Editorial Feature

Nanotechnology in Virginia, USA: Market Report

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Virginia, situated in the South Atlantic region of the United States, had a population of 8,185,867 in 2012. The state is spread over a total area of 110,785.67 km2.

Virginia’s economy has been growing at a steady pace. In 2011, Virginia’s total GSP was $428.9 billion. Real estate, professional scientific and technical services, and manufacturing were the three key contributors to the state’s GDP. The manufacturing sector makes everything from wood flooring, steel beams, and trucks to semiconductors, rocket engines, and robots.

More than 17,300 high-tech companies are based out of Virginia. Virginia is also home to 32 of the Fortune 1000 companies.

There are several globally recognized research and development (R&D) facilities in Virginia, including 11 R&D Centers that are federally funded, and 20 FLC laboratories. A number of these facilities offer private businesses direct access to advanced technologies and scientists. These facilities provide for everything from automotive to medical and high technology.

Virginia is in the third position among the 50 states as a recipient of federal R&D funds.

Nanotechnology Organizations

Virginia has numerous world-leading organizations and networks dedicated to promoting nanoscience as well as looking into the challenges and future of nanotechnology. A short introduction to the main nanotechnology-associated organizations in Virginia is provided below.

MITRE Corporation—A not-for-profit organization authorized to work in the interest of the public, since 1992, MITRE’s Nanosystems Group has been conducting broadly based R&D in nanotechnology. It focuses on systems engineering that begins at the molecular scale.

The company’s inter- and multi-disciplinary work includes the creation of systems like nano-enabled energy and power storage devices, nanoelectronic computers, and millimeter-scale robots. Its scientists also have access to advanced facilities in MITRE’s Biotechnology and Nanotechnology Lab at their campus in McLean, Virginia.

Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC)—A membership and trade association for the technology community in Northern Virginia, NVTC is the largest technology council in the country. It caters to about 1000 companies from all sectors of the technology industry. It also serves universities, service providers, non-profit organizations, foreign embassies, and governmental agencies.

Center for Innovative Technology (CIT)—It is a state-chartered, non-profit organization for running the functions of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority (IEIA). The IEIA was set up to formulate technology-based economic development strategies. Other areas of focus of CIT include nanotechnology, biotechnology, and information and communications technologies.

Mason Nanotechnology Initiative—Offers scope for debate and planning of activities associated with nanotechnology and nanoscience within Mason. Its efforts target the growth of new academic programs within the university that contain a robust component of subjects in mathematics, science, and engineering, which are central to nanotechnology and nanoscience.

CDRF Global—It is an autonomous non-profit organization promoting global scientific and technical partnerships via technical resources, grants, training, and services.

Nanotechnology Companies

Nanotechnology goes beyond several conventional boundaries such as the food industry and water treatment to information technology, medicine, and space research. The key nanotechnology companies in Virginia that serve these diverse sectors are mentioned below along with a short introduction to each of them.

MEMS and Nanotechnology Exchange—MNX is the world’s most comprehensive and diverse MEMS foundry. It has widespread fabrication resources as well as veteran and accomplished engineers in the industry to help researchers who intend to advance their ideas swiftly and inexpensively from preliminary concept to prototype and production.

Luna nanoWorks—A division of Luna Innovations, Luna nanoWorks has been creating pharmaceuticals enabled by carbon nanomaterials. Its mission is to identify and create new products to enhance the diagnosis, management, and treatment of diseases. In its Danville, Virginia facility, Luna has assembled a skilled business and technical team with several years of development, manufacturing, and commercialization expertise.

Furthermore, the company is backed by a scientific advisory board consisting of renowned experts in the field of nanomaterials and nanotechnology, including Dr Harold Kroto on the team of researchers who won the Nobel Prize for the discovery of the Buckminster fullerene, or “buckyball.”

Luna NanoMaterials—Innovates, researches, engineers, and develops technology, driving advancements in fields as varied as telecommunications, healthcare, energy, and defense. The company’s innovations start with dominance in research and develop into technologies that can be successfully commercialized. With over 100 patents, their technologists drive innovation to the edge of imagination and are seen as leaders in converting science into solutions.

