134 venture-backed nano companies representing $2.4 billion of working capital, but that is not the whole story
By Lubab Sheet, senior director Emerging Technologies, SEMI
Josh Wolfe of Lux Capital recently suggested that capital and product markets are out of sync with regards to nanotechnology. “The future is here, it is just not evenly distributed,” said Wolfe. He claims that $3 billion has been invested in nanotechnology over the past eight years, with 50 percent going to information technology/computing (which includes semiconductors) and another 25 percent to biotech. There are 134 venture-backed nano companies still in existence that they are tracking, representing $2.4 billion of working capital. Several of those focused on electronics and energy are available to SEMI members at http://www.semi.org/nano select member profiles.
Investment levels in nanotechnology from venture capitalists have been smaller than corporate investment for some time. Large corporations including Lockheed Martin, DuPont, GE and many others around the world are spending hundreds of millions of dollars each in nanotechnology research and development, and a lot of that is also focused on electronics.
Uma Chowdhry, senior vice president and chief science and technology officer for DuPont is looking to biology to build the next generation of materials. She is very excited about the intersection of information technology, biology and materials and finding the opportunities that result.
DuPont has a lot of work focused on electronics. “Carbon nanotubes are a discontinuity in our material world and we’re trying to take advantage of that,” said Chowdhry. DuPont has active programs to pattern surfaces and lay down films containing carbon nanotubes and is working on dispersing them in polymer matrices, which are then activated to give the appropriate amount of light for field emission display applications. DuPont is also working on self-assembled molecules with controlled molecular weight and dispersion for 193 nm and 248 nm photoresists that can control architecture and offer better linewidth control. The thought is that these layers could be integrated into traditional CMOS processing, significantly reducing costs. Designer molecules are under development for organometallic precursors for atomic layer deposition for better single atom control. DuPont believes that printed electronics will eventually use nano particles in different parts of the circuit. Overall, innovation in nano materials will enable radical and incremental innovation in electronics.
It turns out that carbon nanotubes have a natural affinity to DNA and DNA wrapped single-walled carbon nanotubes are under investigation as bio-electric sensors. DuPont is also working on developing flexible Kevlar for soldiers using smart materials that respond to the environment; for example, coatings that strain harden on impact or energy to prevent bullets from penetrating the surface.
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