technology commercialization, logistics and distribution, digital media, and energy and renewable resources have established themselves in this location. Quality lifestyle, a good business environment, together with reduced taxes and other attractive incentives, as well as low energy and land costs, have lured those businesses to this place.
Three national research laboratories, including Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) that perform studies involving nanotechnology, are located in New Mexico.
For emerging nanotech companies, access to various research facilities, including the ones stated above, makes an attractive proposition. In addition, New Mexico provides incentives like the “Technology Jobs Tax Credit” and the “R&D Small Business Tax Credit” to support activities related to research and product development.
The following sections provide a short introduction to top nanotechnology-related organization in New Mexico.
New Mexico Nanoscience Education Network (NMNEN) encourages faculty members from research centers and community colleges to share their opinions on the inclusion of nanoscience in biology and physics classes.
In addition, NMNEN organizes workshops and provides courses on nanotechnology. In particular, the nanobioscience course meant for undergraduate students concentrates on the application of nanoscience in biotechnology and medicine.
New Mexico’s leading nanotechnology-related companies are given below together with a fleeting introduction to each of them.
NanoPore Incorporated was established in 1993 with the aim to commercialize high-surface/high-porosity area materials for a broad range of applications like optics, low-K dielectrics, advanced thermal insulation, adsorption, and gas separation.
NanoPore has produced a number of product lines such as the NANOGLASS© series of porous silica intermetal and interlevel dielectric thin films for use in sophisticated semiconductors. The company also developed insulation products like NanoCool adsorption cooling systems and NanoPore™ superinsulation vacuum insulation inserts and panels. In addition, NanoPore has developed other porous materials that have been utilized for applications like viscosity/thickener control, catalyst supports, and adsorbents.
LaSys founders comprise a team of NMSU engineers and physicists, and also a skilled entrepreneur with a track record of organizing effective technology-based companies.
The founders—in association with the University’s administration—have successfully established a proprietary position that presently comprises a number of foreign and U.S. patents and also several pending-patent applications that cover a set of innovative, optically active nanocomposite materials with exceptional properties. These properties are anticipated to offer commercial potential in a wide array of industries.
Through its contract with NMSU, LaSys has gained exclusive worldwide rights to this proprietary technology that also includes certain upcoming developments.
KnowmTech LLC was established in 2002 and its portfolio ranges from memristive circuits and components through to large-scale neuromorphic architectures. The company is currently working toward the commercialization of a general-purpose circuit growth fabric called self-evolvable logic-fabric, which has a similar function like the biological cortex.
The commercially available Aerosol Jet® and LENS® systems from Optomec utilize the proprietary additive manufacturing technologies to enable low-cost development, production, and restoration of a host of end-products.
At present, LENS® systems are producing and restoring high-value metal parts from aircraft engine components to medical implants. Aerosol Jet® systems are being utilized at the micro and nano scale to develop embedded components, high-density circuitry, and a wide range of biomedical devices.
Senior Scientific LLC is at the junction of nanotechnology and biotechnology. Its innovative nanomagnetic and bioimaging detection systems have been specifically made to achieve early detection of various diseases (such as cancer) and with greater specificity than is presently viable.
Proprietary software and hardware developed by Senior Scientific enable highly sensitive detection of nanomagnetic particles that can be connected to antibodies for detecting and treating cancer and other forms of human diseases, without using large magnetic fields or ionizing radiation.
The company’s innovative technologies facilitate earlier detection of cancer in vivo and offer the potential to examine biopsies with greater precision and sensitivity, provide the potential to track the therapeutic effectiveness of anticancer therapies—in animals as well as human models— and also help detect the recurrence of cancer with much improved sensitivity.
Located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, TPL Inc. is a materials science-based technology development and manufacturing firm. The technologies-to-products leader has three divisions—the Micropower-EnerPak Division, the Capacitance Products Division, and the Defense Systems Division.
The Capacitance Products Division creates sophisticated capacitance materials and products for several applications such as proton accelerators for cancer treatment and electromagnetic weapon systems.
The division also produces nano-sized ceramic dielectric powders, strontium titanate, barium titanate, and custom formulations of strontium and barium titanate. In addition, the division specializes in monolithic ceramic substrates and capacitors and specialty dielectric materials.
