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Posted: April 11, 2008
Maryland Looks to Capitalize on Federal Nanotechnology Progress
(Nanowerk News) Nanotechnology is hot. Maryland officials are looking for ways to get some of the latest, out-of-sight technology out of federal labs in Gaithersburg and into the hands of high-tech entrepreneurs.
With that in mind, Maryland’s technology development agency — TEDCO — organized a showcase of new ideas by National Institute of Standards and Technology researchers looking for marketable applications Tuesday at NIST’s Gaithersburg campus.
“One of the reasons TEDCO was created was to drive the ideas out of the labs and into the marketplace,” director Renee Winsky said.
The agency’s new Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology gets tens of millions of dollars in research funding, she said. “The government uses [the new technology] for what it needs, then a lot of times it sits on the shelf.”
TEDCO also used the showcase of more than 21 technologies available for licensing or commercialization to publicly sign a memorandum of understanding with NIST to help license these technologies to Maryland firms.
Selling concepts such as “molecular spintronics” and “laser carbon nanotubule cleanup” can require a lot of explanation, so Winsky asked the scientists to think outside the lab.
“We try to get the researchers to think about the ‘what if ...’, ” she said. “ ‘Where would I like to see my technology?’ It’s amazing the ideas that come out.”
TEDCO plans similar conferences in the future to continue “outing” NIST technology, as well as showcases of NASA and U.S. Department of Agriculture research.
NIST has not traditionally focused on capitalizing on this technology — something soon to change, said Clara Asmail, program manager for technology and marketing. “We generally have had a smaller number of licenses than other agencies, and the number can vary widely from year to year.”
Postdoctoral physics researcher Matthew McMahon helped develop a system to track the movements of nanoparticles in a fluid in real time.
“We’re not actually doing anything particularly different to the microscope,” McMahon said. Instead, he created a slide of highly polished silicon, with depressions shaped like pyramids that can reflect multiple images of a nanoparticle while giving an exact scale for its size.
The result is a three-dimensional key to the particle’s exact location in the depression as well as its movements over time, he said. That could be important both for bioscience companies trying to track their particles within human tissue and for those building microscopic switches, tools and machines