Nanotechnology is big business. And it’s getting bigger.
Now that nanotechnology has entered the mainstream, the ninth annual Lehigh Nanotech Network conference this morning at Lehigh University’s Mountaintop Campus in Bethlehem focused on discussions of the applications for advancing the technology to grow businesses.
Nanotechnology involves the use of science and engineering at the molecular and atomic scale, with applications in such areas as life sciences, electronics and energy.
This year’s event featured panels on the life sciences/biotechnology sector, micro/nanoelectronics and insights from growing companies.
Meanwhile, the afternoon sessions were geared toward how materials and manufacturing companies use nanotechnology and how companies can find financial resources and information on technology partnerships and services.
The diversity of the event’s programming can benefit a variety of businesses, said Gene Lucadamo, industry liaison officer for Lehigh’s Center for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology.
“One of the levels is to learn about the business products that can be developed,” Lucadamo said. “The next level is learning about the organizations that offer support, from companies that can partner and collaborate to create a new and better business for themselves.”
Also, participants can learn about teaming up with Lehigh University to generate funding, he added.
“I think it gives everyone a sense of community, working in areas dependent on the same types of resources, whether it’s research or just to get information,” Lucadamo said. “It’s a pretty diverse group, but they are all looking for the same type of support.”
Events such as these help convey the message to businesses, particularly young ones, that there are a lot of opportunities in nanotechnology, he added.
Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeast Pennsylvania, a nonprofit organization, hosted the event in its TechVentures building.
Several companies used booths to present their nanotechnology-related businesses, including Lee Levine, an entrepreneur who specializes in failure analysis through Process Solutions Consulting Inc., a home-based business near New Tripoli.
“I left the industry and built a lab in my basement,” Levine said. “Things break, people want to know why they break. I try to understand why they break.”
With a background as a semiconductor assembly process expert, Levine also helps customers promote their technology and increase product reliability.
NETZSCH Premier Technologies LLC, a German company with an Exton site, enables nanotechnology processes as a manufacturer of machinery and instrumentation.
From attending the Nanotech conference, Stephen Miranda, sales director of North America for NETZSCH, said he can learn where the trends of the industry are going.
“I can bring that knowledge of trends back to our organization on a global scale, and that knowledge allows us to develop new technologies to meet the challenges of emerging nanotechnology businesses,” he said.
The keynote speaker, Lisa Friedersdorf, deputy director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office in Washington, D.C., spoke about several initiatives of national significance designed to advance nanotechnology in the business world by closely coordinating inter-agency collaboration.
Several universities have these national nanotechnology initiatives, and the goal would be to create a group at Lehigh University, she added.
Over the past year, these groups hosted workshops that intended to look at the technological challenges involved in moving these materials into the industry, outlining what companies need to know to accept these nanotechnology materials into their products, she said.
Examples included a workshop hosted last May by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. that explored a path toward commercialization of cellular nanomaterials.
Another workshop, hosted by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, discussed the promise of carbon nanotubes and the challenges, opportunities and pathways to commercialization.
NEW LEADERSHIP, ACTIVITIES
The National Nanotechnology Initiative, a national government research and development organization involving various departments and agencies, strives to bring people together who can network and work collaboratively, she added.
The President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology suggests that the national initiative could be at a transition point and would benefit from new leadership and activities, Friedersdorf said.
“PCAST has recommended that NNI organize itself under grand challenges,” she said. “It has specific attributes that are grand but achievable, and they span efforts that include research and engineering.”
These challenges are intended to get nanotechnology companies excited about moving toward a goal.