top  MN Nano ENewsletter
   Nanotechnology for Minnesota's Competitiveness
 Issue # 1 Oct 2008

Welcome to MN Nano ENewsletter
darrelThis issue is the launch of MN Nano's ENewsletter. We are very excited about it as a means of adding to the understanding of what is happening in the state of Minnesota related to nanotechnology. Periodic coverage will also be given to news beyond our borders. We look forward to your suggestions and feedback.

What is MN Nano?
MN Nano is a trade association founded in 2006 by major industrial firms and the University of Minnesota. Founding industrial firms included Entegris, Goodrich, Imation, Medtronic, MTS Systems, RJA Dispersions and Seagate. R & D executives and the dean of the UMN Institute of Technology comprise the board of directors.
Our goal is "Nanotechnology for Minnesota's Competitiveness."

What is MN Nano's vision?
Minnesota will be a leader in nano-scale science and engineering with sustained economic growth via innovative nanotechnology applications.

What is our mission?
To advocate for increased interest and investments in nano-scale education, research, development and commercialization, focusing on key applications that build upon Minnesota's strengths such as: advanced materials, sensors, electronics, energy, agriculture, food science, biotech and biomedical technology.

What are our activities?
Interaction. Advocacy. Education. Build the Nanotechnology Ecosystem. 
Interaction activities arose from the desire of industrial firms to have a forum in which they could be aware of nanotechnology interests of other industrial firms and academic research underway in Minnesota and elsewhere. Two Special Interest Groups (SIGs) were formed. One is for Advanced Materials and another for Sensors.
Briefing events were also initiated for topics not covered by the SIGs. A recent event was on Energy Applications for Nanomaterials.
Our advocacy has a focus in two major categories. One is related state and federal economic development funding for nanotechnology. The second is adequate allocation of resources for nanotechnology by higher education institutions and greater alignment of their research with the interests of Minnesota industrial organizations. 

Do you want to learn more about MN Nano or become involved with our organization? 
Please view our website at or call me at 651-490-0588 or send an email to [email protected]
Great thanks to the outstanding ENewsletter Work Group under the able leadership of Shweta Sharma who is the chair. Shweta is a Sr. MEMS Engineer with Goodrich Sensors & Integrated Systems in Burnsville, MN and has previously worked for Medtronic Sensors R&D in Fridley. She obtained her bachelor's and master's degrees from Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
In addition to Shweta Sharma, other members are Benjamin Tramm and Matthew Hollister of Merchant & Gould, Eric Hockert of the University of Minnesota (Office of Technology Commercialization), Marlene Abels of MN Nano and me.

Do you have story ideas for the ENewsletter?
Please contact Shweta Sharma at [email protected]

Warm regards
Darrel Gubrud
President, MN Nano
MN Nano Advanced Materials SIG Event
-- Bio Applications of Nano Materials

sigBy Darrel Gubrud

MN Nano's Advanced Materials Special Interest Group (SIG) Chaired by SuPing Lyu of Medtronic held this event at University Enterprise Labs the morning of September 28, 2008. It was very well attended and included legislative related remarks by Minnesota House of Representative members Julie Bunn of Woodbury and Kim Norton of Rochester.  

The topics included:

[1] Nano Materials for Drug Delivery by Chun Wang and Zhengxi Zhu both from the University of Minnesota

[2] Inorganic Nano Materials for Growth of New Blood Capillaries by Chittaranjan Patra of the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine

[3] "Smart" Nanotextured Cell Culture Surfaces by Patrick Guire of Isurtec  

[4] Infection Control with Super Hyrophobic Microbicidal Coating by Laurie Lawin of Isurtec.

The technology developed at the Mayo Clinic has attracted the interest of a San Diego biotech company that has licensed it and has plans to provide facilities and staff in Rochester as part of the commercialization process.

Sage Electrochromics Uses Nanomaterials to Improve Smart Window Technology

sage-blgBy Benjamin Tramm
Rapidly growing SAGE Electrochromics, located in Fairbault, MN, is utilizing nanotechnology to improve its "smart window" technology, while doing its part to reduce global energy consumption. 

