Book:The Laboratories of Our Lives: Labs, Labs Everywhere!/Labs by industry: Part 4/Nanotechnology

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6. Labs by industry: Part 4

We conclude our examination of 20 broad industry categories and the laboratories associated with them, looking at the final five. For each you'll find a brief description with common services and how the lab type affects the average person. As discussed previously, using our client type + function model we dig into examples found in the private, government, and academic sectors and then outline function through activities, sciences, test types, equipment, and unique attributes. Finally, we discuss the role of informatics in each industry lab type. A discussion follows in the final chapter.

6.1 Nanotechnology

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Nanoscience is the study of objects (materials, structures, devices) and phenomena on the nanometer scale. Physicist Richard Feynman's talk titled "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom" at the end of 1959 helped spark an exploration today of the world of the fantastically small[1], one that has spawned a great number of discoveries and inventions based on nanoscience.[2] From quantum computing to cellulose nanomaterials, private, public, and academic labs of all types are improving the way we construct, work, and play. These labs provide many different services, including (but not limited to)[3] :

  • characterization and testing of nanoscale devices and materials
  • improvement of the performance of existing technologies and materials
  • development of new materials
  • research and development of nanosafety plans
  • research and development of nanotech standards
  • research and development of nanomanufacturing and -measurement equipment
  • development of nanomedicines

But how do nanotechnology laboratories intersect the average person's life on a daily basis?

As the technology and research around nanotechnology is still in somewhat of an infant phase, it's less clear how these labs affect the average person. The fact that by definition visualizing the design of nanotechnology due to its nano scale is challenging doesn't make relating to nanotech labs any easier either. The idea of the quantum computer, a computational device utilizing nature's small-scale physics, is still in early development, but nanotechnology labs such as MIT's Lincoln Lab continue to research and apply nanoscience to the hardware that could make up the first practical quantum computer.[4] Moving from the theoretical to the more applicable, the United States National Nanotechnology Initiative list several applications of nanotechnology found in products today, including solar panel films, windmill blades, gas lift valves, and airplane cabin filters.[5]

6.1.1 Client types

Private - Private nanotech labs are usually associated with a major company or part of a private-public partnership, as the equipment to analyze and manufacture at the nano scale can be costly.

Examples include:

Government - Government-based nanotechnology labs are typically themed towards a certain sub-branch, from nanomedicine (cancer research) to military (war machines).

Examples include:

Academic - The nanotech labs of higher education tend to have a focus on post-graduate education and research, occasionally subcontracting its expertise out to the private domain.

Examples include:

6.1.2 Functions

What are the most common functions? analytical, QA/QC, research/design, and teaching

What materials, technologies, and/or aspects are being analyzed, researched, and quality controlled? nanoemulsions, nanomaterials, nanomedicines

What sciences are being applied in these labs? astrophysics, biology, biomedical engineering, chemistry, electrical engineering, microfabrication, molecular biology, molecular engineering, organic chemistry, physics, statistics

What are some examples of test types and equipment?

Common test types include:

Acute toxicity, Biocompatibility, Characterization, Chronic toxicity, Design review and evaluation, Ecotoxicology, Electrophoresis, Efficacy, Friction, Grain and particle size, Irritation, Nanoparticulate, Proficiency, Safety, Spectral, Subchronic toxicity, Surface topography

Industry-related lab equipment may include:

atom probe, atomic force microscope, atomic force microscopy-Raman system, atomic layer deposition system, calorimeter, cryogenic probe station, dynamic light scattering equipment, electron backscattered diffraction system, ellipsometer, flow chemistry reactor, helium ion beam microscope, micro hardness tester, micropositioning system, nanoparticle characterization system, optical tweezers, particle size analyzer, plasma etching system, safety cabinet, scanning electron microscope, scanning near-field optical microscope, separation membrane, spectrometer, spectrophotometer, transmission electron microscope, viscometer, X-ray camera, X-ray diffractometer

What else, if anything, is unique about the labs in the nanotech industry?

The laboratory equipment of a nanotechnology lab stands out among other industry labs, in so much that it tends to be specialized and expensive, regardless of what sub-field of nanotechnology is being studied.[6][7] This extends to the laboratory space itself, where conditions must be specially maintained for optimal results; this includes electromagnetic shielding, reduced acoustic levels, reduced vibrations, and carefully maintained temperatures.[8]

6.1.3 Informatics in the nanotechnology industry

Yes, data analysis and management systems are also important in the burgeoning field of nanotechnology. Referred to at times as nanoinformatics, the application of informatics tools to nanotechnology happens in several ways:

  • Nanomaterials development: the use of artificial neural networks and other tools to formulate, analyze, and assess requirements specification for nanomaterials; develop conceptual designs; and finalize a detailed technical solution[9]
  • Nanosafety data management: the management and sharing of "information on the physicochemical characteristics of nanomaterials, toxicity, exposure, data and metadata"[10]
  • Nanotechnology ontology development: the development of "a web ontology in the form of a semantically precise and computer-processable definition of entities and their relationships" that will further integrate disparate data standards, sources, formats, and models towards a higher-quality and more efficient nanotech development sector[11][12]

6.1.4 LIMSwiki resources and further reading

LIMSwiki resources

Further reading


  1. "What is Nanotechnology?". United States National Nanotechnology Initiative. Retrieved 29 June 2022. 
  2. "Nanotechnology Timeline". United States National Nanotechnology Initiative. Retrieved 29 June 2022. 
  3. Goddard, W.A.; Brenner, D.W.; Lyshevski, S.E.; Iafrate, G.J., ed. (2012). Handbook of Nanoscience, Engineering, and Technology (3rd ed.). CRC Press. pp. 1093. ISBN 9781439860151. 
  4. Hardesty, L. (8 August 2016). "Toward practical quantum computers". MIT News. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved 29 June 2022. 
  5. "Applications of Nanotechnology". United States National Nanotechnology Initiative. Retrieved 29 June 2022. 
  6. Boysen, E. (24 March 2008). "For Rent: One Nano Research Lab…". Nanotechnology Now. 7th Wave, Inc. Retrieved 29 June 2022. 
  7. Damase, T.R.; Stephens, D.; Spencer, A.; Allen, P.B. (2015). "Open source and DIY hardware for DNA nanotechnology labs". Journal of Biological Methods 2 (3): e24. doi:10.14440/jbm.2015.72. PMC PMC4598940. PMID 26457320. 
  8. "About the NSI". U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. Department of the Navy. Retrieved 29 June 2022. 
  9. Omelyanenko, V.A. (2016). "Tasks and tools of nanoinformatics in nano materials application in space industry". Proceeding from the International Conference on Nanomaterials: Application & Properties. doi:10.1109/NAP.2016.7757227. 
  10. "Nanoinformatics: A roadmap for European innovation". EuroNanoForum2017. 16 May 2017. Archived from the original on 11 August 2017. Retrieved 29 June 2022. 
  11. Erkimbaev, A.O.; Zitserman, V.Y.; Kobzev, G.A.; Trakhtengerts, M.S. (2016). "Nanoinformatics: Problems, methods, and technologies". Scientific and Technical Information Processing 43 (4): 199–216. doi:10.3103/S014768821604002X. 
  12. "A Global Approach to Nanoinformatics". Pratt School of Engineering. Duke University. 3 March 2017. Retrieved 29 June 2022.