Nano Science and Technology Institute

Nanophase Holds Unique Position in Industry by Being Able to Both Create and Manufacture Customized Nanomaterials

It’s one thing to be able to create new nanomaterials, you also need to be able to reliably manufacture them—Nanophase is successful for just that reason.
Nanophase Technologies delivers and manufactures nanomaterials solutions to the marketplace. Headquarted in Illinois, Nanophase is one of a handful of publicly traded nanotechnology companies in the U.S. According to Joe Cross, President & CEO, “The real power in Nanophase is being able to deliver an optimal solution to an application. We make and deliver nanomaterials in whatever format the customer needs.” In essence, Nanophase is “selling a solution” by making an intermediate product that can be easily integrated into an existing product or process. Nanophase uses plasma nanoparticles, which have a unique set of bulk and surface properties, allowing the company to create single, discrete crystals that are distinct, pure, and of commercial quality and quantity. The company also manufactures its nanomaterials in two plants, with an annual nanoparticle capacity of over 2 million pounds.

Going forward, the biggest challenges for Nanophase is to continue to grow revenue and expand the company. While these are familiar challenges for many nanotechnology companies, the next two decades will see strong growth in the nanomaterials marketplace. The Freedonia Group predicts that existing and emerging nanomaterials markets will grow to $3.7 billion by 2008, and will jump to $90 billion by the year 2020. Nanomaterials have the ability to both enable new products and improve products in the marketplace, and the challenge for nanomaterials companies is to not only ensure its nanomaterials can be easily adopted into current products and processes, but also look to the future and enable new products and processes for the marketplace.

In the near term, interest and demand for nanomaterials is coming from such sectors as personal care, high-level optics, nanocomposites, semiconductor chemical mechanical planarization (CMP), and the catalyst fields (including chemical, rubber, and curing). These are also areas where Joe Cross predicts the most growth and potential for the next two decades. Mr. Cross observes, “The (nanomaterials) market will not want just the raw materials. It will demand readily-available and usable intermediate nanomaterials that can fit into an existing product.”

While Nanophase is primarily focused on integrating its nanomaterials into existing product lines, it also looks for new ventures. In any new endeavor undertaken by Nanophase, they look for a market pull versus a market push. Once they have identified the customers for the market pull, Nanophase finds a partner with both the expertise to test a solution and a primary distribution channel. “Nanophase is very selective when it comes to new business plans and propositions,” notes Ed Ludwig, Vice President of Business Development. “We use the value proposition (product to market excellence) to find the best match for our nanomaterials.” A definition of a good business partnership for Nanophase includes a partner identifying a clear need for a nanoproduct and where performance demands are beginning to emerge.

Nanophase has focused on its strategic partnerships with larger companies, such as BASF and Altana Chemie, to create nanomaterials for existing product lines. Large companies worldwide have found Nanophase to be an attractive partner because of the company’s integrated technologies, the ability to manipulate nanoparticles for an application, its manufacturing processes, and its repeatable quality. One of the newest product applications using Nanophase nanomaterials has been in BASF’s second sunscreen product, Z-Cote Max, which offers advanced sun protection that is invisible on the skin and won’t stain clothing. Nanophase nanomaterials can also be found in Altana Chemie’s nanocomposite coatings, which includes printing inks, wood/furniture coatings, and automotive refinish.

One of the “secrets” of Nanophase’s success lies in its building of a successful manufacturing platform with a quality system comparable to large companies, and entering exclusive partnerships with large companies. These strategic plans were inspired by Joe Cross’ previous work and experiences in both the telecommunications and electronics industries. This is Mr. Cross’ 7th start-up, and he has brought Nanophase from a development company to a revenue-generating company in large part by bringing in senior management with business development backgrounds.

In the early years of Nanophase, the initial technology for the company was bore out of Argonne National Labs at the University of Chicago. Nanophase was primarily funded by local venture capitalists, and also received a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) grant for use in commercializing its technology. Nanophase’s patent portfolio consisted originally with licensing some patents from other companies, but most of the patents were developed at Nanophase. Currently, Nanophase holds 22 U.S. patents and 50 foreign patents and applications, and its patent activity has increased more than 150% since 1999.RSS feed of Nano World News

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