Research Communications

Scientists, Business Leaders Meet at Nanotechnology Summit 

March 14, 2005

ATHENS, Ohio – University scientists, business leaders and state government officials met to discuss how new developments in nanotechnology could aid Ohio’s economic growth at the first annual Ohio Nanotechnology Summit March 2 and 3 in Dayton, Ohio. Thirty-eight Ohio University faculty, students and post-doctoral fellows in the fields of physics and astronomy, chemistry and biochemistry, philosophy, electrical engineering, and industrial and manufacturing system engineering attended the event to represent their work in nanotechnology, which is one of the university’s key research areas.

More than 10 universities, 100 Ohio business and industry representatives and government personnel attended speeches and panels on topics such as nanomaterials, biomedicine and manufacturing and commercialization. The summit, part of Gov. Bob Taft’s Third Frontier initiative and championed by the Governor’s Office of Science and Technology, aimed to promote communication between universities, government laboratories and business and industry involved in nanotechnology in Ohio.

“Take advantage of this opportunity to share the growing wealth of nanotechnology knowledge in the state as Ohio paves the way from discovering new technologies to developing and commercializing new products,” Taft told attendees of the event, which was sponsored in part by Ohio University.

Ohio University faculty who attended the summit are members of the university’s Nanoscale and Quantum Phenomena Institute, which aims to promote nanoscience research.  “It was important for us to attend the summit so that our efforts in nanoscience would be recognized at the state level and so that other parts of the state will recognize that a lot of great things are happening at Ohio University,” said Arthur Smith, director of the institute and associate professor of physics and astronomy.

Eleven of the Ohio University attendees were students, several of whom presented posters that highlighted their nanoscience research projects.  “If you only send faculty, you don’t really know what is going on with research at an institution,” Smith said. “Students show that you are working on something because they are involved with research.”

Universities attended the event “to see what business and industry needs out of nanotechnology,” said Michael McCabe, research director at the University of Dayton Research Institute and the chairperson of the Nanotechnology Summit Steering Committee. A wide variety of businesses attended, from small one- to two-person companies to larger outfits such as Procter & Gamble and the Cleveland Clinic, McCabe reported. “They are all here because they believe nanotechnology can help their business; they are here to make connections,” he said.

Ohio’s economy traditionally has been based in industry and agriculture, but jobs in the agriculture industry are now moving overseas where it is less expensive to produce goods. The state needs to replace its job base and develop other industries, McCabe said.  “One way to replace the job base is to have industries with a higher technology plane,” he said. “Jobs with more skill will raise wages and Ohio’s economy.”

Nanotechnology is one of the priorities of the Third Frontier, Gov. Taft’s knowledge economy initiative that also includes a focus on biomedicine, fuel cell materials and aerospace industries, according to Jon Dudley, liaison for the Governor’s Office of Science and Technology.  Nanotechnology is perceived as a younger field because it’s not highly promoted by business and industry yet, and it has not been highly commercialized. The Third Frontier currently supports some nanotechnology projects, including at the University of Dayton and Ohio State University, but these currently represent a small portion of the Third Frontier funding/grants.  Universities and businesses that are collaborating are more likely to get funding, Dudley said.
   
Though nanotechnology is an up-and-coming science, some people have misconceptions about it, acknowledged speaker Mauro Ferrari of the Ohio State University National Cancer Institute. “People usually think nanotechnology was coined in science fiction,” he said, noting that some people will ask him “Where is your spaceship and your green antennas?”  But the technology already is used in targeted drug therapies and other products such as sunscreens.

Nanotechnology is defined as the science of creating materials and products through manipulating objects at the molecular and atomic levels.  It includes devices, products and services with features that have novel properties because of their small size – the one to 100 nanometer range.  One nanometer is approximately between three and six atoms in size.  Examples of nanotechnology products include thin films and coatings and fine particles.

Ohio University has received two major grants from the National Science Foundation in support of its nanotechnology work, which has been named one of the university’s new core research priorities. The university anticipates that it will focus on research in nanoscience and biotechnology, the structure of the universe, and in energy and environmental initiatives in the upcoming years in an effort to raise the institution’s research profile.


Contacts: Arthur Smith, (740) 597-2576, smitha2@ohio.edu; Andrea Gibson (740) 597-2166, gibsona@ohio.edu.