BLACKSBURG, Va., April 27 -- Nanotechnology developer Luna Innovations has announced it will invest $6.4 million to establish a nanomanufacturing facility in Danville, Va. The plant will produce novel "buckyball" materials for medical diagnostics and other military and commercial applications. This technology was developed in part with a 2001 award from the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) Advanced Technology Program (ATP).
The Danville plant, located in the city’s old tobacco warehouse district, will produce Trimetaspheres -- soccerball-shaped molecules made of a carbon exterior that comprises three metal atoms. Trimetaspheres, a discovery made at Virginia Tech and exclusively licensed to Luna Innovations, are expected to have a major impact as a contrast agent for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The molecules can provide enhanced MRI images at least 25 times better than currently marketed contrast agents, Luna said. In addition to improving imaging and enabling smaller, less expensive MRI machines, Trimetaspheres can be modified chemically to make them soluble and to attach specific molecules that seek out cancer cells or other targeted cells.
The company’s ATP project helped it develop a laboratory synthesis method to produce cost-effective, volume quantities of nanomaterials that are stable in air and soluble in water. The effort produced new methods of surface modification that allow solubility, a key issue for the success of the new material.
Luna said it also plans to manufacture empty cage buckyballs and nanocomposite thin films. Commercial applications for these materials include consumer and military products with possible uses in vehicle parts, stain resistant textiles, ship hull coatings and fuel cells.
Luna's initiatives include new radio-pharmaceuticals for cancer tumor therapy, textile materials with electrical, thermal and mechanical properties, building blocks for faster computers that will fit on the head of a pin and cost-effective energy generation and storage devices made with nanotechnology to replace fossil fuels.
Luna Innovations, based in Blacksburg, has launched five new companies in the past three years, including two now-independent companies: Luna Technologies, a developer of fiber optic component test equipment, and Luna Energy, a company backed by Fortune 100 oil service company Baker Engineering that develops sensors for the oil and gas industry.
For more information, visit: www.lunainnovations.com