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Posted: May 21, 2008

Nanotechnology, photonics organizations find Boulder home

(Nanowerk News) A number of people at Colorado University (CU) and in Boulder are hoping that thinking small – almost incomprehensibly small – will lead to gigantic results.
Boulder is already a regional nanotechnology powerhouse, with significant research taking place at CU-Boulder and the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST).
Also, a 2006 “Colorado Nanotechnology Roadmap” report from the CU-Boulder Leeds School of Business said the City of Boulder had the most nanotech companies in the state – 20 percent of all Colorado companies – while Boulder County led all counties with 33 percent.
And the local nanotech pot just got a bit sweeter, as the Colorado Nanotechnology Alliance has decided move its physical office from the World Trade Center in Denver to Boulder, although it will maintain a “virtual office” arrangement at the WTC. The Colorado Photonics Industry Association (CPIA) will also make the move from the Denver WTC to Boulder.
The CPIA is a nonprofit organization that promotes Colorado’s industries dealing with photonics – basically the generation, manipulation and detection of light. Information from the CPIA Web site, www.coloradophotonics.org, said CU photonics researchers and industry reps decided in 1996 that such an organization was needed, and the CPIA was formed in 1997.
The Alliance, also a nonprofit, is an economic development organization dedicated to fostering nanotech commercialization – and to bringing industry, academia, government and citizens together around the benefits of nanotech.
Debbie Woodward, the Alliance’s Executive Director, said on Wednesday that it made sense for the Alliance to come to Boulder because of its strong nanotech industry presence – which is strong for a reason.
“The nanotechnology companies need to be, and want to be, located near the research university (CU-Boulder) and the federal labs so they can partner with them,” said Woodward. “Having them close by assists the companies in doing their research at a lower cost, because they probably would have to go out of state to do the research otherwise. So, the great thing is the institutions are right in their back yard.”
The Alliance and CPIA also got a little help from the local business community, including the Boulder Economic Council (BEC) and its Executive Director Frances Draper.
Woodward said Draper reached out to the community in search of space for the tech organizations, and the accounting/advisory firm Ehrhardt, Keefe, Steiner & Hottman, PC (EKS&H) responded.
“The Economic Council is delighted that one of our members, EKS&H, has generously offered to house both of these offices in downtown Boulder,” said Draper in a May 14 release. “It demonstrates the Economic Council’s and the community’s commitment to making Boulder a center for innovative, high-tech industries.”
Whether Boulder will reap a financial nanotech windfall remains to be seen, but a steep worldwide growth curve is possible.
For example, a release from the consulting firm Lux Research said about $50 billion worth of “nano-enabled” products were sold worldwide in 2006 – but another Lux release said it expects nanotechnology to be incorporated into products worth $2.6 trillion in 2014.
Woodward said the Alliance works with nanotech industries in several target categories, including information technology, bioscience and homeland security/defense. She also said the potential for growth in the renewable energy field is huge.
For example, researchers including Dr. Arthur Nozik, with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, are working on using nanotechnology in solar panels.
NREL spokesperson George Douglas recently told the Daily that nanoscale semiconductors in solar panels, in theory, can release more than one exciton, or a combination of an electron and a positive hole. He said, again in theory, that nanotechnology might allow solar panels to be two or three times more efficient than the panels commonly in use today.
Woodward said the potential for making Colorado a “Mecca” for renewable energy is also huge, so the Alliance and partners will hold the first ever Nano Renewable Energy Summit in Denver on July 20-22.
Summit attendees will focus on the business, commercialization and economic development opportunities for emerging nanotech products in the renewable energy and sustainability fields. Woodward said a number of “renowned specialists” from around the world will attend, while former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater and Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter will be keynote speakers.
Ritter campaigned for developing a “New Energy Economy” in Colorado before he was elected in 2006, and the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade is one of the Summit sponsors.
Woodward said Wednesday that Colorado already has some strong national rankings when it comes to nanotech. It recently ranked fifth in the nation for having a nanotech-educated workforce, and ninth in the nation for “innovation,” based on numbers of grants and patents.
But she also said the Alliance has a strong team on its side – at the local, state and federal levels – to possibly push the rankings and results to new levels in the future.
“With NREL in our back yard, and the universities doing major initiatives around renewable energy, conservation and sustainability, we have a tremendous opportunity to position Colorado as the epicenter of doing renewable energy around nanotechnology,” said Woodward.
For more information about the Colorado Nanotechnology Alliance, visit the Web site www.coloradonanotechnology.org. For more about the Colorado Photonics Industry Association, visit www.coloradophotonics.org.
Source: Colorado Daily (Richard Valenty)