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
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
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
"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
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
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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