Nanotechnology in Tennessee, USA: Market Report

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Nanotechnology Organizations
Nanotechnology Companies
Nanotechnology Research and Education
Recent Developments


Tennessee, located in the Southeastern United States. It covers a total area of 109,247 km2 and has a population of 6,456,243 as of 2012.

Tennessee's 2011 GDP was reported to be $266.5 billion by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Manufacturing and healthcare are the two largest non-government contributors to the local economy. The key manufacturing exports include electrical equipment, chemicals and transportation equipment.

Reasons to locate a new business in Tennessee include good location, low cost of doing business, high quality work force and no personal income tax.

Nanotechnology Organizations

A brief introduction to the key nanotechnology-related organization in Tennessee is given below:

Tennessee Nanotech Alliance: Focuses identifying the emerging opportunities and addressing the challenges of nanotechnology all over the state of Tennessee. This organization aims at educating people from all walks of life on the fundamentals of nanotechnology by promoting various research activities in universities, research centers, laboratories and industries.

Nanotechnology Companies

The chief nanotechnology-related company in Tennessee is given below along with a brief introduction:

eSpin Technologies: eSpin Technologies, Inc. was founded with the mission to develop the technology to commercially manufacture nanofibers and nanofiber-based products.

Functioning as a self-funded Advanced Research Facility, eSpin has teamed up with several Federal Agencies and Industrial Partners to develop unique solutions for filtration and environmental remediation, functional textiles, and advanced materials. eSpin works with its Partners to enhance existing, as well as develop new-to-the world products by customized application of nanofibers to meet the current and future needs of the customer.

Today, eSpin has emerged as a global leader in nanofiber technology with commercial manufacturing capabilities and products in the market place. eSpin currently manufactures and markets customized non-woven nanofiber rolls ( nWeb™) for filtration and functional textiles.

Steward Advanced Materials - Steward Advanced Materials is building on Steward’s tradition of more than 130 years of manufacturing ceramics, magnetic materials and alloys including processing of carbon based materials. We offer a wealth of experience and technical capabilities to support our customer’s material requirements. Steward provides a full line of magnetic loading powders specifically designed for radio frequency, EMI and microwave absorption.

We provide custom materials, as well as contract manufacturing and engineering services. Utilizing our expertise in transitioning materials from lab scale to commercial production, we produce these materials in a timely and economical fashion. Steward materials are used in a variety of industries such as, automotive, alternative energy, electronic and defense.

Nanotechnology Research and Education

Some of the leading academic institutes in Tennessee offering courses and research programs in nanoscience and nanotechnology are listed below:

University of Tennessee - Nanotechnology-based research is conducted by different departments that include:

  • Analytical Chemistry Division
  • Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials Division

The University’s Joint Institute for Advanced Materials serves as a hub for nanotechnology and materials science. The University of Tennessee also has other research centers that focus on nanotechnology. These research centers are listed below:

  • Nano Bio-systems and Bio-Mimetics Lab: Conducts nanotechnology-based research on the following topics:
    • Bioinspired nanomaterials for drug delivery, wound healing, and tissue engineering.
    • Bioinspired energy-efficient actuation and propulsion mechanisms for robotics and automation
    • Bioinspired devices and nanorobots for cardiovascular disease and cancer therapy.
  • The Nano Bio-systems and Bio-Mimetics Lab offers the following courses:
    • Nano bio-systems and bio-mimetics
    • Systems biology and complex system theory
    • Principles of biomedical engineering
    • Medical devices, diagnostics and bioinstrumentation

Oak Ridge National Laboratory - Conducts nanotechnology research through the following groups:

  • Biological and Nanoscale Systems Group: Focuses on characterizing and understanding the organization of natural systems at the nanoscale and analyzing how this organization contributes to biological function. The group’s research projects include:
    • Nanosensing and actuation using cell mimetics
    • Nanoscale devices for biomolecular interfaces          
    • Molecular scale patterning of biofunctional surfaces via scanning probe lithography
  • Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences: Provides research activities in order to understand, design and control spatial chemistry, dynamics and energetics that revolve around the properties and functionality of nanoscale materials, architectures and systems.

University of Tennessee Health Science Center: Promotes research in nanotechnology through the Department of pathology and laboratory Medicine.

University of Memphis: Promotes interdisciplinary research through the institute given below:

Recent Developments

There is no doubt that ORNL is a world leading lab that is at the forefront of most technologies including nanotechnology. Some of their recent developments include:

  • Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee have demonstrated that ion current can be increased by DNA translocation through a carbon nanotube. These researchers used molecular dynamics simulations to prove that large electro-osmotic flow can be turned into a large net ionic current through an ion-selective filtering process by a DNA molecule inside the carbon nanotube.
  • Using and electron microscope, researchers documented the dancing motion of silicon atoms in a graphene sheet
  • ORNL researchers have developed the first high performance, nanostructured solid electrolyte for more energy dense lithium ion batteries. Such batteries could also overcome problems with existing Li-ion batteries that relate to safety issues with the flammability of their liquid electrolytes.
  • Using theoretical and experimental studies, researchers are beginning to understand and control the self-assembly of insulating barium zirconium oxide nanodots and nanorods within barium-copper-oxide superconducting films. These developments have implications on a range of electronic devices.

Recent developments at the University of Tennessee are as follows:

  • Assistant Professor Jaan Mannik secured $650,000 over 5 years to investigate basic cellular functions which could lead to micro- and nano-engineered chips for live cell imaging.
  • They have recently installed two of the most powerful microscopes in the world, (the Auriga and Libra from Zeiss worth $3.5 million) that are also able to be remotely operated. These microscopes allow imaging at the atomic level and cutting and slicing at the nanoscale.
  • Nanoparticles from a micro-orgaqnism have been captured and could be used to treat cancer

High quality research from ORNL will continue to flow helping to develop the understanding of all things nano. Some of these developments will have commercial and industrial impacts in the neat term. Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Tennessee will need to justify the capital expenditure on their new microscopes. This factor, along with the previously unavailable capabilities will also mean that developments should flow from researchers there as well.

This all means that Tennessee should become a nanotechnology hot spot that should be monitored for new developments.


  1. United States Census Bureau - Tennessee Quick Facts
  2. Widespread Economic Growth Across States in 2011 (PDF)
  3. Tennessee GDP
  4. Advanced Manufacturing in Tennessee (PDF)
  5. ORNL microscopy uncovers "dancing" silicon atoms in graphene
  6. ORNL research paves way for larger, safer lithium ion batteries
  7. Professors Receive NSF’s CAREER Award
  8. UT Introduces Cutting-Edge Electron Microscopes
  9. UT Biomedical Engineering Researcher Yongzhong Wang: A Fungus That Could Fight Cancer

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