SAGE Electrochromics founder John Van Dine realized that glass was one of the least energy efficient materials in a home or building. On a warm day, solar heat can greatly increase the energy needed to cool a building. Although low-emissivity coatings that reflect solar heat have been available for some time, solar heat is not always a bad thing. On a cool day, solar heat can help to reduce home heating costs. That's why in 1989, SAGE set out to make an energy-saving electrochromic glass product. The result is SAGE's patented dynamic glazing technology, trademarked SageGlassŪ.
SageGlassŪ is an electronically tintable glass product that provides user-operated, dynamic control of solar glare and heat. Think of it as sunglasses for a building. SAGE windows are transparent one moment, but then with the flip of a switch (or via an automated control signal) the window tints. Tremendous energy savings can be realized. On a hot and sunny day, the tinted window acts to block out the glare and heat of the sunlight. On a cold day, the glass can be untinted to let in as much light and heat as possible.

A typical SAGE double-pane Insulated Glazing Unit (IGU) is fabricated using two spaced sheets of ordinary glass. The interior surface of the outer sheet is coated with a SageGlassŪ film stack consisting nominally of five layers of thin ceramic materials. The total thickness of the stack is less than 1/50th the thickness of a human hair (less than 1 micron). The five layers include a transparent conductor, a counter electrode, an ion conductor, an electrochromic layer, and another transparent conductor.   
Tinting occurs through a solid state electrochromic reaction. When a DC voltage of about two to three volts is applied across the layers (through the transparent conductors), lithium ions from the counter electrode diffuse across the ion conductor and into the electrochromic layer. The result is a tinted glass coating that absorbs much of the sun's energy and reradiates it out through the outer sheet to prevent it from entering the building.
The reaction is also reversible by changing the polarity of the applied voltage. When this occurs, the lithium ions are driven from the electrochromic layer and migrate back to the counter electrode. The coating then returns to the original clear state. 

Nanotechnology is now being used by SAGE to improve the durability and performance of their windows. Certain nanocomposite metal oxides have been found to have a particular composition and nanostructure that provide maximum fracture toughness with minimal biaxial stress. 
Nanomaterials have also been found to reduce tinting time. Sputtered nanocomposite metal oxides can be used to accelerate lithium ion diffusion through the ion conductor and electrochromic layers. Due to the large surface to volume ratio of the nanocomposite structures, more effective lithium transport is achieved, thereby reducing the time it takes the window to tint.
Applications of this technology are not limited to windows. For example, deposition technologies for nanostructured films may also be able to improve the performance of flat panel displays and provide alternative gate oxides for advanced CMOS technology.

In addition to developing cutting edge technology, SAGE has also developed a long list of partnerships over the past 20 years. For example, SAGE is partnered with some of the world's leading commercial window, curtain-wall, and skylight companies. SAGE has also partnered with companies such as 3M, academic institutions such as the University of Minnesota, and governmental organizations including the Departments of Energy, Defense, Commerce, and the NSF.

Due in part to the environmental benefits provided by SAGE's energy saving technology, SAGE has been the recipient of significant Private Equity funds. In July of 2007, SAGE announced the receipt of $16 million Series B preferred round financing. This amount was reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune to be nearly 22 percent of all the Venture Capital money that Minnesota firms raised in the third quarter of 2007. As this newsletter goes to press, SAGE is in the process of completing an even larger round of Private Equity financing.

By making living environments more comfortable and energy efficient, SAGE's "smart windows" are making a difference. With high-tech energy efficient window technology, solid relationships, and abundant financing, it is clear that we will be comfortably seeing through more of SAGE's tintable windows in the future. 

SAGE Electrochromics can be reached at 507.331.4848 or through their web site at
Saint Paul College Unveils High-Tech Clean Room for Nano & Biosciences Research
stpaulcollegeBy Craig Anderson
Saint Paul College students and Twin Cities-area high-tech firms have a remarkable new asset at their disposal. The College recently completed the installation of an 1,800-square-foot clean room, a sophisticated facility that features an ultra-clean environment, a dedicated lab area, and an array of related instruments, including a LC and GC MSD mass spectrometer, an inverted fluorescence microscope, AFM, FT-IR and a new Hitachi S-3400N-II variable pressure scanning electron microscope with Bruker Quantax EDS.

