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Home > Nanotechnology Columns > NanoGlobe > A Glimpse of Nanotechnology Commercialization in 2009/10

NanoGlobe Pte Ltd
Nanotechnology Business Development Consultants
NanoGlobe Pte Ltd

This article gives a brief overview on the nanotechnology commercialization status based on some of the findings of the NanoGlobe team at the major nanotech tradeshows worldwide during 2009-2010.

January 30th, 2011

A Glimpse of Nanotechnology Commercialization in 2009/10

We would like to share with you some of our findings in nanotechnology commercialization in Asia, Europe and USA. During 2009-2010 together with my team of analysts, we participated in all major nanotech conferences and trade shows in Asia, Europe, and USA. We conducted interviews with companies and research organizations to understand the status of nanotechnology commercialization. Today I will share with you quickly some of our findings including some of the most popular nanomaterials produced and applied in different areas. Just quickly introduce who we are. NanoGlobe is nanotech consulting company based in Singapore. We specialize in business development for government organizations, corporations, entrepreneurs as well as research institutions with services including strategy support with technology and market intelligence, global marketing and strategic communication, internationalization to Asia, project management, and incubation for start-ups.

We have seen nanotechnology enabling green and low cost manufacturing processes, and provide safer and high performance products that improve our quality of life. We noticed carbon nanotubes have been very popular since last ten years worldwide with numerous research groups working on synthesis, characterization, functionalisation and device fabrication. There are a large number of companies worldwide from startups, SMEs to MNCs that are working on mass production of CNT, application development on CNT enhanced composite materials, EMI shielding, transparent conductive electrodes (ITO replacement), nano-ink for printed electronics, CNT enhanced lighting, thermal conductor, field emission cathode, electrode materials for supercapacitor and Li-ion battery, RF device, FET for power transistors and non volatile memory devices. We observed that the mass production capacity of CNT has been increasing over the years and was accelerating especially started 2009. Bayer for example, has built up hundreds tons capacity at the end of 2009 within Germany. Showa Denko recently announced even a bigger capacity in Japan. Nanocyl has been ramping up production rapidly in 2009 when chemical companies worldwide started to adopt CNT for advancing their materials performance. In terms of consumption of CNT, we found that companies such as Samsung chemical group (Cheil Industries) and Evonik Industries consumed the order of tons of CNT to make composite material. We show here examples of those CNT based composite materials displayed at NanoKorea 2009 by Samsung Cheil Industries including Disk Damper, FPC Bracket, HGA Tray in hard disk drives; Heat/Pressure Roller Brush in laser printers; and Light Guide Retainer in automotives. Zyvex Performance Materials (ZPM) is another leading nanocomposite player with world leading capability of functionalizing CNT for perfect dispersion. ZPM is moving downstream in its business and is making the world's highest performance boats. View their latest boat exhibition at the upcoming IMDEX Asia 2011 in Singapore during May 18-20, 2011.

Another very attractive application for CNT is the ITO replacement and provides flexible transparent and conductive coating for the display industry. Companies in Asia such as Samsung, Sangbo, Top Nanosys in Korea and Xinnano Materials in Taiwan, are in the process of qualifying their products with touch screen manufactures in Asia. Nano Silver based flexible transparent and conductive thin film made by Cima Nanotech (a US company) is a strong competitor of CNT based film/coating. Cima Nanotech's SANTE film is on its way to production for the display industries this year. CNT based nano ink finds its application in printed electronics such as printed think film solar cells. Companies such as Hanwha Chemical in Korea and Xinnano Materials in Taiwan are actively pursuing this area and are in the production phase. Application in the area of sensors produced by Applied Nanodetectors (gas molecules) and Nanomix (biomolecules - glucose, DNA, virus) in the USA, BioNano (biosensor - drug screening) in Singapore are in the R&D phase.

