NanoPundit -Where Society, Science and the Law get really, really small.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Spintronics Makes the News Again

Spintronics leader NVE Corporation announced that the Magnetoresistive Random Access Memory (MRAM) alpha samples recently announced by Cypress Semiconductor are covered by NVE's technology agreement with Cypress. MRAM uses electron spin to store data. Cypress Semiconductor previously announced it had provided 256-kilobit alpha samples. Jeffrey K. Kaszubinski, president and CEO of Cypress' Silicon Magnetic Systems subsidiary company -a single-chip, fast write, low power, fail safe, high-reliability
nonvolatile memory."

In the NanoPundit survey (just invented to predict what the break-through nanotech product will be), MRAM has just taken over the lead. None of the Forbes Top Ten
list is even close.

Sorry About the Nano-Outage Friday

If you came here on Friday looking for wit and wisdom on the nanotech front, I'm sorry there was nothing. The NanoPundit (please leave a comment if you thing this third person thing sounds pompous) had a brief business trip in the macroworld. The NanoMom noticed even if no one else did.

If anyone has questions or stories they want told or if you disagree with me please leave comments. Right now I have about 10 regular readers so please leave a comment or send me an email and I can just about guarantee I will respond.

Major Media Goes Nano

The Washington Post discusses:

The Fantastic Voyage,
Quantum Dots,
Nanotubes, and
Photo-Thermal Nanoshells.

You should read this because it is one of the most sophisticated treatments of nanotechnology I have seen by a major news publication. This tied with the CBS
story reported below shows me that major media is starting to understand nanotechnology and are no longer reporting grey goo and self replicating monsters (or even using the human hair analogy). Are investors starting to understand nanotechnology as well. Typically people with some skin in the game are far ahead of the newsies but I still see the only big bucks coming from VC’s. This is probably evidence that investor understand the risks and the rewards of nanotechnology and have determined that the risks are still great.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Nanosys - Sharp Deal is no Cure-All

The Motley Fool reports on the collaborative agreement between Sharp Corporation and Nanosys to develop fuel cells for use in electronic devices such as laptop computers, cell phones and cameras. The Fools comment on the failed Nanosys IPO:

Its last attempt at going public didn't meet with an enthusiastic crowd of investors, but will the next attempt encounter the same skepticism? What story could you put forward for a company that has publicly announced it wouldn't have a commercial product of its own on the market until 2006?

We're expecting the second time to be the charm for Nanosys and are looking forward to a powerful initial public offering.

My thought is that another joint development agreement does not a successful company make. My experience is that about half of all of this type of collaborative agreements end as disappointments. Until Nanosys gets closer to a commercialized product only the V.C.’s should have their wallet out. There is lots of money to made in the nanotech sector, there is also lots of money to be lost. As I have said before there are lots of folks smarter than me trying to figure it out. Most of the smart ones also have much deeper pockets than I.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

More State Rankings

Lux Research ranks U.S. states on their ability to develop their economies through nanotechnology, The states are ranked on 16 criteria to assess each states' level of nanotechnology activity -- including metrics like state nanotech spending, the status of a state nanotech initiative, companies active in nanotechnology in the state, and in-state nanotech patents -- as well as states' general technology development strength, which includes metrics like R&D inputs, size of technology and science workforce, concentration of high- tech companies, and corporate taxation and regulatory burdens. States were ranked on a relative basis according to their populations

Yahoo News reports all 50 state rankings. I found it interesting to compare the small times and the Lux rankings. Yes it’s apples to oranges since Lux’s emphasis is on state actions. Found it interesting that Small Times ranks Michigan 4 while Lux brings them in at (18), similarly Ohio is at 10 (Small Times) while Lux puts them down at (29). The relative rankings are shown below:

Lux Research ............................... Small Times
1 Massachusetts ...........................Califonia
2 California ....................................Massachusetts
3 Colorado ......................................New Mexico
4 Virginia .......................................Michigan (18)
5 New Mexico ...............................New York
6 New Jersey ................................New Jersey
7 Connecticut, Maryland (tie) ....Texas (14)
8 .....................................................New Hampshire
9 Illinois ........................................Connecticut
10 New York ................................Ohio (29)

Update: Sorry about the columns, Blogger is not kind to tables.

Dendritic Nanotechnologies Picks Up Dendrimer Portfolio From Dow

Dendritic Nanotechnologies (DNT) reports that Dow has licensed its entire dendrimer portfolio to in exchange for a ‘significant’ equity stake (reportedly 31%). Dendrimers are interesting to pharmaceutical companies because of their drug delivery capabilityies. Starpharma, which held a 42% interest in DNT, will make an additional cash equity investment in DNT in exchange for exclusive rights to DNT and former Dow intellectual property for polyvalent, dendrimer-based pharmaceutical applications.

DNT’s portfolio includes more than 30 dendrimer patents and Dow has added 196 patents (41 patent families). Mike Pirc, Dow’s manager of intellectual stated “This move consolidates a great amount of the important intellectual property in the dendrimer field into one company.”

