Editorial Feature

Nanotechnology in Maine, USA: Market Report

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Maine, a state in the New England region of the United States, has a population of 1,329,192 as of 2012 and covers a total area of 91,646 km2.

In 2012, Maine’s gross state product was $51.6 billion. The state’s economy is mostly based on agricultural products such as blueberries, maple syrup, and eggs. Maine’s key industrial products come from its forestry industry and consist of wood products, lumber, and paper. Naval shipbuilding and construction, leather products, and electronic equipment are other key contributors to Maine’s economy.

The state of Maine has acknowledged the fact that there has been a constant change in the global economy and that the future does not depend on attracting investment in factories and competing for inexpensive manufacturing. Instead, from the year 2010, Maine has been focusing on investing in innovation via research and development and technology, in order to accelerate job growth and economic development to try and develop an economy with “sustainable prosperity.”

Nanotechnology Organizations

Maine has organizations that deal with promoting and exploring nanoscience. Following is a brief introduction to these organizations.

Maine Robotics—This is a non-profit organization providing the teachers and youth in Maine with mentored activities within the STEM fields. This organization mainly focuses on robotics and also conducts summer camps and competitions like Nano Quest “Exploring existing sciences at the molecular level.”

NanoSpire, Inc.—This is an IP holding company established in January 2002, with the aim to commercialize a new generation of cavitation reentrant jet-based tools and processes. NanoSpire offers the first machine tool that can cut, drill, weld, hammer, and anneal materials with a size of only a few nanometers, by utilizing cavitation microjets. NanoSpire has developed the future generation of high-shear mixer based on its patented technology. Many sophisticated technologies for energy production have also been developed by the company.

Nanotechnology Research and Education

The state of Maine has two universities that offer research and educational opportunities in nanotechnology. Presented below is a list of universities in Maine and the research opportunities or academic courses offered by them relating to the different aspects of nanotechnology.

University of Southern Maine (USM)—This is a multi-campus public urban all-inclusive university based in Portland. USM provides the following nanotech initiative:

  • Nano Discovery Labs—Through this initiative, USM offers a connecting and sustaining framework for science education programs combined with research in virology, molecular biology, nanoscience, public health, astrobiology, and microbiology. The framework is established by collaborating with faculty and scientific professional staff of USM and several other participating scientists.

The University of Maine—This public research university based at Orono provides the following nanotech initiatives:

  • Laboratory for Surface Science and Technology—This initiative deals with teaching, research, and outreach activities in nanotechnology, interfaces and surfaces, sensor technology, microelectronic devices, and thin films.
  • Forest Bioproducts Research Institute (FBRI)—FBRI’s nanotechnology thrust focuses on developing nanometer-scale fibrils from wood that can be employed in specific commercial applications and upcoming research.
  • Department of Chemistry—Encourages nanotechnology and materials research
  • Process Development Center (PDC)—PDC has its own pilot-scale cellulose nanofibrils (CNF) manufacturing plant. It received a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Forest Service in order to enhance its nanocellulose pilot plant.
  • The Wise Laboratory of Environmental and Genetic Toxicology—This nanotech initiative offers courses in nanotoxicology studies.

Recent Developments

Maine has not presented any recent reports of nanotechnology activity in the state. But, it is confirmed that the universities possess related capabilities and are presently working on a few projects like nanocellulose products linked to their forestry industry and how they can be integrated into composite materials.

There is still no clear understanding of the effectiveness of the 2010 Science and Technology Activity Plan to date and whether this plan has promoted any developments involving nanotechnology.

Going forward, it will be difficult to envision Maine as a key player in the nanotech game because of the lack of sufficient evidence related to the recent developments in the area of nanotechnology in the state.

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