In a nutshell, a clean room is a controlled environment that can be used for everything from manufacturing integrated circuits and medical devices to biotech and nanotechnology research and more. The "clean" in the name comes from the fact that airborne particulates and pollutants are carefully controlled in the room itself; the College's facility adheres to Class 1000 and Class 100 clean room standards, meaning that it never allows more than 1,000 or 100 particles (0.5 microns or larger) per cubic foot of air. The environment is managed by a series of specialized air filters, an air wash interchange door, temperature/humidity controls, and has full ESD control thanks to a generous donation by 3M.

The facility, which was paid for by funds from the Minnesota Legislature and outside sources, will be used extensively by the College's science students as well as outside industry users. "We plan to have small startup nanotechnology and biosciences companies use the clean room on a fee-for-service or contract basis," says Saint Paul College Vice President of Administration, Craig Anderson who spent 20 years in the semiconductor industry prior to his tenure at the college. "We're also working on partnership agreements with area corporations and colleges such as Normandale Community College and Augsburg College in addition to small startups who may want to use our facility for pre-production or prototype development."

"This level of sophistication and high-tech instrumentation is something you'd typically find at a four-year university-not at a two-year college," Anderson adds. "We're very excited about the clean room and the possibilities it will open up for our students and area businesses."

For more information contact Craig Anderson at [email protected].

NVE Corporation Leaders in Practical Spintronics
nveBy Matthew Hollister & NVE Corporation 

Eden Prairie-based NVE Corporation develops, manufactures, and sells spintronic sensors and couplers based on a quantum mechanical effect known as giant magnetoresistance (GMR). In general, a spintronic device is an emergent nanotechnology that relies on electron spin to transmit information, in contrast with conventional solid-state devices that rely on carrier charge.
NVE is perhaps the only nanotechnology company using the word "giant" to paradoxically describe its technology. The term "giant" in "giant magnetoresistance" refers to a large change in resistance when structures made of alternating magnetic and non-magnetic thin film layers are subjected to external magnetic fields. Such multilayer GMR devices require the conducting layers to be thinner than the mean free path of conduction electrons. NVE products use critical dimensions as small as one nanometer or three atomic layers.
NVE's GMR magnetic sensors offer unprecedented miniaturization with packaged sensor systems as small as 1.1 millimeters square (as shown in the picture above); extraordinary precision in the sub-Oersted range; sub-microwatt power consumption, and inherent solid-state reliability. The described sensor products are used to precisely sense position or magnetic field strength in industrial control, aerospace, and medical applications.
NVE has also licensed their spintronic magnetoresistive random access memory technology, commonly known as MRAM. The company is continuing to develop MRAM, which may have the potential to eventually replace semiconductor memories in many applications. Because electron spin is inherently persistent, MRAM has the advantage of being non-volatile, meaning data remains after power is removed. Unlike flash-type memories, MRAM has no wear-out mechanism.
In addition to products, NVE does contract research and development, primarily for military and aerospace spintronic applications.
NVE was founded in 1989 by Dr. James M. Daughton, a former executive with Honeywell's Solid State Electronics Center. Early investors included Norwest Venture Partners, Motorola, and Cypress Semiconductor. NVE became Nasdaq-listed in 2003. It was an original member of several leading nanotechnology indexes and is currently among Minnesota's 100 largest publicly-held companies according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
A world-class company with deep Minnesota ties, NVE's Minnesota headquarters includes a unique spintronic factory and state-of-the-art clean room production laboratories as well as offices. NVE exports products all over the world, but it counts as important customers: Starkey Laboratories, Digi-Key Corporation, and St. Jude Medical. St. Jude Medical's use of NVE sensors in implantable cardiac rhythm management devices demonstrates the sensors' superb reliability.
NVE Corporation can be reached at (952) 829-9217 or through their website at
Nanoparticle Film Deposition Moves From Lab To Marketplace 

