What is nanotechnology? Well, let’s break it down. The prefix "nano"

is derived from the Greek work "nanos," which means dwarf.

Nanotechnology then is the production and application of devices and

systems at the nanometer level. How small is a nanometer? Very, very

small – it’s how much your fingernails grow every second.

Why should you care? Well, lots of people in New Jersey know what

nanotechnology is and what it might mean to this state’s economic

future. They gather on Wednesday, April 6, at 8:30 a.m. at Rutgers to

explain what’s happening in nanotechnology with respect to defense and

homeland security. Cost: $95. Call 856-787-9700.

The event is sponsored by the Greater Garden State Nanotechnology

Alliance (GGSNA), an organization promoting regional economic

development through the commercialization of nanotechnology in and

around New Jersey. Welcoming the audience is Fred Allen, manager of

technology assessment at the Engelhard Corporation in Iselin. Allen

has a bachelor’s degree in earth and planetary sciences from SUNY at

Stony Brook, and in 1995 received a Ph.D. in geological sciences from

Harvard. He lives in Princeton Junction with his wife and two

daughters.

By holding this seminar, Allen says, "I’m hoping we can transform some

energy into opportunities for our state. If government officials in

New Jersey see value in this, they’ll bring federal money into New

Jersey, which creates jobs. We need large and small companies,

universities, and government officials to be aware of what’s going

on." It is his contention that nano could be a big economic driver for

New Jersey.

Allen, who grew up in Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island, says the

technical definition of nanotechnology is "the ability to control

material properties at the most intimate of scales, the scale of atoms

and molecules." It has been possible to control certain aspects of

reaction in chemical processes at this level for some time, but much

more control is needed from a manufacturing standpoint. Only recently

has the technology to see, analyze, and maneuver particles at the

molecular scale in a cost effective way been available. This is a

significant development.

"What’s exciting now is that there is technology to manufacture

nanoparticles that wasn’t available before," says Allen. "At this

point, there are plenty of materials that are made at the nanometer

scale. In the future, you will be able to purchase equipment to

manufacture nanoproducts yourself. But that’s a long way off."

New Jersey companies like BASF, Air Products, and Engelhard already

use nanoparticles in technology. In fact, nano is now at work –

generally invisibly – in everyday products.

You know those pants that are advertised as stain-resistant?

Nanoparticles. Windows that absorb UV radiation while still letting in

the visible light? Nanoparticles. Colorless sunscreen that absorbs UV

radiation, but is transparent on your skin? You guessed it,

nanoparticles. All of these products, and others – including synthetic

bones, rocket propellant, airplane coating, and fuel additives – exist

today.

Allen explains that "it’s only been in that last five years that these

types of materials have been made at a scale that’s reproducible.

Prior to that it was only laboratory pilot-scale operations. It’s been

available, just not at a manufacturing scale."

Allen, whose father, Ernest, now deceased, was a musician and a

graphic artist, and mother, Harriet, an administrator at Stony Brook

says, "I happen to be trained as a crystallographer (a person who

studies the structure of crystals), so I have an appreciation for this

scale. But there are specialists actually building the equipment that

produces these types of materials. My job to try to commercialize

them, figure out how to make money from using them."

Nanotechnology in the defense industry and homeland security is being

utilized to improve existing materials in munitions and weaponry.

Nanomaterials allow munitions to travel a longer distance and pack a

greater punch. Components are smaller and faster, with less waste.

Homeland security and national defense can be improved by developing

sensors that detect small amounts of particles in the air, like

anthrax spores. Also, technology can be designed to remove these

harmful materials, which are themselves nanomaterials, from the air.

"There are aspects of both offensive and defensive technology," says

Allen, "that can revolutionize the way security is handled and offer a

level of security that is unparalleled."

Picatinny Arsenal, located in northwest New Jersey, develops munitions

for the Army. Says Allen: "They’re developing the world’s largest,

pilot-scale, plasma reactor for producing nanoparticles for both

military and commercial applications." Another speaker at the seminar,

Mark Mezger, who works with the U.S. Army, was charged with getting

the funding to get the reactor built. Mezger addresses the three

elements that need to be in place before early summer: the reactor,

the building, and the personnel to run it.

"The interesting point about Picatinny," says Allen, is the integrated

approach. This reactor is not only going to be used for the particular

military application, but it will also be available for industrial

use. Both small and large businesses will have access to this

one-of-a-kind reactor to make particles that will be used as additives

for other market sectors.

"I know of some companies that are already interested in working with

the reactor and have invested in it," says Allen. "Same thing with the

universities. There is a lot of support for nanotechnology. This is

the sort of thing that other states are trying to do to basically

create an infrastructure around capabilities. New Jersey also has the

New Jersey Nanotech Consortium based in Murray Hill – another resource

used to produce metal nanolithography, to create printed circuits.