Nanotechnology Research and Education
The following sections describe some of the top academic institutes in New Mexico providing research programs and courses in nanotechnology and nanoscience.
The Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT)
CINT offers the scientific basis for integrating nanoscale materials, resulting in the development of novel nanotechnologies that are advantageous to the environment.
CINT’s major hub is based at SNL, with physical gateways situated at both the SNL and LANL. The main research fields include:
- Nanophotonics and optical nanomaterials
- Theory and simulation of nanoscale phenomena
- Nanoscale electronics and mechanics
- Soft, biological, and composite nanomaterials
Los Alamos National Laboratory
The aim of the LANL is to advance and apply science and technology to decrease global threats, to guarantee the reliability, safety, and security of the U.S. nuclear deterrent, and to solve other emerging national energy and security challenges. The LANL’s centers that involve nanotechnology are given below:
- Center for Advanced Solar Photophysics (CASP)—The aim of this center is to analyze and manipulate the exceptional physics of nanostructured materials to increase the efficiency of solar energy conversion via new light-matter interactions, engineered carrier-carrier coupling, and controlled excited-state dynamics.
- Center for Nonlinear Studies—Bio-inspired materials at the interface between physics, materials science, and biology are a major focus of this study group. Such materials, which comprise artificial antenna complexes, carbon nano-tubes, membrane-derivatized colloidal particles, and thin-film nano-structured self-assembling materials, are known to be more amenable to high-resolution computational and experimental studies.
Sandia National Laboratories
For over six decades, SNL has provided important science and technology to resolve the most challenging security problems of the nation. SNL’s departments that undertake studies involving the application of nanotechnology include:
- National Institute for Nano-Engineering (NINE)—This is a government/university/industry association established to develop the futuristic innovation leaders for the United States by involving students in large-scale multi-disciplinary study projects targeted on creating nano-enabled solutions to significant national issues.
- Physical, Chemical, and Nano Sciences Center—PCNS investigates phenomena that are both new and unique at the nanometer length scale, and creates bridges from the nanometer length scale to longer scales, including work in:
- Nanophotonics and nanoelectronics
- Complex functional materials
- Novel microstructures and materials with exceptional properties
- The science of and with microsystems
University of New Mexico
It promotes awareness and importance of nanotechnology via the following courses, programs, and centers:
- The School of Engineering and the College of Arts and Sciences provide the University of New Mexico Nanoscience and Microsystems Program. Studies in this program pay attention to nanolithography, interrogative platforms, and functional micro/macrosystems.
- New Mexico Cancer Nanoscience and Microsystems Training Center (CNTC) recognizes and increases collaborations between cancer and nanoscience communities in New Mexico. For graduate and postdoctoral students, the center provides knowledge on physical sciences and nanoscale engineering tools and also on the biomedical domain. This knowledge transfer will allow students to excel in cancer studies.
- The UNM Center for Microengineered Materials (CMEM) concentrates on nanoscale catalysis and self-assembly of nanoscale thin films and nanoscale catalysis, and also offers materials characterization facilities.
- The UNM Center for High Technology Materials (CHTM) provides programs in optoelectronics and microelectronics with reference to the nanoscale.
- The University of New Mexico School of Engineering—The Nanoscience and Microsystems program is a joint degree program with the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering. The program covers numerous topics like complex functional materials, nano-bio interfaces, and informational nanotechnology. The university provides research on microelectronic and nano-technologies that focus on the technological advances in New Mexico.
At the Sandia National Laboratories, researchers have recently observed that the use of solar nanowires can increase the percentage of the sun’s frequencies for energy conversion. As such, the researchers created a nanowire solar cell that contained around 33% indium by enabling the indium mixture to develop on a phalanx of nanowires.
In order to boost the computing power of mobile devices, the University of New Mexico has decided to share a grant of $18.5 million with two other universities to devise novel manufacturing methods based on nanotechnology.
Experts emphasize that these innovative methods will result in the development of low-cost, higher-resolution displays that will boost memory in cell phones, deliver clear images, extend the lifetime of batteries, and also enable communications at a relatively faster level.
Once New Mexico was ranked third in the country for small technologies, but it is uncertain whether it is still ranked as high with other states investing in nanotechnology and increasing commitment. Nevertheless, those states have strengths both in sensor technology and in aerospace, making these fields to watch out for in the days to come from New Mexico.