This strikes me as a perfect storm of technology companies coming to gether to advance the technology. Dow develops a pioneering new technology, DNT is an entrepreneurial company with some technology and a link to an end user and Starpharma can bring the technology to market to the benefit of everyone in the chain.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Pixel Dust

Digital Times has run a three part series Part I Part II Part III on carbon-nanotube field-emission displays. It is way technical but concisely discusses the problems with thin film transfer liquid crystal displays, and organic light emitting diodes. Some companies to look for in the field are Teco and Delta Optoelectronics.

Taiwan’s Electronics Research and Service Organization of the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ERSO/ITRI) recently announced the development of a 20-inch carbon nanotubes backlight unit and Digital Times interviews Dr. CC Lee, deputy director of flat-panel development at ERSO/ITRI.

Good and essential reading but the degree of reading difficulty is increased by the incessant use of alphabet soup.

Here is a glossary:

CCFL - cold-cathode fluorescent lamp (used for backlighting a screen)
CNT-FED - Carbon-nanotube field-emission display
CNT-BLU - CNT backlight unit
ERSO/ITRI - Electronics Research and Service Organization of the Industrial Technology Research Institute
ICP-CVD - Inductively-coupled plasma chemical vapor deposition technique
OLED – Organic light emitting diode
TFT-LCD - Thin film transfer liquid crystal displays
VFD - Vacuum Fluorescent Display

-----UPDATED 14 July 2005----
Here is the answer to Chill:

The FED is a self emissive matrix, arranged in a grid, which function individually to generate electrons to stimulate emission from a phosphor. See Here.

FED CNT addresses the power issue as they are intrinsically very efficient using the same phosphor as the old CRT technology and as result use substantially less power than plasma displays. Generating visible light from the surface of a plasma display is a three-step process that requires a gas to be ionized, which in turn emits ultraviolet light that stimulates a phosphor to produce visible light. FED CNT allows for the elimination of the energy-hungry ionization step by stimulating the phosphors directly with electrons emitted by carbon nanotubes.

The central element of the carbon nanotube field emission display (CNT-FED) television is the field-emission cathode, which works by combining the phenomenon of quantum tunneling with the operating principle of a traditional lightning rod. In essence, as in a regular CRT, a cathode is induced to emit electrons, but unlike a regular CRT, field emission does not rely on heating the cathode to boil off electrons. Cathodes can therefore be packed close together with their supporting electronics without causing the entire display to overheat. The assembly of cathodes can then be placed close enough to the glass face of the display. Instead of using one traveling electron beam to address a pixel (a dot on the display), the CNT FEDs can have an electron beam for each pixel and as a result the bulky electromagnetic beam-steering setup used in a CRT can be eliminated

The BLU emits light which is subsequently manipulated by another device such as a liquid crystal array. See

The CNT-BLU developed by ERSO adopts planar electronic field as the backlight emission base, resulting in even luminance on the backlight surface that is suitable for application in large-area LCDs. Using carbon nanotubes coated on the backlight plate is the electron source for field emission provides good luminescence efficiency and requires simpler process. The ERSO-developed CNT-BLU has great improvement in both process simplification and cost reduction compared with the current technology of using CCFL backlight. The technology will be a helpful solution for the local manufacturers to enter large-area display market with competitive capabilities.

Our Nano is Bigger than your Nano

The Times of India has an interesting article on India, China and South Korea emerging as front runners among developing nations in nanotechnology (Ed.—I thought that South Korea was pretty well developed). My favorite quote is that the government of India has “allocated Rs One billion ($22.8 million) under its 10th five year plan (2002-07).”

While I think that it is great that developing nations are working on nanotechnology, a government five year plan is not the way to develop any new technology. My humble advice is to keep the bureaucrats away from any and all developing technology.

Small Times Calls California the Biggest in Nano

The good folks at Small Times rank the states that are biggest in nanotechnology. Specific numbers were listed for California (100), Massachusetts (88.27), with the rest of the top ten between 20-40 (in order, New Mexico, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Texas, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Ohio). The rankings were based on:

-Industry, which measures the amount of micro and nanotechnology business that exists in a state

-Research, which measures the amount of research activity in a state as well as its resources.

-Venture capital, or the amount and number of private financing deals in a year.

-Innovation, which includes patenting and success at landing federal funding for commercializing products.

-Work force, which examines the quantity and quality of the labor pool.

-Costs, which encompasses salaries, commercial rents and other factors that affect business costs.

Small Times accounts for the overwhelming size of California by using business density as a factor in the rankings. While California twice the micro and nano companies, Massachusetts wins out in terms of business density.

It will be interesting what reaction state governments have and what efforts are made to improve a states standing. My thought is that outside California and Massachusetts V.C. funding is a major barrier for moving up in the rankings and state action is not a reasonable remedy.