Among their advances:

  • Fiber-optic shape and position sensing technology to enhance minimally invasive surgical systems
  • Sensing systems that enhance production and testing of composite materials
  • Secure computing technology that defends the country by guaranteeing weapons systems are safe and mission-ready

Nano Interface Technology, Inc.—Set up in 1998, NITI’s mission is “Innovation in the Nano-biotechnology and Nanotechnology.” It is a pioneering research organization dedicated to developing original nanotechnologies in the areas of material sciences, biotechnology, and drug delivery.

One of the key scientific challenges for material scientists has been the development of protocols that can help regulate the ultra-homogeneity in material properties at a molecular level. NITI plans to market its products by licensing technologies and making products for private companies. A majority of their technologies is proprietary and is guarded by the existing patent law.

NanoSonic, Inc.—Focuses on the design and production of innovative materials, particularly new materials that are presently unavailable in the commercial market space. The company creates radical new molecular self-assembly processes that enable the regulated synthesis of material structures at the nanoscale. It also makes new materials that are engineered with novel and beneficial engineering constitutive behaviors. A majority of their materials are created using an environmentally non-threatening process.

NanoMarkets LC—A top provider of industry analysis and market and technology research services for companies interested in or competing for organic, thin-film, and printable electronics related markets. Since its introduction, NanoMarkets has published dozens of greatly recognized comprehensive research reports on topics linked to substrates and materials, manufacturing processes, applications, and devices.

Materials Modification, Inc. (MMI)—Established in 1986, MMI has been dealing with innovative research projects for private industry and federal agencies. MMI’s engineers and scientists have developed a number of unique processes and materials by discovering creative solutions to tough engineering problems using their diverse backgrounds.

This interdisciplinary approach has enabled MMI to carry out research in challenging areas, where traditional methods have been unsuccessful. MMI is a pioneer in the field of coatings technology and nanomaterials.

AdvanceTEC—A leader in cleanroom construction and cleanroom design, AdvanceTEC serves clients in the nanotechnology, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and microelectronics industries. Since its establishment in 2000, AdvanceTEC has successfully developed facilities for research, high-volume manufacturing applications, and pilot production.

The company works with top technology companies, architectural engineering firms, general contractors, developers, and lab planners to estimate, value engineer, design, and build high-tech cleanrooms. AdvanceTEC offers a range of services from full turn-key design/build to planning and construction.

4Wave—Offers thin-film coatings, plasma processing equipment, milling equipment, and services to meet challenging vacuum equipment and thin-film processing requirements. The company provides multilayer device fabrication and miniature optical components by applying its atomic layer processing capabilities. 4Wave is located in Sterling, Virginia, just minutes from Washington Dulles Airport, and serves clients all over the world.

MikroSystems—Located in Charlottesville, Virginia, MikroSystems is a high-tech manufacturing company. Since its establishment in 2001, MikroSystems has grown swiftly, expanding both its customer base and team. The company’s customers include global high-tech companies, as well as academic and government divisions.

Using its patented TOMOSM manufacturing technology, MikroSystems collaborates with these organizations to create products with higher performance and to enhance its product development and manufacturing processes.

At a time of substantial innovation, Mikro is focused on helping its customers to create advanced products via investment in research and development. The company also focuses on creating new intellectual property. As a global-minded company offering a greatly flexible technology, Mikro works with organizations across the world and participates in the Accessing International Markets (AIM) program, supported by The Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

Ceres Nanosciences—Offers innovative research platforms and diagnostic products using its unique and registered Nanotrap® capture particle technology. Leveraging the robust Nanotrap® technology, Ceres fulfills the challenging demands of the life sciences industry.

NanoFocus—An innovative technology leader offering a new generation of high-precision optical 3D surface analysis tools for production and laboratory applications. The company is transforming the surface analysis market with its robust, user-friendly, economical instruments.

Industrial and scientific users successfully use the systems from NanoFocus for the 3D mapping and assessment of micrometer and nanometer surface structures. The NanoFocus product range includes exceptional hardware solutions integrated with robust software packages.

First Ten Ångstroms—Designs and creates specialty scientific instrumentation along with cutting-edge software. The parent firm was integrated in 1984. The FTA200 Dynamic Contact Angle Analyzer was launched in 1995, and followed previous custom instruments for contact angle measurement.

Industrial Science & Technology Network, Inc. (ISTN)—ISTN is an advanced innovation company focusing on the development of nanotechnology-enabled products. It aims at providing valuable products and solutions that permit its customers to maximize performance and cost-effectiveness in optical, biomedical, and industrial applications.

