Nanotech Exploding in Oklahoma

Coatings, polymers, elastomers and thin films. Laser-based sensors, semiconductors, infrared imaging. Adhesives and batteries. Medical devices, drug delivery systems, dental implants and sunscreens. Nanowires, nanoparticles and nanotubes.

The numerous companies that comprise Oklahoma’s exploding nanotechnology industry are focused on the development, manufacture and application of these and other materials, products and processes that have the potential to dramatically improve our lives and, in some cases, save them.

Read more in Engage Oklahoma, p. 32









Big Futures Being Made in Tiny Technology 

Watch batteries used to be considered pretty small. Now a University of Tulsa researcher is working on batteries so small you could spread nearly a billion of them across the top of a little button watch battery.

 Those batteries could power tiny devices navigating the human bloodstream as in the old Fantastic Voyage movie, says Dr. Dale Teeters, who heads the chemistry and biochemistry departments at TU.  He's also applying nanotechnology to make more conventional betteries pack more punch and recharge in minutes. Those batteries are just one small — so to speak — part of Oklahoma nanotechnolgoy activity — using invisibly small things to  do impossibly amazing things: 

  • ARC Outdoors in Tulsa uses nano-sized silver fibers to stop odors. The fibers, woven into socks, underwear and other clothing for hunters and military personnel, eliminate bacteria and keep users clean, fresh-smelling and  undetectable by deer noses.

  • NanoBioMagnetics in Edmond has received a patent on its process for delivering nano-size doses of cancer drugs  and other treatments directly to the affected part of the body. The treatment is injected into the bloodstream, and doctors use magnets to activate the nanoparticles when they reach their target. The company also received Oklahoma's first nanotechnolgy patent for health care in 2008 for a related process using nanoparticles and magnets in the middle ear to counter hearing loss.

  • SouthWest NanoTechnologies in Norman is a leading producer of carbon nanotubes, sub-microscopic spaghetti that is extremely strong and flexible with startling electronic and optical properties. Carbon nanotubes are a basic building block of the nano world, and SouthWest sees target markets in strong, light automotive, aerospace and military structures; thin, affordable flat panel displays; high performance electronic devices; fuel cell electrodes; and medical sensors and cancer treatment. The company's patented catalytic production process recently received a Technology Innovation Award from a major international consulting company.

Nanotechnology deals with matter as atoms and molecules, particles that are measured in nanometers (nm), which is one billionth of a meter. For perspective, the diameter of a human hair is 15,000 to 180,000 nanometers.

The big need in Oklahoma nanotechnology is for more researchers, says Jim Mason, executive director of the Oklahoma Nanotechnology Initiative. The University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and the University of Tulsa have people teaching and working in nanotechnology, he says, and the organization is trying to help regional and community colleges staff up to do the same. ONI's website has a page of Resources on Nanotechnology Education for Kids, including websites, videos and games.