The full results will be in the March issue of Small Times. If you
subscribe online you can get the March issue in print. (And no, I get nothing for providing this link.)

Sunday, January 23, 2005

CBS the New NanoNetwork?

CBS Sunday Morning’s David Pogue did a story on nanotechnology. The NanoMom called me to let me know the story was on (Thanks Mom). They didn’t introduce anything new to the folks who read NanoPudit. The was a very interesting VC guy who down played the grey goo angle and stated that medical nanorobots and biological machines were 50-100 years out. I think that some of that is science fiction and will remain so a lot longer than 100 years.

My favorite part was CBS used a comparison of Pogue’s height to the thickness of a nickel, to the size of a red blood cell to a nanometer. Much more nteresting and effective than the 1/1,000th the width of a human hair cliché.

CBS linked to:

Friday, January 21, 2005

Another Nanomerger Anounced

The nanoindustry saw a second big nanomerger announced today. Nanometrics Incorporated (Nasdaq:NANO) and August Technology Corporation (Nasdaq:AUGT) intend to merge to form August Nanometrics Inc.

This follows on the heals of the recently
announced merger of Carbon Nanotechnologies and C Sixty.

The reasons announced for these mergers are the R&D synergies and new channels to market and Patent Portfolios. All are good reasons to merge. We will see more mergers as technology based companies learn that it takes more than a killer application to win market share. The entry of larger companies move into the nanomarket will spur acquisitions of nano-nanocompanies by the big guys and also the combination of nanostarts so that they can compete with the big guys entering the market.

Sorry for the Morkian nano-nano reference, at least I didn’t use the human hair analogy.

Nanocatalyst Discovery

More big nanonews, this may be the biggest news in the catalyst industry since the discovery of metallocenes.

Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology and the Technical University of Munich have found evidence of electrical charging of a nano-sized catalyst. This has the potential to substantially lower plastics manufacturing costs.

Studying nano-sized clusters of gold on a magnesium oxide surface, scientists found nanoparticulate gold to The research will appear in the 21 January, 2005, issue of the journal

The study finds that gold nanoclusters Au(8) to Au(24) are a very effective catalyst. The gold clusters to take on a highly reactive three-dimensional structure which removes an electron taking on a slight negative charge and subsequently transfers the electron to the reacting molecules, weakening the chemical bonds that keep them together and lowering the energy required for the reaction.

"It is possible to tune the catalytic process not only by changing the composition of the materials, but also by changing the cluster’s size atom by atom," explained Ueli Heiz, professor of chemistry at Technical University Munich.

"And all this happens at low temperatures," said Heiz. Typically, reactions requiring catalysts need heat or pressure to get the reaction going, and that adds to the cost of manufacturing, but that isn’t the case here. Since the properties of the catalytic beds can increase the rate of reactions for nanocatalysts, new and better low-temperature catalysts may be found.

In 1991, Exxon first introduced its Exxpol catalysts and produced metallocene-based polymers, the metallocene polymer market is now a multibillion dollar industry. For a good background on metallocene’s you can look

I don’t know that these catalysts are ready for prime time, it is still lab scale and theoretical, but if I had a couple million bucks worth of VC money I would probably be looking for a nanostart coming out of Georgia Tech with the rights to this discovery.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Crazy ELF

The Auburn Journal publishes a letter from the Earth Liberation Front claiming responsibility for recent fire bombings. What caught my eye was “nanotechnology can rid the world of everything natural and replace it with machines.” Well there you go, anti-technology terrorists with fire bombs. I guess nanotechnology has made the big time.

Just What We Need

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Lockdown is complete with a nanotech virus. This is from the guy who wrote about the use of airliners as weapons of terror, collimated light used to blind pilots and bring down military planes and Arab terrorist smuggled across the Mexican border. Well he also wrote about a war in Europe between NATO and the Warsaw Pact (remember them?) and a competent CIA.

I have my doubts about the efficacy of a nanovirus (Ed.-- aren’t all viruses nano?).

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Forbes Names Top Ten NanoProducts

Forbes Magazine reports its TOP 10 NanoProducts and they are a big disapointment. They include:

Dental Adhesive (3M)
Super Hydrophobic Spray (BASF)
Nanosilver Wound Dressing
Foot Warmers
Washable Bed Mattresses
Golf Balls and a “Nano” Driver
Automotive Glass Treatment
Military Grade Disinfectant
Joint & Muscle Pain Cream
Nano Skin Care

Aside from the first three on the list, I refer to my comment

[An] important point is to introduce the American public to the benefits of nanotechnology. As I write I am wearing a nanoshirt, nano-stain fighting is great but it is not the kind of killer application that drives a society to change or accept any risk. We need to get out to the hustings and teach people about the potential benefits of nanotechnology. Lets push breast cancer cures, fuel cells and terabyte memory, not shirts.