Rushford Hypersonic and the University of Minnesota sign license agreement  

rushfordBy Eric Hockert
Under an agreement signed this past spring, nanoparticle film deposition technologies developed at the University of Minnesota will be used by Rushford Hypersonic on products in the industrial tooling and coating applications industries. The company eventually expects to create 40 to 60 jobs at its facility in Rushford, Minnesota.
The processes provide a variety of coating technologies that are harder, more wear resistant and less heat generative than standard coatings used in the industrial tooling industry today. Rushford Hypersonic will use these processes to coat and sell industrial tooling and develop coating applications for materials that can benefit from the improved hardness, fracture toughness, friction reduction and corrosion resistance these processes offer.
Rushford Hypersonic will leverage the Hall-Petch effect to produce a coating with improved properties over standard industrial Silicon and Titanium carbide tooling and coatings used today.  The Hall-Petch relationship states that the fracture stress and hardness of a polycrystalline material increases as the grain size decreases.  As a result, by reducing grain size, the fracture stress and hardness of a coating can be improved.  Using a Hypersonic Plasma Particle Deposition (HPPD) process, Rushford has produced a coating with improved properties including increased fracture toughness, improved hardness, reduced friction, and greater corrosion resistance.  This coating may then be applied to industrial tooling, which can benefit from the improved properties. There are many other applications that can utilize these coating technologies and different metallic combinations that will be further developed in the next phase of commercialization of these processes.
"The University of Minnesota produces some of the world's best nanotechnology, and we were very pleased to sign this agreement with them," said Daniel Fox, Rushford Hypersonic's chief executive officer. "The University worked closely with us throughout the entire process and helped structure the agreement so that we can bring these technologies to market very quickly."
The nanoparticle film deposition technologies were developed over the past decade by Professors Steven Girshick, Joachim Heberlein and Peter McMurry in the University's mechanical engineering department; William Gerberich in chemical engineering and materials science; and Nagaraja Rao, formerly in mechanical engineering.
"The University aims to be an effective partner with industry," said Jay Schrankler, executive director at the University's Office for Technology Commercialization. "This agreement with Rushford Hypersonic is a great example of how we can make it easy for companies to find what they're looking for at the University and establish long-term partnerships."
Rushford Hypersonic will manufacture parts locally in Rushford and employ the area's skilled work force. They will use Web-based technology to market and sell their products, and will partner with a global distributor. Expansion into other markets will take place as new applications are developed for industrial and automotive surfaces (e.g., camshafts, valves, bearings) and medical applications, such as the ball and socket in an artificial hip.

Rushford Hypersonic can be reached at 1-866-730-HPPD (4773) or through their web site at
P Company Imagineering Specialty Plastic Solutions

rtp_highBy S
hweta Sharma & RTP Company

Founded by the Miller family in 1948, as the thermoplastic division of Fiberite Corporation, RTP Company became an independent entity in 1982 and is still held by its original owners. This Winona MN based company is forging ahead as leaders in the market of manufacturing specialty compounded thermoplastics. They employ approximately 500 in Minnesota and an additional 250 worldwide with manufacturing offices in Minnesota, Virginia, Indiana, Texas, France, Singapore and China.  
RTP's business model is one of an independent compounder. They procure base raw material from large primary manufacturers and combine it with additives to create custom solutions. Using specifically designed compounding extruders they combine over 60 base resins with hundreds of possible additives to produce 1/8th x 1/8th inch plastic pellets suitable for subsequent molding and extrusion fabrication processes. Each year they formulate nearly 2000 new compounds to meet specific customer needs with respect to physical performance, color, thermal performance, wear resistance, flame retardancy, and electrical conditivity.

Nanoclay and nanotube compounds are the nanocomposite subset of their compounded plastics. Nanoclay compounds are organo-clay hybrids where nanoclay is compounded into nylon and other resins at a mere 2-8% loading; rendering lightweight parts with dramatic enhancements in heat distortion temperature and stiffness comparable to a 20-30% load of a standard mineral-filled compound. The nanoclay is separated into nanometer-sized platelets which are dispersed evenly throughout the resin. The large flat nature of these particles creates a tortuous diffusion path, and therefore provides the nanocomposites with their most impressive attribute--excellent gas barrier properties.

Use of these materials in film and sheet applications yields a four to five-fold reduction in oxygen transmission rate (OTR) over unfilled nylon 6. This makes them especially attractive for packaging applications in the food, cosmetic and medical industries. "That can translate to a thinner and lighter weight material for the same shelf life. It also means a longer shelf life for the same thickness", said Sam Dahman, Product Development Engineer at RTP Company.

