NANOTECHNOLOGY companies, nurtured on billions of dollars in government grants and venture investments through most of this decade, are getting ready to go public.
Being near taking such a step is another stage in the evolution of nanotechnology, the science of materials measured at billionths of a meter or one-500th of a human hair.
Experts note that nanotechnology-enabled products are already used in industry.
“There are 200 commercial products in cosmetics, apparel and sporting goods in which nanotechnology plays a role,” said Lynn E. Foster, emerging technologies director for the law firm Greenberg Traurig and author of the 2006 book “Nanotechnology: Science, Innovation and Opportunity.” He cites clothing with a coating of nanoparticles — from the Nano-Tex Corporation of Oakland, Calif. — that repels stains.
And increasing numbers of nanotech products are in the offing. Mihail Roco, senior adviser for nanotechnology at the National Science Foundation and an architect of the government’s research effort, predicted in an interview on the Web site of the National Nanotechnology Initiative that by 2015 nanotechnology will play a crucial role in $1 trillion worth of products, “which would require two million workers.”
Companies in nanotechnology speak of adapting their research to medical innovations, in which nanoparticles would deliver medicine directly to individual cells, and to solar energy, in which nano-enabled photovoltaic coatings would capture and store the sun’s energy at a lower cost than today’s solar panels.
The NanoGram Corporation in Milpitas, Calif., is aiming some of its research efforts toward such solar ambitions. “We have 58 of our 69 employees working in R.& D. in the clean technology area, including solar power,” said Kieran Drain, chief executive of NanoGram, which earns revenues by licensing innovations to manufacturers of optical and electronic products.
NanoGram has a venture with Nagase & Company of Japan, a manufacturer of light-emitting diode, or L.E.D., screens for digital devices. “Our nanomaterials enable the screens to emit more light,” Mr. Drain said. In its 11-year history, NanoGram has spun off or sold operations to other companies in communications and medical electronics. In the last two years, the company has raised almost $27 million in venture capital backing and looks to go public in 2009 “when we’ll have become larger in annual revenues,” Mr. Drain said.