The company’s registered technology platforms are the products of topnotch polymer chemistry expertise and development funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Eqalix, Inc.—An emerging company that develops regenerative medicine, Eqalix focuses on improving the quality of life of patients and consumers by providing unique nanomaterials for the repair and regeneration of traumatized, diseased, and aging tissues. The company’s advanced technologies are intended to transform the unmet requirements in multiple therapeutic and commercial applications in the regenerative medicine space.

Parabon Nanolabs—Designs and produces a new variety of therapeutics and other products based on registered technology for accurately directing the self-assembly of designer macromolecules that are functionalized with molecular subcomponents (for example, enzymes, metals, or pharmaceuticals).

The company’s nanoscale development platform offers scientists the opportunity to design and develop multi-functional macromolecules from simpler subcomponents, replacing the existing paradigm of “molecular discovery” with that of “molecular design.”

Nanotechnology Research and Education

Virginia is home to many universities that provide research and educational opportunities in nanotechnology. Mentioned below is a list of universities and academic institutions in Virginia and the academic courses or research opportunities that contribute to the development of nanotechnology.

Virginia Commonwealth University—The university offers an interdisciplinary doctoral degree program in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology.

NanoBioEarth—It is a research group led by Professor Michael Hochella, Jr within the Department of Geosciences, at Virginia Tech. Their work is in the field of nanoscience applied to biogeochemistry, environmental geochemistry, and mineralogy.

George Mason University—The university offers a Certificate in Nanotechnology and Nanoscience.

University of Virginia—A public research university in Charlottesville, Virginia, the university contributes to nanotechnology through the following facilities:

  • Institute for Nanoscale and Quantum Scientific and Technological Advanced Research (nanoSTAR)—The nanoSTAR Institute covers nanoscale and quantum research, business development projects, and education in three subject areas: biology and medicine, nanoelectronics, and energy and the environment.
  • Nanoscale Materials Characterization Facility (NMCF)—It is an advanced user facility situated within the Materials Science and Engineering Department (MSE). The facility is committed to materials characterization, available for use by all qualified faculty, researchers, and students.

Virginia Tech—Offers the largest number of degrees in Virginia, and has a 2600-acre main campus, more than 125 campus buildings, and off-campus educational facilities in six regions. Virginia Tech contributes to the field of nanotechnology through:

  • Micro and Nano Fabrication Laboratory at VA Tech’s Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering—This facility has more than 1900 square feet of cleanroom space for the development of MEMS, bio-sensing applications, nanotechnology, photonic, and microelectronic devices.
  • Translational Oncology and Nano/Pharmacoengineering Laboratory—This lab functions in a highly multi-disciplinary environment to find solutions to challenges in cancer diagnosis and treatment through the combination of current and emerging technologies.

Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute—It is a public-private collaboration that deals with bioinformatics, basic sciences, and engineering.

Commonwealth Graduate Engineering Program (CGEP)—Offers a nanotechnology course with the opportunity to start six courses per semester, across the CGEP network. The available graduate-level nanotechnology courses include Nanotechnology Fundamentals, Nanomanufacturing, Nanomodeling and Simulation, Nanobiotechnology, Nanomaterials and Characterisation, and Nanoelectronics.

Recent Developments

Nanotechnology has become a part of the present-day industry scenario in Virginia, with nanomaterials being commercially manufactured for application in sectors like microelectronics, energy, life sciences, and defense. The educational programs and research infrastructure available in Virginia will possibly support the current industry and drive the emergence of new companies.

In April 2012, CRDF Global and the State Agency of Ukraine for Science, Innovations, and Informatization (SASII) took part in a combined research competition directed at U.S. and Ukrainian scientists committed to nanotechnology in alternative energy and energy efficiency. It was a good fund-raising opportunity for scientists since the awards will offer financial support for up to two years of research.

In September 2012, the University of Virginia collaborated with three other universities in a research project that involved the development of self-driven devices that will assist people to track their health. Specialists believe that these new devices could possibly change healthcare by enhancing the way doctors, researchers, and patients collect and understand health data.

Quite recently, scientists at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute devised a method that captures the movement of nanoparticles in a liquid setting with atomic resolution. The technology will certainly have applications in medical and biology fields.

Virginia is home to several organizations that work on nanotechnology. Undoubtedly, the state will continue to come up with many developments in the field. However, because of the great number of commercial players, a number of these developments may not get enough publicity; instead, they may just be combined into marketable products and sent to the market place.

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