Editorial Feature

Nanotechnology in Rhode Island, USA: Market Report

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Situated within the New England province of the Appalachian Region, Rhode Island has an overall area of 3,140 km2. According to 2012 estimates, it had a population of 1,050,292.

In 2011, the GDP of Rhode Island was $50.1 billion—an increase from $33 billion in 2000. The economy of Rhode Island is based on several developing industries, including manufacturing, defense, marine products, financial services, and healthcare.

In addition, the state of Rhode Island supports innovation in manufacturing via services like:

  • Research and development tax credit up to 22.5%
  • Innovation tax credits of up to 50% (maximum $100,000)
  • Assistance with export programs, workforce development programs, and site selection
  • High-performance manufacturer investment tax credit up to 10%
  • Manufacturing tax credits of up to 4% for new facilities as well as equipment and machinery utilized in manufacturing processes

Nanotechnology Organizations

Given below is a short introduction to the major nanotechnology-related organization located in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island Consortium for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology

This consortium is a collaboration between the University of Rhode Island and Brown University, focusing on the development of research projects under various topics like nanomaterials, nanotools, and nanohealth. In addition, the consortium is involved in advancing and procuring instruments that can be used for measuring, exploiting, and “seeing” at the nanoscale.

The projects of the consortium focus on the development and implementation of nanomaterials and nanotechnologies that can be utilized to achieve sustainable and renewable energy. Part of its research work also involves the use of nanomaterials in healthcare and biotechnology.

Nanotechnology Companies

Rhode Island is home to some of the top nanotechnology-related companies, which are given below along with a short description to each of them.

The NanoSteel Company

NanoSteel is a global leader in proprietary nano-structured steel material designs. It has created progressive generations of iron-based alloys over a decade. These alloys range from monolithic steel to surface coatings. For the power, mining, and oil and gas sectors, the company has effectively launched commercial use of metallic coatings to extend service life in the most aggressive industrial environments.

For the automotive sector, NanoSteel has realized a major innovation in the development of nano-structured sheet steel with excellent ductility and strength. It is a privately held firm supported by lead shareholders Fairhaven Capital and EnerTech.

Solaris Nanosciences

The main goal of Solaris Nanosciences is to offer long-lasting solar cells with high efficiency and low manufacturing cost, to capture a significant part of the estimated growth of the worldwide renewable energy market. Company resources and equity financing are solely used toward this objective.

NanoAntenna™ materials developed by Solaris Nanosciences present several other huge market opportunities that are partly validated by the development of high-efficiency photovoltaics. As a result, the company has started to pursue these and other applications via externally funded agreements, contracts, and collaborations.

The other applications of Solaris’ nano-antenna technology and intellectual property include biological and chemical sensing, high-performance liquid crystal displays, and the improvement of human vision.

Reade Advanced Materials

In 1983, Mr Charles Reade, Jr. established Reade Advanced Materials as a new READE® business unit. The company upholds the historical Chemical Division of the family business as a producer, as a global “factory packed” supplier of high-tech specialty chemical solids (such as ceramic, mineral, alloy, metal, nanomaterial, enzyme, polymer, composite, and other custom compositions), and as a value-add custom and toll processor/packager.

Nabsys

Nabsys is focused on promoting developments in healthcare and life sciences sectors via strategic deployment of a new positional sequencing platform that has extensive applications in DNA analysis. Solid-state nanodetectors are used by the Nabsys platform to examine single DNA molecules, exposing both identity and location of DNA sequences over extended distances.

The system is developed to set a new benchmark in terms of scalability, speed, and precision, providing convincing benefits for the analysis of genome mapping, genome structural variation, and both whole and targeted genome sequencing.

The company was the first to get a “$1000 Genome” award from the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health, for developing an electronic technique for DNA sequencing.

Nanotechnology Research and Education

Given below are some of the top academic institutes in Rhode Island providing research programs and courses in nanotechnology and nanoscience.

The University of Rhode Island

The university focuses on nanotechnology, as do the Department of Chemical Engineering, and the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Biomedical Engineering.

Brown University

The university fosters the importance of nanotechnology through the following research centers.

  • Laboratory for Innovation in Nanostructured Carbon: Focuses on developing both nanomaterials and structures, and on the effective implications and usage of these nanomaterials for the environment and human health. Present research is based on the topics given below:
    • Mesogenic materials and carbon materials
    • Mechanistic nanotoxicology
    • Synthesis and applications of three-dimensional (3D) graphene architectures
    • Nanomaterials and the natural environment
  • Institute for Molecular and Nanoscale Innovation—Promotes research centers and groups working on molecular and nanosciences. The main research departments operating in this field are mentioned below:
    • Center for Nanoscience & Soft Matter
    • Center for Advanced Materials Research
    • Nanohealth Initiative
  • Nano and Micromechanics Laboratory: The laboratory performs research and offers education on the theoretical, experimental, and computational analysis of nanomechanics and micromechanics of materials. Its present research on nanostructures includes:
    • Nanopipe
    • Nanotube
    • Nanoasperity
    • SWCNT cutting by sonication
    • Metal surface reshaping by ion bombardment
    • Nanotribology

Recent Developments

In Rhode Island, the drive for the latest breakthrough in the field of nanotechnology is growing. This is because companies and universities are exploring this field through several research projects, as well as through the development of innovative nanotechnology-based products.

A student at the University of Rhode Island developed Lego-based atomic force microscope that promotes the study of nanotechnology among school students. This latest device includes a Lego-Mindstorm controller, a low-power laser, and particular software that enable users to create a 3D graph of a scanned sample.

Scientists at the same university used nanofibers to link nerves, demonstrating more degrees of freedom with regards to neural hand prostheses.

Nanotechnology was used by other scientists from the Department of Biomedical Engineering to regulate alpha particles in the body. This helped in reducing the damage caused to surrounding tissues during cancer treatment.

At QD Vision Inc. and Brown University, engineers developed nanoscale single crystals that have the ability to produce red, green, or blue laser light appropriate for digital displays. This finding underscores the fact that a single material is enough to create all these colors. This leads to substituting the typical technique of applying varied semiconductor materials as well as long crystal growth processes to create only one color. Therefore, this latest nanotechnology-based technique allows digital displays to show a variety of colors at the same time.

In addition, scientists at Brown University have demonstrated how argyria—a condition where the skin becomes a striking shade of grayish blue—is caused by ingesting silver nanoparticles in antimicrobial health tonics.

In spite of its tiny size, Rhode Island seems to have a great deal of nanotech activity. The innovative discoveries illustrated in the article demonstrate the development of nanotechnology in Rhode Island that could possibly become a state rich in nanotechnology in the years to come.

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