New standards for permeation rates in fuel tanks have spurred demands for compounds with improved barrier properties. RTP has developed new nanoclay compounds that provide a monolayer solution for small engine and fuel tank manufacturers to meet the new fuel emission standards for RV and lawn equipment. Nanoclay compounds are also ideal for use in blow molding, injection molding and blown film applications.

RTP's carbon nanotube (CNT) compounds are thermoplastic compounds with a uniform surface resistivity ranging from 1x10^4 to 9.9x10^9 ohms/sq. They contain hollow carbon nanotubes (thousands of times smaller in diameter than carbon fibers) that have extremely high aspect ratios, thus giving conductive properties at very low loadings. A more uniform conductive surface reduces the "hot spots" found with a carbon fiber filled compound. These structures also enable thin-wall molds to fill at lower temperatures. CNT compounds dissipate the static electric charges that would normally build up on a standard plastic part. With low particulate generation, they are an ideal choice for applications where cleanliness is critical to a product's performance. CNT compounds are ideally suited for wafer processing, hard disk drive components and clean room applications. They are also beneficial in automotive applications needing static discharge protection, such as fuel system components. Other automotive uses are body attachments like mirror housings, door handles, wheel covers, bumpers, fenders, and interior parts. In such applications, their conductivity makes them excellent candidates for electrostatic painting without using a conductive primer.
"RTP's strength lies in carefully assessing customer needs and then developing compounds to meet those needs based on our expert understanding of the additives and processing technology," said Ned Bryant, Senior Product Development Engineer.
RTP Company can be reached at [email protected] (

In this Issue
-- Welcome to MN Nano ENewsletter
-- MN Nano Advanced Materials SIG Event
-- Sage Electrochromics
-- St. Paul College Cleanroom
-- NVE Corporation
-- Rushford Hypersonic
-- RTP Company

Upcoming Events

Seminars at the Center for Nanostructure Applications Check out the CNA calendar for upcoming seminar topics and dates.
Univeristy of Minnesota 

October 27 - 30, 2008
International Congress of Nano-Bio Clean Tech 2008
This conference will gather world class researchers, business executives and engineers from over 30 countries.
San Francisco, CA

November 7, 2008
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Mayo Clinic & U of MN
4th Annual Biomedical Nanotechnology Workshop
This 1 day workshop will bring together researchers from the Academic Health Center, Institute of Technology, College of Biological Sciences, Arnold & Mabel Beckman Center for Transposon Research, Mayo Clinic and
local industry to establish links for future
collaborative work in Nanomedicine.
There is no cost
for the workshop, but space is limited. Email Dr. Priyabrata Mukherjee for registration details.
Kahler Hotel
Rochester, MN

November 11 - 13, 2008
4th Annual Minnesota  Nanotechnology Conference
This three-day workshop  offers presentations and  discussions on topics including Nano Energy, Devices, Sensors and Materials.
Minneapolis, MN 

November 12 - 13, 2008
The NNEC is produced for design engineers who want to  discover what's real, what's  close and what might be coming in the world of nanotechnology.
Boston, MA

November 17-19, 2008
International Symposium on Graphene Devices (ISGD)
ISDG 2008 aims to bring together researchers in the field of "Graphene Devices: technology, physics and modeling."
Aizu-Wakamatsu, Japan

Dakota Country Technical College Awarded $3 million Nanotechnology Grant
(Star Tribune)
Sept 25th 2008
The Rosemount-based college learned this month that it will receive $3 million over four years from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop a Midwestern training hub from its existing nanoscience technology program.

Want to learn more about MN NANO?
Visit our website


Enewsletter Work Group

Shweta Sharma
(MN Nano ENewsletter Chair)
Sr. MEMS Engineer
Goodrich Corporation 
Benjamin Tramm
Intellectual Property Attorney
Merchant & Gould

Eric Hockert
Technology Marketing Manager
University of Minnesota

Matthew Hollister
Technical Advisor 
Merchant & Gould

Marlene Abels
MN Nano Account Executive
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