Spintronics Leader NVE Reports Earnings

Spintronics leader NVE reports earnings:

Net income for the third quarter was $375,172, compared with net income of $577,156 for the prior-year quarter. Earnings per share were $0.08 per share, compared to $0.12 per share for the prior year quarter. Revenue was $2.56 million, compared to $3.12 million for the prior-year quarter, a decrease of 18 percent.

For the nine months ended December 31, 2004, net income was $1,282,141, compared to net income of $1,318,050 for the nine months ended December 31, 2003. Earnings per share were $0.26 per share compared to $0.28 per share in the prior year period. Revenue for the first nine months of fiscal 2005 was $8.54 million, compared to $8.80 million reported in the first nine months of fiscal 2004, a 3 percent decrease.

"We are satisfied with our financial results in light of industry conditions," said Daniel A. Baker, Ph.D., NVE's president and chief executive officer. "We reported a solid profit in the third quarter despite a decline in revenues due to an anticipated sales reduction with St. Jude Medical and an industry-wide inventory glut. We expect new sensors and couplers, as well as MRAM devices and royalties, to drive future growth."

Frankly, I am surprised that any company that relies on nanotechnology for a substantial part of its earnings shows positive earnings per share. NVE reports that they hold 32 US Patents and 13 published US patent applications. I also think that it must be a great company to list its patents and applications on its website. I don’t know why all start-up technology firms wouldn’t do this.

Massachusetts Biggest in Nano

Boston Globe Says “Mass. tops in nano, but execs worry.” The article states , Massachusetts ranks as the biggest state in the nation for nanotechnology activity as reported by Lux Research Inc. The study rates the Massachusetts number 1 in terms of “number of nanotech companies, patents, research activity, commercial applications and other factors.” California and Colorado follow in the spots 2 and 3. I would guess that Massachusettts leadership is in large part due to nanostarts from MIT.

The article appears to be planted by the Massachusetts Nanotech Exchange (sorry no link) to press for construction of a prototype fabrication center.

local industry officials, nervous about Massachusetts losing its lead, are in the early stages of pushing the fabrication center, where prototype nanotech products can be built and tested before commercial manufacturing.

Mass. is inevitably going to loose its dominant position. They got the jump on the rest of the country through the work at MIT. The
National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network gets up to speed with centers for:

Electron transport in Molecular Nanostructures-
Columbia University
Nanoscale Systems in Information Technologies- Cornell University
Nanoscience in Biological and Environmental Engineering- Rice University
Integrated Nanopatterning and Detection- Northwestern University
Nanoscale Systems and Their Device Applications- Harvard University
Directed Assembly of Nanostructures- Rensselaer
Nanobiotechnology- Cornell University
Scalable and Integrated Nano Manufacturing- UCLA
Templated Synthesis and Assembly at the Nanoscale- University of Wisconsin- Madison
Molecular Function at the NanoBio Interface-
University of Pennsylvania
High-Rate Nanomanufacturing- Northeastern University
Affordable Nanoengineering of Polymer of Polymer Medical Devices- The Ohio State University
Integrated Nanomechanical Systems-
U.C., Berkeley
Probing the Nanoscale- Stanford University

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Nanosys Intellectual Property Update

Below, in commenting on the withdrawal of the Nanosys IPO I stated

The Nanosys portfolio seems a bit thin at this point with no issued patents and 11 published applications. It is of course possible that Nanosys has patent rights beyond what I have found through licenses or assignments that don’t show up on the PTO database.

I’m glad I included that line about “licenses or assignments that don’t show up on the PTO database.” With a little more research I found that Nanosys is infact the “Nkuku wa za Banga” (Translation: "all conquering warrior, who goes from triumph to triumph") of nanotechnology licensing. Nanosys currently has licensing deals with Massachusetts Institute of Technology, UCLA, University of California, Berkeley, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Ohio Hits the Small Time

The Ohio Nanotechnology Summit (Here is the Governors announcement) will be held March 2-3, 2005 at the Hope Hotel and Conference Center, Patterson Air Force Base

Big nano-names are coming; the speakers and presenters include:
Dr. Rick Smalley , Rice University
Dr. Liming Dai, Wright Bros. Institute Chair for Nanomaterials, Univ. of Dayton
Phil Kuekes, Hewlett Packard Labs
Prof. James Lee, Director, NSF NSEC for Affordable Nano Bio Products & Devices
Prof. Mauro Ferrari, OSU/NCI
Mark Cooper, Copernicus Therapeutics
Mark Brandt, The Maple Fund
Art Zucker, Ohio University
Alan Brown, VP, Chief Technology Officer, CAMP Inc.
Scott Rickert, President, CEO NanoFilm
Richard Schorr, President MetaMateria Partners
Roger Avakian, Chief Technology Officer, PolyOne Corp.

The objectives of the meeting are to:

-capture a sense of what is happening in nanotechnology around the state in industry, academia and Ohio-based federal labs;
-foster and promote collaborations within the state that will lead to positive economic outcomes based on nanotechnology; and
-hear a national perspective on nanotechnology from prominent experts in the nanotechnology arena.