The relatively new and sexy nano carbon material is graphene. We interacted with a few grapheme production companies during the NSTI nanotech 2009 in Houston. To our surprise, companies such as Vorbeck Materials, Angstron materials and Cheap Tubes have production capacity of tons for producing single layer nano-graphene platelets. And of course Samsung is another player in mass production of graphene. Samsung together with its partner in SKKU in Korea, is now able to produce R2R 30inch flexible transparent conductive thin films with graphene for again ITO replacement applications. Many research groups around the world are working on graphene FET for high frequency GHZ/THZ transistors which is still far from commercialization. Another commercially successful material is nano silver mentioned earlier. Nanosilver is typically known for its anti-microbial properties. Companies such as Pasture Pharma (in Singapore), Katadyn (Switzerland), NanoPac Persia (in Iran), LG, Samsung, Bioneer and Hunion from Korea have developed products using nano silver to produce masks, composite materials, membranes etc. However Cima NanoTech, a US based company but with production also in Asia and Israel, has developed nano Silver based high performance and low cost flexible transparent and conductive thin films that have found applications in ITO replace for touch screen manufacturers in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China, EMI shielding (thermal form), thin film solar cells electrodes and other exciting applications. We also found companies in Korea InkTec, Fuji Film in Japan working on similar application.

Oxide materials are another type of popular materials in the field of nanotechnology. TOTO is a world leader in Titanium Oxide (TiO2) developed most of the fundamental Intellectual Properties (IP). A Singapore manufacturing research institute SIMtech is working with a Japanese company Haruma to commercializing their technology in TiO2. A few demo sites have been set up in Singapore to showcase TiO2 self-cleaning (lotus effect) property. Another interesting materials is Silicon Oxides (SiO2). We found a spin-off company called Kencana from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) located in Johor Bahru (next to Singapore) that recycles rice husks to make aerogel, their product named Maerogel is 80% cheaper than similar product in the market. One of the early nanotech companies in Singapore called NanoMaterial Technology (NMT) is able to produce world record dispersion of ZnO in both organic solvent and water with 70% loading. This enables green and low cost process for coating applications. Another interesting Singapore based company, a spin-off of A-STAR Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE), Tera-Barrier that produces world record oxygen & moisture barrier film (with oxides and nanoparticle sealing layers) that is flexible and transparent suitable for flexible solar cells, displays and plastic electronics applications. Their films have breakthrough performance of better than 10-6g/ at 60C & 90% RH.

I have discussed so far that nanotechnology commercialization is accelerating and being adopted by the market rapidly especially since 2009. But we observed that the developing world has been actively developing nanotechnology and building up capabilities to improve their quality of life and economic development. I participated the United Nation's workshop on "Promoting Innovation in Nanotechnology and Fostering Its Industrial Application", An Asia-Pacific Perspective, organized by UNESCAP`s the Asian and Pacific Center for Transfer of Technology (APCTT) during 2-3 December 2009 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. I visited the Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology (SLINTEC) while I was there and learnt about their unique business model of public private partnership (PPP) in operating the center focusing on nanotech application development hand in hand with industry. I also learnt about the nanotech initiatives and developments in the Philippines, Pakistan and other developing countries in the APAC region. The developing world is committed not to miss the Big Nanotech boat this time.

Commercialization has not been easy especially for start ups. Multinational companies are able to develop new technology and materials and could find adoption in their existing production line when the value chain fits and the cost and performance are acceptable by the market. We see some of the obvious big companies in Japan and Korea are able to launch nanotech enabled products if the company has its own technology ecosystem. Some of the SMEs are able to produce nanotech enabled products as well and maintain an overall profitable business. For example a Korean ink producer InkTec. It developed a next generation nano Silver based ink which allows the company staying ahead of other conventional ink producers. On the other hand a lot of start-ups have been struggling especially during the past 2 years of economic crisis, some went bankrupted. Often start ups with sound technology are not quick enough to find manufacturing partners to produce proved products acceptable by the market. Companies with platform technologies ought to seek early partnership with manufacturing partners either SMEs or multinationals (MNC) and joint develop products with competitive cost and performance which can be accepted by the market. Early internationalization is another important aspect to keep in mind for business success. Nanotechnology development is global. Being in Singapore, we have seen quite a lot of companies operating in this part of the world originated elsewhere, nanotech companies are no exception. I come back to Cima Nanotech again. Cima acquired its basic technology from Israel, set up its HQ in Minnesota. Then it raised 2 series of funding from Japan and Korean investors, set up its joint venture with a reputable Japanese manufacturing partner and further developed customers in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. Recently Cima finished its series D financing in Asia again including Singapore and ready to ramp up its production with various major corporations in Asia and has set up its Singapore regional office this year.

