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PA NanoCenter Awards $520K to Fund Seven Advanced Materials Research Projects

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The Pennsylvania NanoMaterials Commercialization Center (PA NanoCenter) with the support of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development awarded $520K to fund seven new projects that  accelerate the early stage technology development and commercialization of advanced materials research using nanotechnology.

The PA NanoCenter provides innovation and technology management with the goal to accelerate the commercialization of emerging materials research. “Each year, we help entrepreneurs, university researchers and industry in Pennsylvania transform their innovative research into new products, new companies that target the growth of Pennsylvania’s materials sector,” says Dr. Leoné Hermans-Blackburn, Ph.D.

The PA NanoCenter funded the following seven projects:

Nelum Sciences, LLC, a spin-off from University of Pennsylvania, is commercializing an optically-transmitting superhydrophobic nano-coating that confers water repellent properties to plastics, glass, fabrics and a range of other surfaces.  The technology is being developed initially for use in sporting and industrial protective eyewear applications in collaboration with a distribution partner with established product lines in this vertical industry. Follow-on products will include superhydrophobic, superhydrophilic and superoleophobic coatings and adhesives for use in transportation, security systems, consumer electronics and other applications.

Graphene Frontiers’ researchers are developing and testing methods to transfer large area, single-atom-thick graphene films to a polymeric substrate for use as a combination transparent, flexible conductor and ultra-high barrier layer for use in thin film solar and flexible electronics applications. Graphene Frontiers’ APCVD process and transfer method is uniquely suited for industrial scale, roll-to-roll production that will allow manufacturers to incorporate graphene films into existing or modified production lines at low cost. Specifically targeted applications include flexible, transparent electrodes for touch screens, display screens and thin film photovoltaics, as well as impermeable coatings for corrosion and/or chemical protection.

NanoHorizons Inc., a spin-out of Penn State University, is commercializing silver nanoscale antimicrobial additives for an efficacious antimicrobial aftermarket spray system geared toward consumer products routinely contaminated with odor-causing bacteria.  The addition of antimicrobial protection to improve the hygiene of products is an emerging approach to add value and utility, especially for products that are infrequently laundered or shared among multiple users. Its channel partner, Eco Product Group LLC of Pittsburgh,  has identified a market demand for aftermarket silver-based anti-odor treatment systems that can be applied as needed to products such as sporting gear, protective equipment, orthopedic supports and camping equipment.

SAVD Solar, Inc. is being funded for the prototype development of a disruptive solar cell technology that will dramatically improve cell efficiency and cost-effectiveness.  SAVD is a spinout of Professor Hong Koo Kim from the University of Pittsburgh. The patent-pending Self-Aligned Vertical Dipole (SAVD) structure enables enhanced absorption of light, which in turn has provided close to 50 percent conversion efficiency improvement in the lab. SAVD has successfully completed a proof-of-concept experiment demonstrating 50 percent solar cell efficiency improvement by incorporating this proprietary nano-optic structure on commercial silicon solar cells. In order to bring this SAVD cell technology from the lab to the market, the company will further develop and demonstrate a highly scalable, low cost manufacturing process.

Rhodia Inc. is commercializing a cost-effective, industrial scale synthesis of a novel polymer system that promotes the manufacturing of high-quality silver nanowires at a low cost. The project aims to replace expensive and brittle Indium Tin Oxide (ITO) transparent conductive coatings with inexpensive and flexible suspensions of silver nanowires. These transparent conductive coatings are critical components in flexible and printable energy-based materials systems, as well as portable electronic devices.

Dr.Shu Yang of the University of Pennsylvania is developing a fabrication method to produce a superhydrophobic, omniphobic, and highly transparent nanocomposite film, which can be used as a peel-off, self-applicable protective film when laminated with a double-sided adhesive backing layer. It will allow for applications to a wide range of substrates that are not possible by wet coating processes. The film can be made anti-refractive and fingerprint-free by improving the design of nanotexture and surface chemistry. If successful, Yang will develop a roll-to-roll method to fabricate the nanotextured films from different low surface energy materials in a continuous fashion.

Dr. Russell Composto of the University of Pennsylvania is developing nanoengineered grafted polymer brushes that can prevent/inhibit catheter related bloodstream infections (CRBSI) via a novel two-step defense mechanism. His research shows that these films grafted to model hard surfaces (e.g., glass) exhibit unique pH dependent swelling properties that inhibit bacteria attachment and retard biofilm formation. CRBSI is characterized by bacterial adhesion on indwelling vascular lines, followed by formation of a biofilm that anchors bacteria to the catheter surface. Once a biofilm forms, bacteria are 1,000 times more resistant to antibiotics than planktonic bacteria.

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