The summit will begin with a nanobasics primer or a tour of nanotechnology labs at the Air Force Research Laboratory Materials Directorate (sorry the link may not work).

I will be there (hopefully presenting a poster on what nanobusinesses need to do to protect their investment in research and development). The first ten people to track me down and use the word NanoPundit will get a free drink at the hotel bar on Wednesday night.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Big Business Models for Nano Companies

Neil Gordon has an article in Small Times on the need for a business model in addition to great technology for the emerging nanobusiness. “When management’s sole focus is on the development of technology at the exclusion of other business activities that can generate revenue, at some point cash reserves will dwindle and the company will be at risk of a meltdown.” He draws analogies from the biotech industry of 5-10 years ago. Thankfully, he doesn’t analogize to the internet bubble.

My thoughts are that, like the biotech industry, there are a lot of overvalued companies that are never going to generate cash. Also, like the biotech industry, the nanotech segment as a whole is undervalued because there are undiscovered gems which will be enormously profitable in the next 5-10 years. People smarter than me are working day and night to sort out the gems.

Patent Office Simplifies Protection of Joint Developments

The Patent Laws have changed (HTML) to simplify protection of multiparty research. If I were giving advice, I would suggest adding a new section to any Joint Development Agreement or R&D contract to include: “This Agreement is a “Joint Research Agreement” for the purposes of 35 U.S.C. § 103(c).”

This change will improve the ability of companies to protect intellectual property developed with third party researchers. This is going to come in handy when corporations collaborate with universities or other research institutions by removing prior art (published less than one year prior to the filing date of the patent application) held by one of the researchers if they are bound by a “Joint Research Agreement. This is particularly useful when two parties with experience in an area come together to solve a problem which may be considered obvious in view of the parties prior work.

From 70 Fed Reg 1818:

The Cooperative Research and Technology Enhancement Act of 2004 (CREATE Act) amends the patent laws to provide that subject matter developed by another person shall be treated as owned by the same person or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person for purposes of determining obviousness if three conditions are met: The claimed invention was made by or on behalf of parties to a joint research agreement that was in effect on or before the date the claimed invention was made; the claimed invention was made as a result of activities undertaken within the scope of the joint research agreement; and the application for patent for the claimed invention discloses or is amended to disclose the names of the parties to the joint research agreement. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (Office) is revising the rules of practice in patent cases to implement the CREATE Act.

The 35 U.S.C. § 103(c) provides:

(1) Subject matter developed by another person, which qualifies as prior art only under one or more of subsections (e), (f), and (g) of section 102 of this title, shall not preclude patentability under this section where the subject matter and the claimed invention were, at the time the claimed invention was made, owned by the same person or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person.
(2) For purposes of this subsection, subject matter developed by
another person and a claimed invention shall be deemed to have been owned by the same person or subject to an obligation of assignment to the same person if--
(A) The claimed invention was made by or on behalf of parties to a joint research agreement that was in effect on or before the date the claimed invention was made;
(B) The claimed invention was made as a result of activities undertaken within the scope of the joint research agreement; and
(C) The application for patent for the claimed invention discloses or is amended to disclose the names of the parties to the joint research agreement.
(3) For purposes of paragraph (2), the term ``joint research agreement'' means a written contract, grant, or cooperative agreement entered into by two or more persons or entities for the performance of experimental, developmental, or research work in the field of the claimed invention.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

European NanoThoughts

A European Nanoforum revealed the following common attitudes among participants:

-nanotechnology will have a strong impact on European industry and its citizens within only ten years from now;

-the US is seen as the leader whereas Europe lags behind in both nanosciences and the transfer of nanotechnology to industry;

-nanotechnologies are believed to have the strongest impact on: chemistry and materials, information and communications technologies and healthcare;

-strong support for a significant increase in research funding for nanotechnologies via the framework programme;

-support for creation of European infrastructures in the field and a number of suggestions stressing the need for cross-disciplinary infrastructures;

-a shortage of skilled research personnel foreseen in 5-10 years and there is a need for interdisciplinary skills;

-health, safety and environmental risks should be integrated early into research;
-the societal impact of nanotechnology needs to be taken account from an early stage and more communication and dialogue is needed;

-an international ‘code of good conduct’ would be welcomed.

These thoughts were gleaned from 750 responses 93% Europe with one third from Germany and the UK.

Nanoregulations (or Let Them Wear Shirts)

The US needs regulations on the budding nanotechnology industry. Don’t get me wrong, I am probably as anti-regulation as anyone you will find. The fact is that the nano-industry will be regulated and those regulations will go beyond what the chemical industry as a whole is bound by. The U.S. nano-industry needs to come to grips with the fact that regulations are inevitable and get out in the lead so that reasonable and necessary regulations are enacted. If we don’t we should prepare for unreasonable and unnecessary regulations.

