December 17, 2002
Nanotech Still Seeing Little Venture Capital Funding

The Economist reports that the venture capitalists are still not pouring a lot of money into nanotechnology

Lured by such large numbers, and always on the look-out for the next big thing, venture capitalists are fervently courting nanotechnologists. But as one pundit put it, so far there are more meetings on investing in nanotechnology than there are serious opportunities to punt. Investors are finding that business plans are often little more than repackaged research-grant proposals. And many of the top “nanotechnology” companies are actually developing more conventional microsystems.

However, industrial concerns which do a lot of business in chemicals and materials are spending a lot of money on nanotech in order to make better products in their traditional product markets. BASF is spending $100 million per year on Nanotech research and development.

The company is also developing a water-repelling and self-cleaning film that mimics the nanoscale features present on the surface of the lotus flower leaf. Any water on the surface beads up and rolls off because of the water – repelling nature of the material. Instead of sliding off the water, the droplet rolls off, collecting dirt particles on its surface as it does so. The film is based on a combination of nanoscale crystals developed using technical waxes and a polymer such as polyethylene or polypropylene.

BASF is also developing nanomaterials to generate different colors in polymers without the use of dyes. The colors are generated by forming a film of ordered nanoscale crystals set at a specific angle to the light. Different uniform particle sizes generate different colors. The crystalline film is composed of a polystyrene core surrounded by a shell of polybutyl acrylate. The film is sprayed onto a surface in liquid form and dries into ordered crystals. Applications could include packaging films, decorative papers, and cosmetic applications, including nail polish and hairspray, BASF says.

For many companies the best path toward further refinement of their products is to work with increasingly smaller materials and to manipulate materials on a smaller scale. The development of nanotech doesn't need venture capital funding in order to happen. A lack venture capital funding might be a sign that most of the obvious next steps in development are already being undertaken by existing companies.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2002 December 17 07:41 PM  Nanotech Advances

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