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Posted: March 7, 2008
Big Growth in 'Small' Biz
(Nanowerk News) At an event focused on the submicroscopic, the Swagelok Co. display almost seemed out of place.
Nanotechnology all starts with research and development, dollars, willpower and science, but the endgame is always to commercialize,” said Marc Wilson, general manager of Swagelok distributor Oklahoma Fluid Solutions. “And when you commercialize, you have to go into production which requires fluid system components.
“And that has to be carried by products like this,” he said, waving his hand across the valves and pipes. “We offer those infrastructural pieces that support nanotechnology in Oklahoma.”
Swagelok was just one of many businesses exhibiting at the third annual NanoFocus state conference at the Cox Center in downtown Oklahoma City. The event, sponsored by the Oklahoma NanoTechnology Initiative and the state Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, will conclude today.
The two-day event attracted twice as many fledgling companies, business support organizations and potential investors as last year, ONI Executive Director Jim Mason said.
“You’ve got a good blend here of research that’s been going on in Oklahoma and folks from out of state talking about what’s happening regionally,” he said. “It’s been a very good turnout.”
Nanotechnology, which refers to applied sciences involving matter at the molecular and atomic levels, has exploded in potential in recent years and now touches on such diverse fields as plant viruses, bioenergy, optics and engineering.
“Nanotech is an enabling technology, because it enables us to do lots of things that we couldn’t do before,” Mason said.
He used a new clothes washer in the products display area of the conference as an example: Silver ions are injected in the wash cycle to bind organic matter and kill bacteria without the need for bleach or heat.
The growth of nanotech across industries is an important part of Swagelok’s Oklahoma operations in recent years, said local Swagelok Account Manager Matt Ford. The 60-year-old company is based in Ohio and has more than 3,300 employees worldwide. Ford works out of the company’s OKC Valve & Fitting Co., 2600 S. Meridian Ave.
Swagelok manufactures fluid system products for a wide range of industries, including some of Oklahoma’s strengths: chemical and petrochemical, oil and gas, power generation and semiconductor industries. Purity of liquids is a vital component in those industries; pipes must be flushed and materials must be cleaned down to the smallest level.
“We’re definitely in the right spot to support this growing business infrastructure,” Ford said. “For example, SouthWest NanoTechnologies (in Norman) is actually in a commercialization phase and moving to an end-user product. We are there; their new production facilities are filled with our stuff.
“We already have a large customer base in the petrochemical and power plant (industries), but we feel nanotech is the next big science that many companies will need to go into commercialization,” he said. “That’s why we need to be here in Oklahoma.”