Mitsubishi Chemical, through its nanocarbon arm, Frontier Carbon, is working with the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to determine what existing regulations can be applied to fullerenes and what new regulations are needed to protect from exposure to nanomaterials. (Source MIT’s Technology Review, Jan 2005, sorry no link). US corporations need to get to the plate and work with federal agencies on this as well.

In the recently released
National Nanotechnology Initiative, which is a must read for anyone in the industry, the areas of interest by the DOE, DOD, EPA NIH, NIOSH AND NSF include:

-Size-dependent and surface coating-dependent disposition of quantum dots when applied to the skin, ingested or instilled into the respiratory tract

-Toxic effects of carbon nanotubes or fullerenes instilled into the respiratory tract compared to the effect of inhalation exposure

-Role of particle core and surface composition in the immunotoxicity of quantum dots and fullerenes

-Dermal penetration and phototoxicology of nanoscale metal oxide particles, such as titanium dioxide used in sunscreens

Sounds scary. The nano-industry must get involved in answering these questions and leading these efforts. The primary function of regulators is to regulate and they will regulate beyond belief unless industry takes the lead.

Another important point is to introduce the American public to the benefits of nanotechnology. As I write I am wearing a
nanoshirt, nano-stain fighting is great but it is not the kind of killer application that drives a society to change or accept any risk. We need to get out to the hustings and teach people about the potential benefits of nanotechnology. Lets push breast cancer cures, fuel cells and terabyte memory, not shirts.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Welcome Instapundit Readers

Thanks to the Blogfather for the link. Please look around and leave a comment.

I am looking forward to the Instalanche (Instalaunch for my new blog).

Big Nano News from the FDA

In the biggest nanonews of the year, American Pharmaceutical Partners and American Bioscience report that their New Drug Application for Abraxane has been accepted for filing with standard review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA has determined that the application is sufficiently complete to permit a substantive review. Abraxane is made up of injectible albumin-bound paclitaxel nanoparticles for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer. Links here, here, here and here.

Even in FDA speak this is by far the biggest news of the year. The market reacted accordingly and
APPX stock jumped approximately 50% on the announcement.

American BioScience, Inc. is a privately held biotechnology company focused on the discovery, development and delivery of next-generation therapeutic moieties including biologically active molecules already existing within the human biological system, for the treatment of life-threatening diseases. American Pharmaceutical Partners, Inc. is a majority owned subsidiary of American BioScience, Inc.American Pharmaceutical Partners, Inc. (APPX) is a specialty pharmaceutical company that fulfills an important need in the medical community as a reliable provider of a broad portfolio of primarily injectable pharmaceutical products, including difficult to manufacture, sterile, urgently needed medical products.

APPX’s business is profitable and growing. For the first six months in 2004, the company reported net sales of $187 million, and net income of $21 million, equal to $0.29 per fully diluted share. The company completed its initial public offering in December 2001 and the overallotment was exercised in full in January 2002, raising approximately $154 million in proceeds and providing the company with a sound financial position. (Source: )

UPDATE: Thanks to all who have come through Instapundit, Crain’s Cleveland, Brandmalasia and Motley Fool. I sure appreciate the links, readership and comments. For more go to .

Monday, January 10, 2005

U.S. Patent Office Recognizes Nanotechnolgy

The U.S. Patent and Trademark office has opened a new classification for NANOTECHNOLOGY . Class 977 includes patents and other disclosure documents:

a. related to research and technology development at the atomic, molecular or macromolecular levels, in the length of scale of approximately 1-100 nanometer range in at least one dimension, and

b. that provides a fundamental understanding of phenomena and materials at the nanoscale and to create and use structures, devices, and systems that have novel properties and functions because of their small and/or intermediate size.

Class 977 currently includes only a single digest (DIG 1) and as of 10 January 2005 includes only 413 patents. A number of the patents appear only marginally related to nanotechnology, but do use the word ‘nano’ in the claims.

When faced with a new technology, the Patent Office creates initial collections of prior art called “digests.” The digests are only a rough collection and are not further categorized. A patent search for a method of making fullerenes and a search for a micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) would require a review of all of the patents in the digest. Once the Patent Office acquires a larger collection of documents, and sees a need for a more sophisticated categorization, the digest will be broken down into subclasses that may be independently searched.