As the market growing and adoption of high performance and low cost nano enabled technologies, competition is also growing, for example, ITO replacement and nano ink for printed electronics. We have mentioned earlier CNT, Graphene, and Nano Silver are both candidates for ITO replacement. Industries are adopting both at the moment. We have conducted quite an extensive competitive analysis on ITO replacement materials players and technologies as well as applications. The adoption of the technology is not just based on cost and performance, more importantly is working relationships among people.

We see increasing focus of nanotechnology applications in clean-tech and medicine which lead sustainable development improving our quality of life fundamentally which is also my personal belief. Nanotech will still impact ICT and enable better, smaller, flexible electronic devices. I strongly believe that the developed and developing world need to work together even closer in the sustainable development of nanotechnology specifically in education, infrastructure, R&D, commercialization and EHS issues.

Finally I would like to introduce you the Asia Nano Forum that I co-founded and currently serving as the Secretary. Dr M.K. Wu from Taiwan who will present after me at this workshop has served for two years as the 1st President of ANF. Our current President is Dr H.M. Kim, also President of the Korean Nanotechnology Researchers Society (KoNTRS). ANF connects 15 economies in the region as you can see on the map ranging from Iran and UAE from the west, Japan, Korea and China in the north east to Australia and New Zealand down under. It serves as a platform for facilitating R&D collaboration in nanotechnology within member economies. There are 3 active working groups including Education Work Group, Infrastructure and Resources Working Group, and Standardization and EHS Working Group. Japan initiated and fully funded the Asia Nano Camp in 2008 where we brought together 50 top young scientists with ANF network for a 3 weeks nanotechnology courses, company and research institution visits plus the participation of the largest nanotech trade show nanotech 2008. This camp was continued in 2009 hosted and fully funded by Taiwan. It had become a life changing experience for the young scientists. Singapore and Malaysia will co-host the Asia Nano Camp in 2010. ANF also serves as a coordination body to facilitate infrastructure access in the developed economies such as Japan and Singapore for especially the developing economy members. This also allows the human resource access for the developed world where it is most needed. ANF provides a website to serve as a one stop information portal for its member economies to share nanotech development information. We publish quarterly newsletter to keep members informed the latest development in research, education, commercialization and other related issues. Asia Nano Forum holds annual summit meeting since 2004 hosted by different member economies. We are growing our impact in the region and the world. ANF participates in the ISO TC229 (Nanotechnology) and IEC/TC13 (Nanotechnology standardization for electrical and electronics products and systems) and is represented by Taiwan as a liaison member. We supported United Nation and OECD nanotechnology events through participation from our member economy. Other economies close to or in the region such as Russia, Pakistan, Austria, Sri Lanka, the Philippines etc are showing interest to join the network and will be invited as observers in our next summit meeting to be held on Nov. 8th, 2010 in Hanoi, Vietnam.

My consulting company NanoGlobe initiated and manages the Singapore nanotechnology network ( SingNano). We are also building the Suzhou Nanotech Network in China. We are the point of the contact for you when you wish to visit Singapore, China and other Asia nanotech facilities and centers of excellence as well as setting up nanotechnology business in Singapore and China. We provide competitive analysis on companies and technologies. Whenever we participate in a nanotechnology conference and exhibition, we conduct extensive interviews on companies and research organizations. We place each organization in our chart where we indicate the area of R&D and application, stage of development, and value chain. We also conduct exclusive case studies on worldwide nanotechnology companies to understand the secret of success and commercialization challenges and market entry barriers.

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