FullScaleNANO are an emerging nanoanalysis start-up based in Florida. Their NanoMet software promises to automatically collect and collate vast amounts of accurate data from nanoscale images saving researchers from the time consuming (and often fustrating) task of manual measurement whilst removing human error from the equation.
AZoNano spoke to Jeffrey Whalen, CEO of FullScaleNano, about the features of their new software and how he expects it to change the nanomaterials landscape across both industry and academia.
Please could you introduce our readers to your NanoMet software?
NanoMet is powerful automatic characterization software that converts images into useful data. NanoMet produces thousands of measurements per image at a cost of pennies per measurement. We are very excited as a company to bring this innovation to the materials industry markets.
NanoMet is perfectly suited for providing both academic and corporate researchers with an unprecedented level of understand of their materials, especially for the case of nanomaterials. The cloud-based NanoMet WebApp and Workgroup Platform are in development, with the WebApp becoming commercially available first in Summer 2016. In any application where materials dimensions are critical to their final performance, NanoMet provides value and utility.
How would manufacturers conventionally analyse their nanomaterials?
Unfortunately in most cases, both manufacturers and device producers of nanomaterials are using manual characterization methods that are slow, unreliable, not scalable and require an enormous amount of user supervision.
In some cases, a human must sit at a computer and measure each of the objects in the picture…a daunting task when there could be 500 or more images with about 1,000 target objects in each picture. There are some other open-source and custom-made options for nanomaterials image processing, but these are often not easily integrated into workflow, take time to master, have no support or troubleshooting options and can be modified by anyone.
A secondary electron image of dispersed SiO2 nanoparticles using the Stöber process. Image includes various artifacts including cracks from close-packed material drying and horizontal contrast gradients from sample charging. Conventional analysis would require manual counting of the individual nanoparticles and manual measurement of their diameter.
What problems are associated with manual nanomaterials analysis?
There is simply no way for manual analysis to attain anywhere near the sampling rates of NanoMet and thus the results of manual analysis are often a poor representation of the true population statistics metrics regarding size and shape.
High level expertise is required for manual analysis as this is a sensitive and objective process of measurement, forcing overqualified staff into tedious and mundane work, compromising the reliability of the results. Manual analysis only allows for making R&D and QC key decisions from looking at a few hundred individuals from a population of billions. This is like taking hours to try to see an entire forest of trees through a pinhole.
NanoMet is akin to viewing the same forest from a satellite then counting, measuring and reporting stats about every single tree in the entire forest…and doing it in seconds.
How does NanoMet solve these problems?
NanoMet solves these problems by providing tons of data quickly and reliably so that informed decisions can be made, materials are better understood and ultimately, our customers have better odds for success in commercializing their novel nanomaterials applications. As the nanomaterials markets continue to mature, NanoMet will drive value as a critical tool for both academic and industrial standardized characterization.
Which techniques can NanoMet be integrated with?
NanoMet can be integrated with any type of image containing target objects that need to be measured. This includes electron, optical and force microscopy commonly used for direct visualization of nanomaterials.
The incredible databasing power of the NanoMet Web App WebApp and Workgroup Platform allow for automatic creation of meta-rich data that can contain any information about a sample, from synthesis and storage parameters to everything about the NanoMet processing to correlations across other kinds of analytical techniques like X-ray diffraction, spectroscopic methods, magnetometry and thermal gravimetrics.
What measurements of nanomaterials can be taken by NanoMet?
NanoMet has several modules that are capable of measuring the incremental diameters of both fibers and wires, the diameters of particles, the free space area of nonwoven fiber matrix materials and porous films/substrates and for image scale calibration by use of the scale bar, meta data in the image or for absolute reliability, using traceable NIST reference materials such as the RM8820 artifact.
All of the data created by NanoMet is organized by individual objects which allows for characterization of specific individuals as well as aggregated statistics.
NanoMet measurement of 6696 particles in less than a minute. The only operator interaction was setting maximum and minimum particle size. There was no operator interaction required with the image.
In what format does NanoMet deliver data to its users?
NanoMet delivers a finalized report in PDF format that is appropriate for distribution amongst small or large R&D and QC teams. The data is generated in a completely automatic fashion and is automatically stored in the NanoMet database for later performance correlations and comparative analysis. The NanoMet WebApp is even compatible with smartphones and tablets, meaning our customers can receive images as email attachments, process those images in minutes and then send the PDF reports out to the relevant parties. Minimal time, no pain and excellent results.
What, in your opinion, are the best features of your software?
Hands down, the best feature of our software is the ease of use. Unlike any other option for image-based characterization, NanoMet can be used by entry level experience users and requires only a small amount of training to become proficient.
If something isn’t easy to learn how to use, it’s never going be truly free from expert supervision but NanoMet is a complete shift in thinking. It’s intuitive for anyone to use, but rigorously runs a blistering fast pace instead of bothering users for continual input due to lack of automation.
Histogram of the 6696 particle diameters created using NanoMet. The large number of measurements revealed a mean diameter of 398.4 nm, as well as a bimodal diameter distribution.
What level of skill is required to operate NanoMet?
NanoMet is simple to learn and intuitive to use so almost anyone can use the software, regardless of skill level.
Which industries do you expect to benefit most from this revolution in nanoanalysis?
In the nanomaterials industry specifically, many of our customers work with nano-enabled medicine, quantum dots, nonwoven fiber matrix materials and porous films. There are many additional markets that could be served by NanoMet, meso- and microscale materials like fibers and low density, high porosity films.
What are FullScaleNANO’s plans for the future?
FullScaleNANO is going to continue to push the envelope in pushing the realm of possibility for automatic nanomaterials characterization. We are developing the NanoMet Workgroup Platform which is going to a revolutionary way to look at nano- and microscale materials.
With the incredible things our customers have going on, commercializing groundbreaking technologies, it is truly right now…today…that the success stories of the nanotechnology revolution are being written. Those empowered with the best understanding of their materials will have the best chances for success in the emerging markets and those yet to be realized.
About Jeffrey Whalen
Jeffrey completed his PhD at Florida State University where he focused on the discovery and growth of new crystalline hydrogen storage materials. From there he continued his work with crystal discovery, growth and characterization at the National High Magnetic Field Lab in Tallahassee, FL completing a postdoctoral and then accepting a research faculty position.
In 2012, Jeffrey founded FullScaleNANO and began the journey of developing NanoMet.
Since childhood, Jeffrey has embraced a passion for fishing and all things related to the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. He finds inspiration from the incredible impacts that FullScaleNANO could have on the world as the nanotechnology industry continues to emerge and grow. Jeffrey is a Florida native, growing up in Fort Lauderdale before moving to Tallahassee in 2001.
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