The digest is a step in the right direction for the Patent Office in terms in increasing the speed and reliability of patent searches. The new nanotechnology classification will be much more useful when it is further refined into subclasses.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

We’re Number 21

CNN is out with their list of the 25 top innovations in the last 25 years. Nanotechhnology is number 21 between Space Shuttle (ed. “The space shuttle?”) and Flash Memory. CNN has not named number 1 (ed. “the internet”). The rest of the list is:

2. Cell phone *
3. Personal computers *
4. Fiber optics *
5. E-mail
6. Commercialized GPS *
7. Portable computers *
8. Memory storage discs *
9. Consumer level digital camera *
10. Radio frequency ID tags *
11. MEMS *
12. DNA fingerprinting *
13. Air bags
14. ATM
15. Advanced batteries *
16. Hybrid car *
17. OLEDs *
18. Display panels *
19. HDTV *
20. Space shuttle
21. Nanotechnology *
22. Flash memory *
23. Voice mail
24. Modern hearing aids
25. Short Range, High Frequency Radio*

Twenty five years from now nanotechnology will be number one because it will have made all those marked with an asterisk smaller, faster, cheaper.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Napoleon’s Flatware

Napoleon III used aluminum tableware at state dinners, and gave aluminum ornaments as gifts. Such was the value of aluminum that only the most wealthy could even contemplate its use. The first aluminum was refined from anhydrous aluminum chloride using dilute potassium amalgam. This Wöhler process was laborious and expensive. The cost of aluminum in 1855 was $113 per pound, about $8,000 in 2004 dollars. The Washington Monument was capped with aluminum

In 1886 Paul Louis Toussaint Héroult (France) and Charles Martin Hall (USA) (U.S. Patent No.
400,664 Issued April 02, 1889) individually and nearly simultaneously invented the electrolytic process fro production of aluminum. The Hall-Héroult process is the basis for all aluminum production today. Since the discovery of the Hall-Héroult process annual production has sky rocketed.

1900 - 8 thousand tons.
1913 - 65 thousand tons.
1920 - 128 thousand tons.
1938 - 537 thousand tons.
1946 - 681 thousand tons.
1999 - 24 million tons.

Aluminum is now used for everything from pots and cans to semiconductors and mirrors, in your bathroom and in optical telescopes.

Nanotechnology is still operating on the equivalent of the Wöhler process and producing materials which are exorbitantly expensive. As was the case with aluminum, the raw materials for production of carbon based fullerenes are virtually free. At some point in the near future will there be a transformative technology that will change the economic and technical fundamentals of the nanotechnology industry?

What will be the uses of nano technology when buckyballs and nanotubes are being produced by the ton with technology that looks like an oil refinery or asphalt plant?

Thursday, January 06, 2005

$17 Billion Dollar Nanosensor Market

NanoMarkets has a new report out claiming the Global Nanosensor Market to Reach $17.2 Billion by 2012 and lists the players as:

Altair NanoMaterials
Applied Nanotech/Nano-Proprietary
Biophage Pharma
Smiths Detection/Cyrano Sciences

Nanosys IPO Withdrawn

Interesting article from the good folks at Small Times magazine on valuation of nanocompanies. The article discusses the withdrawal of the Nanosys IPO and the difficulty in establishing an enterprise value for nanostarts stating:

“discounted cash-flow models and models focusing on earnings before interest and taxes, price-to-earnings, price-to-revenues, etc . . . . may be particularly difficult to forecast due to greater technical complexity and product uncertainty.”

Valuation of startup companies has always been difficult and required some (small) degree of faith on the part of the investor. Most of the folks who would otherwise be interested in investing in nanostarts are still recovering from the collapse in
internet and telecom stocks.

Small Times touches on the value of intellectual property to the overall valuation of the nanostart:

“The scope of the intellectual property (IP) position: Does the company have a defensible portfolio of patents? Does it have the resources to defend its IP estate?”

The Nanosys
portfolio seems a bit thin at this point with no issued patents and 11 published applications. It is of course possible that Nanosys has patent rights beyond what I have found through licenses or assignments that don’t show up on the PTO database.

Valuing a company on the basis of patent applications adds a level of uncertainty on top of the economic uncertainty discussed by the Small Times article.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Patent Quality Assistance Act of 2004

Rep. Howard L. Berman (D. Calif.) recently introduced The Patent Quality Assurance Act (H.R. 5299) which would establish a European style post-grant opposition procedure. U.S. Patents carry a presumption of validity and "the burden of establishing invalidity of a patent or any claim thereof shall rest on the party asserting such invalidity."

This burden is places significant limitations on the rights of third parties to practice inventions that are claimed by patents of questionable validity. Patents are often granted in new or rapidly developing technologies because the U.S. Patent Office relies primarily on its established body of patents during examination.

Members of the nano–community should contact their respective Representatives to support H.R. 5299.

More Studies Needed

In evaluating the danger to humans, the questions to ask are:
(1) will the particle be absorbed or is it respirable?
(2) what is the dosage?
(3) what is the biopersistence of the particle?
(4) what is the physiological effect of the particle on human tissue?

With absolutely no data, I believe that the answer to question one is “yes.” I also believe that the answer to question 2 is “it doesn’t matter.” And by “it doesn’t matter” I mean that any amount of toxicity will be used as a cudgel against the nanoindustry no matter what dosages are required. If rats drown in fullerenes we can expect that to used as a sign of unacceptable risk. How long till we see hippies dressed as buckyballs protesting at World Trade Organization meetings.

