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NCMS Survey Shows Big Uses For Small Tech

A survey of more than a quarter of the nation's approximately 1,200 nanotechnology businesses and institutions finds wide adoption of nanotech in several industries in the United States, including manufacturing and health care.

The Great Lakes, the Pacific Coast states and the Northeast states are the nation's hotbeds of development in nanotech, the study from the Ann Arbor-based National Center for Manufacturing Sciences found. Michigan was identified as one of 15 states that "lead the nation in cluster-formation around nanotechnology research and commercialization."

The study found that "Nano-engineered material properties, near-atomically precise material or thin-film features and rapid processing methods are becoming commonplace in a broad range of manufactured components for consumer and
durable goods. Nanotechnology is increasingly considered for enhancing and differentiating macro-scale components, and is regarded as an important source of innovations and competitive advantage in the development of new products,
equipment and fabrication/synthesis processes."

The study also found that nearly 25 percent of respondents are already marketing products and instruments incorporating nanotechnology, and about 85 percent expect to commercialize products by 2013.

According to the study, applications are dominated by nanomaterials such as  nano-structured catalysts, carbon nanotubes, quantum dots, nanowires and
dopants. Also developing strongly are metal-oxide semiconductor-based electronics and semiconductor manufacturing processes, as well as other silicon-based energy conversion process industries that use similar large-scale
fabrication equipment, thin-film coating processes, and closed-environment handling systems.

On the medical side, nanotechnology-enabled, miniaturized biomedical and diagnostic devices, designer drugs and targeted therapies are also progressing, with early products such as nanoemulsions and viricides in advanced clinical trials.

However, the enthusiasm of these manufacturers is tempered with the daunting challenges that many face when adopting nanotechnology into their production. These challenges include a lack of awareness of nanotechnology's potential advantages as well as access to the required design tools and training.

Fifty percent of those surveyed also cited a lack of access to capital to fund investment in new technologies.

Some of these challenges have been managed by engaging in collaborative R&D where risk and cost is shared and technology transfer is inherent, giving these manufacturers a competitive edge over those that pursue R&D on their own.

The report cites "a dramatically improved capability of U.S. semiconductor supply chains to manufacture and utilize larger quantities of well-characterized nano-structured powders and nanoparticulate materials such as catalysts and coatings with increasing consistency, uniformity and reaction and deposition rates. Higher
productivities and efficiencies have been demonstrated with processes and equipment for depositing these materials on substrates with greater precision in larger volumes, at corresponding economies of scale."

"Nanotechnology represents a major opportunity for manufacturers," said NCMS president and CEO Rick Jarman. "We are using our proven collaborative process to neutralize the challenges and accelerate the adoption of cutting edge technologies like nano for U.S. Manufacturers."

The survey report, "2009 NCMS Study of Nanotechnology in the U.S. Manufacturing Industry," is available for free download from NCMS or NSF

(c) 2010, WWJ Newsradio 950. All rights reserved.

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