Photonics Firms Benefit from ATP Awards
Anne L. Fischer
The Advanced Technology Program (ATP) of the National Institute of Standards and Technology recently announced 32 awards to 43 companies. Selected from 870 proposals, several of which involve research in photonics and related technologies, the projects are chosen on the basis of technical innovation combined with their potential to positively affect the nation's economy.
Direct imaging of chick embryo vasculature shows an embryo that was injected through the major vitelline vein with Qdot quantum dots emitting in the near-infrared region of the spectrum at 705 nm. After a few minutes of circulation, fluorescence images of the embryo were captured at increasing magnification using 460-nm excitation lamps and a digital imaging system.
Dow Chemical Co. of Midland, Mich., working in conjunction with Veeco Instruments of Santa Barbara, Calif., was awarded $6.5 million to work on a platform based on atomic force microscopy for high-speed, high-bandwidth quantitative nanomechanical measurements. Although it's commonly understood that nanomaterials will become an important industry, Anthony Martinez, senior vice president and general manager of Veeco Metrology Group, sees a problem. "Materials scientists currently lack the ability to accurately and quickly map the mechanical properties of many materials on the nanoscale," he said. He believes that, by partnering with Dow Chemical and receiving funding from ATP, the company can provide a solution in a much more timely manner than it could had it proceeded alone.
Cree Inc. of Durham, N.C., and Nanocrystal Lighting Inc. of Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., also involved in a joint-venture effort, were awarded nearly $3.5 million to demonstrate a white LED package using an integrated chip. The companies expect to more than quadruple the brightness and to double the efficiency of LED systems in addition to lowering costs.
John Palmour, executive vice president of advanced devices at Cree, said he believes that their project was chosen because "its potential economic impact is tremendous." He stated that not only do high-brightness LEDs have a huge market potential, but there are beneficial environmental aspects as well.
Star Cryoelectronics LLC of Santa Fe, N.M., received nearly $2 million to develop a next-generation energy-dispersive microcalorimeter spectrometer to meet critical needs for high-resolution x-ray microanalysis. The company's president, Robin Cantor, sees this project as conforming to the NIST mission of developing and promoting measurement standards and technology to enhance productivity, facilitate trade and improve the quality of life by supporting industry in the US.
The spectrometers under development will be used in the semiconductor industry and in materials research. Cantor considers this financial assistance for research and development projects as crucial for small businesses in the US. Prior to applying for the ATP award, he had contacted alternative sources of funding, but "the payoff is too far out." Star Cryoelectronics and other ATP award recipients are competing with European counterparts who benefit from government assistance. "The need is there now," Cantor said, and ATP funding enables US innovators to move forward aggressively.
Quantum Dot Corp. of Hayward, Calif., received $2 million to develop quantum dots without the use of cadmium or other elements that are under regulation. Andy Watson, vice president of business development, indicated that the industry is excited about nanotechnology and the new products that use nanomaterials, but most of these materials are composed of elements with regulatory issues. He feels that the ATP chose the Quantum Dot project because "it's the right project at the right time."
The ATP does not provide full project funding with its awards but requires that companies have a financial stake in the outcome. Joint ventures must pay at least half of the project costs, and Fortune 500 companies going it alone must pay at least 60 percent. Small and medium-size companies must pay a minimum of all indirect costs of the project.
The new awards total $80.1 million, and the companies involved are contributing another $57 million. The average amount awarded this year was $2.5 million, with the largest receiving $8 million.
Typically, the ATP awards are announced near the end of the year, and the deadline for new applications is in the early spring. Visit www.atp.nist.gov for more information.
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