The answers for questions 3 and 4 are what really matter and will determine whether nanotechnology is the asbestos of the new millennia.

Asbestos causes induced pulmonary fibrosis and thoracic neoplasms in lungs because it is biopersistent (has a very low dissolution rate constant ‘Kdis’), that is unless the scilia in your lungs can transport the fiber it will be there forever. As far as I know there has been no research on the biopersistence of nanomaterials. I assume that biopersistence is strongly related to structure and chemistry but someone needs to figure this out.

The good folks at Rice University, Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology (CBEN) are hard at work in the salt mines of toxicity studies. Data from a recently released study indicates that surface modification of fullerenes dramatically reduces toxicity. Very interesting.

In my humble opinion toxicity studies and basic science on biopersistence is a niche that the federal government and federally funded university research are ideally suited to fill.

I Hate To Use The Word Luddite

New technology raises hopes for some fears for others. Nanotechnology is no different. Eric Drexler, nanotech hero and bete-noir brainstormed an industry then launched a meme that others are using to sink it. Some people are drawn to the worst case scenario and Drexler gave them Grey Goo, a feared result of self replicating nanobots run amok. Drexler has since backed away stating “runaway replicators, while theoretically possible according to the laws of physics, cannot be built with today’s nanotechnology toolset.”

As Mark Twain said, "A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes." In the case of nanotechnology, the truth is still putting on its shoes.

"If enough misinformation spreads, I think there's a tremendous potential to generate a social backlash" said Bo Varga, executive director of NanoSIG, a group based at NASA's Ames Research. Right now the voices in the wilderness are out in force to put a the brakes on nanotechnology. Talk to the folks working on GM foods if you don't think it can happen here. If electricity and the internal combustion engine face this kind of coordinated opposition, I would be writing this by candlelight after shoveling out my stable.

The anti-science ETC Group has added nanotechnology to genetic engineering as a second windmill to at which to tilt. "There's a huge regulatory vacuum looking at the potential toxicity of materials at the nanoscale," said Hope Shand, research director of the ETC Group, an advocacy group based in Canada. "If there are studies that have been done, we haven't seen them. We feel at this point there needs to be a mandatory moratorium on synthetic nanomaterials until we can see laboratory protocols to protect workers and protect the environment."

There are risks involved in all new technologies. Nanotechnology is no different. Does our society want 97% efficient lighting and 50 MPG cars that give consumers the size and safety they demand? The answer to this is self evident and the technology is out there. Unless someone takes action the nano-baby might be thrown out with the bath water.

In the words of Gregg Easterbrook "We’re All Gonna Die" but it ain’t going to be nanotechnology that kills us.

Nano Patents

The Nobel Prize is nice but commercial value is important too. In order to protect an investment in research and development companies, universities and governments patent their inventions and discoveries. A list of early patents on fullerenes is below:
5,227,038 - Electric arc process for making fullerenes
5,300,203 - Process for making fullerenes by the laser evaporation of carbon
5,393,955 - Preparation of fullerenes and apparatus therefor
5,487,831 - Recognition and separation of carbon clusters
5,493,094 - Preparation of fullerenes and apparatus therefor
5,494,558 - Production of fullerenes by sputtering
5,510,098 - CVD method of producing and doping fullerenes
5,538,763 - Method of preparing carbon cluster film having electrical conductivityThe technology stepping stone to the formation of fullerenes is the deposition of diamond coatings

Nano Precursors

4,767,608 -Method for synthesizing diamond by using plasma
4,915,977 -Method of forming a diamond film

Foundations of Nanotechnology

The 1996 Nobel Prize for Chemistry was awarded jointly to Robert F. Curl, Jr. , Sir Harold W. Kroto , and Richard E. Smalley for their discovery of fullerenes.Fullerenes are formed when vaporized carbon condenses in an atmosphere of inert gas. The gaseous carbon is obtained e.g. by directing an intense pulse of laser light at a carbon surface. The released carbon atoms are mixed with a stream of helium gas and combine to form clusters of some few up to hundreds of atoms. The gas is then led into a vacuum chamber where it expands and is cooled to some degrees above absolute zero. The carbon clusters can then be analyzed with mass spectrometry.Curl, Kroto and Smalley performed this experiment together with graduate students J.R. Heath and S.C. O’Brien during a period of eleven days in 1985. By fine-tuning the experiment they were able in particular to produce clusters with 60 carbon atoms and clusters with 70. Clusters of 60 carbon atoms, C60, were the most abundant. They found high stability in C60, which suggested a molecular structure of great symmetry. It was suggested that C60 could be a "truncated icosahedron cage", a polyhedron with 20 hexagonal (6-angled) surfaces and 12 pentagonal (5-angled) surfaces. The pattern of a European football has exactly this structure, as does the geodetic dome designed by the American architect R. Buckminster Fuller for the 1967 Montreal World Exhibition. The researchers named the newly-discovered structure buckminsterfullerene after him.Source (