That’s right in our backyard."

Three dimensions are coming together at this time: industry, both

large and small, academe, and government. These three groups are

beginning to speak the common language of nanotechnology. Academics

come up with the fundamental theories, then small businesses emerge

from the universities to put those theories into practice. Large

companies then try to leverage what’s coming out of the small

companies through partnering, collaborating, joint ventures,

licensing, even acquisition. Then government supports it. And, at the

heart of the Garden State Nanotech Initiative is the regional economic

development that goes along with this. One end result is the creation

of good jobs.

Following this seminar will be others sponsored by GGSNA addressing

the influence of nanotechnology on specific market sectors, including

energy storage and power generation, personal care and skin

treatments, photonics and optical electronics.

These seminars are designed to provide an appreciation of what’s

available in New Jersey, a better understanding of what’s happening

within large and small businesses, and the ability to collaborate at a

much higher rate than in the past.

"We want people to know that there are opportunities in nanotechnology

within New Jersey," says Allen.

"If we have this conversation five years from now, it’s going to be

quite a different landscape," says Allen. "We’re in a period where

we’re moving from the lab to the manufacturing facility. Companies

that you haven’t even heard of today, some don’t even exist yet, will

be mass producing materials that are essential for key applications."

by Fran Ianacone

Top Of PageSweating the Small Stuff

It started out to be just another technology conference, albeit on a

hot areas, nanotechnology. The New Jersey Technology Council scheduled

a half-day event, the Greater Garden Nanotechnology Alliance, for

Wednesday, April 6, at the Rutgers Busch Campus (see story, page 12).

It was likely to be an important meeting, because nanotechnology is an

important part of the state’s technology strategy. In fact, nano ranks

second only to stem cell technology in the annual report of the New

Jersey Commission on Science and Technology, the agency charged with

developing state technology policy. The NJSCT report notes that 172

patents were issued in nanotechnology in New Jersey from January,

1999, to May, 2002. It also quotes a nanotechnology survey from Lux

Research that ranked New Jersey an impressive sixth in the nation.

The Lux rankings, from one to ten: Massachusetts, California,

Colorado, Virginia, New Mexico, New Jersey, Connecticut/Maryland tied,

Illinois, and New York.

Then, last week, Small Times magazine – a five-year-old bimonthly

based in Ann Arbor, Michigan – issued its own state rankings in a

cover story titled "Win Place Show," and New Jersey was nowhere to be

found in the top 10. A flurry of E-mails ensued, and one thing led to

another, with the result that the NJTC invited the editor-in-chief of

Small Times magazine, Candace Stuart, to be the keynote speaker at

this conference, and she accepted. Stuart may well feel as if she is

being thrown to the lions, but she may also welcome the chance to

explain the different statistical measures for her rankings.

Small Times rankings are, from one to ten: California, Massachusetts,

New Mexico, New York, Michigan, Texas, Illinois, Maryland, North

Carolina, and Ohio. In addition to New Jersey, two other states that

were in the Luxe Research Top 10 – Colorado and Virginia – were

omitted from this list. (Both Colorado and Virginia happen to be

advertisers in the magazine; New Jersey is not.)

"When this first came up, we wondered why New Jersey was not included

in the Small Times survey," says Sherrie Preische, executive director

of the NJCST, noting that Lux has the reputation of being "one of the

world’s premiere advisory firms."

"We understood the Lux data was focused on states being ready to

establish businesses in nanotechnology and how ready they are to grow

that industry," says Preische. "Small Times may have some different

kinds of ranking criteria, but for our mission – building new jobs and

new industry in NJ – the Lux data that says how ready we are to do

that."

Manhattan-based Lux Research issues a Nanotech Index on public

companies – from start-ups to big end-users – involved with funding,

development, manufacturing, or supplying tools and instrumentation for

nanotechnology. This particular report, published in late January, was

"Benchmarking U.S. States for Economic Development from

Nanotechnology," and was presented to federal commerce officials.

"Nanotechnology is virtually impossible to categorize," says Richard

Woodbridge, a Nassau Street-based patent attorney with Synnestvedt

Lechner & Woodbridge. "I believe New Jersey still ranks well in the

top 10 in total patents issued and somewhere between 5 and 11 in

patents per capita. What I have been saying for years is that the

State of New Jersey hasn’t done a very good job of tooting its own

horn about its technology."

Anyone involved in a survey business – rankings for colleges,

hospitals, or bagel shops – knows that the results can oh-so-easily be

skewed by fiddling with the weight given each factor. Maybe the lesson

here is, don’t believe statistics.

by Barbara Fox

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