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June 27th, 2008

From a small town, the world's smallest technology

To most Minnesotans, Rushford may be best known as the city nearly washed away by the flooding that ravaged the southeast corner of the state last summer.

But if Daniel Fox is successful, the rural community may soon be better known for a more positive - if unusual - word association: nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology involves the manipulation of matter at 100 nanometers or less on the atomic and molecular scale. To put that into perspective, a nanometer is one billionth of a meter; one meter is equivalent to 1.094 yards. Scientists say the size differential between a nanometer and a meter is like comparing a marble to the earth.

The idea is to think small, very small.

As it draws on a variety of disciplines, including physics, chemistry, materials science and mechanical engineering, nanotechnology has a broad range of applications: drug delivery, sensors in cars, coatings on medical devices such as artificial joints, to name just a few.

Fox, founder and CEO of Rushford Hypersonic, said his company will provide coating materials that can improve the performance of cutting tools such as knives and drill bits. Rushford Hypersonic, which is billed as the first rural nanotech startup in the state, licensed the technology from the University of Minnesota, where it was developed by faculty members.

In May, Rushford Hypersonic obtained a matching funds loan from the Rushford City Council for equipment purchases as much as $500,000, Fox said.

Why locate in Rushford?

The answer is largely due to the presence of the nonprofit Rushford Institute for Nanotechnology, which played a pivotal role in helping Fox license the technology from the University of Minnesota and get set up in the small town.

Kevin Klungtvedt, founder and chairman of the Rushford Institute for Nanotechnology, said the goal of the institute, which was conceived in 2001, is threefold: to establish small nano firms in the area, get them to share ideas for products in which they don't compete, and to educate the public about the technology.


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