Editorial Feature

Nanotechnology in Utah, USA: Market Report

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Utah, situated in the Western United States, encompasses a total area of 219,887 km2. As of 2012, it had a population of 2,855,287.

The GSP of Utah in 2011 was $124.5 billion based on estimates by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The biggest contributor to the local economy is the manufacturing sector, which is accountable for about 14% of the state’s GSP. It also has the sixth most diverse economy in the country, with industries such as transportation, tourism, mining, information technology and research, salt production, education, government services, and cattle ranching all adding to the local economy.

Utah topped the Forbes Magazine, Best State for Business and Careers rankings in 2012, for the third year in a row. Following are other reasons that might draw businesses to set up or relocate in Utah:

  • Corporate tax rate that has remained the same for the last 15 years
  • Tax rebate incentives for companies that offer job opportunities
  • 10 consecutive years of export growth
  • Second fastest growing economy in the United States

Nanotechnology Companies

The key nanotechnology-related companies in Utah are mentioned below, along with a short introduction to each of them.

Navillum Nanotechnologies, LLC—It is a chemical manufacturing company headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah. The company has created and patented an innovative technique for fabricating quantum dots (QDs) and other types of semiconducting nanocrystals on a commercial scale. The market for quantum dots is poised to expand from $67 million in sales in 2010 to $676 million by 2015.

Navillum believes it has the solution to close this gap so that quantum dot applied technology can eventually enter the market. Consequently, Navillum is set to become a crucial market supplier to end-use application manufacturers.

Intelligent Enclosures Corp (iE)—Has designed innovative environmental control solutions and gained practical experience in manufacturing MiniEnvironments, which realize levels of control formerly not possible.

iE works alongside big semiconductor manufacturers, tool builders, universities, research organizations, and technology start-ups to conceive, design, and make progressive MiniEnvironments that allow their customers to realize their goals. These include developing sub-32 nm node processes, developing laser gratings with nanometer precision spacings, or creating microscopes for examining substances at the sub-atomic level.

iE uses computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and 3D parametric modeling software to develop engineering and design solutions, allowing them to work jointly with their customers to develop an environmental solution for their requirements.

Nano-Partz™—Recognized as an innovator and as a quality supplier of gold nanoparticle-based products such as Accurate™ spherical gold nanoparticles, gold nanowires, gold nanorods, micron-sized gold (Microgold™), fluorescent carbon nanoparticles, and the recently launched constructs—Plasmonic Fluorophores™ and Ramanprobes™.

Nanopartz™ also provides palladium- and platinum-coated gold nanoparticles. Products created at Nanopartz™ constitute a vital core technology for the life sciences in imaging, diagnostics, and therapeutics—especially cancer.

In other fields, Nanopartz™ products are ideal for liquid crystals, sensors, catalytics, solar cells, polarizers, standards, non-linear optics, negative refractive index materials, and as strong subcomponents in electronics. Nanopartz™ provides products for scientists as well as materials manufacturers.

Nanotechnology Research and Education

Some of the top academic institutes in Utah that offer courses and research programs in nanotechnology and nanoscience are mentioned below:

University of Utah—Conducts a nanotechnology training program to graduate students from various disciplines, allowing them to tackle the interdisciplinary challenges needed to incorporate nanotechnology in a fruitful manner. The university also has many research centers that promote the study and awareness of nanotechnology:

  • Utahnanofab—It is involved in advanced research in nanotechnology and offers nanofabrication facilities, infrastructure, and staff to academia and industry. Utahnanofab provides courses on microfluidics, micromachining, solar cell design, surface analysis, and semiconductor device physics.
  • Nano Institute of Utah—Unites researchers, engineers, and clinicians from across the state to explore the challenges in nanoscience and nanotechnology. The institute offers research facilities to scientists from various fields such as medicine, pharmacy, physics, chemistry, engineering, and biology with a view to forge synergistic alliances for encouraging commercialization, high-quality research, and education of nanotechnology.
  • Utah Center for Nanomedicine—Offers expertise and promotes partnerships for design, development, and clinical translation of nanosystems that are used for diagnostic and therapeutic needs.
  • Utah Center for NanoBioSensors—The center is focused on the development of ultra-sensitive biological and chemical sensors that can be used for examining nanomaterials and in processes such as sample collection, signal detection, and strategy preparation. The center also solicits funding for interdisciplinary research in nanobiosensors and supports commercialization of new discoveries in the field of nanobiosensors.
  • Utah Center for Nanomaterials—Analyzes materials that have nanoscale morphological features. The nanotechnology-based research projects conducted by the center are mentioned below:
    • Intracellular pH Detection
    • Perfluorocarbon Nanoparticles
    • Interference of Nanoparticles in Toxicity Assays
    • Detection of Reactive Oxygen Species in tissues
    • Fluorescent Gold
    • Nanoparticle-Supported Molecular Brush
  • Advanced Metrology and Nano-Device Applications (AMANDA)—The research lab is focused on the development of self-assembly and self-repairing circuits, non-destructive testing methods, and nanometrology tools. The main research areas include:
    • Non-volatile memory devices
    • Microfluidics
    • Microwave technologies for nanometrology
    • Carbon nanotubes
    • Molecular electronics
    • Nanoparticles
    • MEMS
    • NEMS
  • Nano-optics and molecular biophysics—The Department of Physics and Astronomy’s nano-optics and molecular biophysics group focuses on the research of fundamental interactions between light and matter at the nanoscale as well as on molecular-scale biological systems through nanoscale optical microscopy methods.

Recent Developments

A scientist from the University of Utah has invented a new detection material used to find explosives with the aid of a highly absorbing nanowire known as “net.” The nanowire net can detect vapors from explosives from the air due to its sensitivity, range, and exclusive speed.

In March 2013, the nanofabrication facility at the University of Utah was offered a $200,000 grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation to deliver engineering education materials related to length scales to students at the community colleges, University of Utah, and four other colleges across the country.

A team of researchers from Brigham Young University created microstructures that can form precise, tall, and narrow 3D shapes. The researchers created the carbon nanotube templated microfabrication (CNT-M) process that involves using carbon nanotube arrays called “forests.” They used the carbon nanotube arrays as a 3D microfabrication scaffold to develop microstructures that are tall, fine-featured, and precise. This CNT-M framework was hence used by the team to make metal components that deliver suitable properties for MEMS components and applications.

Several departments of the University of Utah are involved with nanotechnology, clearly showing that the university has recognized the potential of this field. The level of involvement would specify that advancements should also be balanced. Hence this university will have to be closely watched for new nanotechnology discoveries that will hopefully bring about commercial results. Navillum Nanotechnologies is one such success, which is a spin-off of the University of Utah that uses technology developed there.

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