A picture-perfect month for nano competition winner

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Nov. 22, 2004 – “It’s been a good month,” said an understated Seth Coe-Sullivan by cell phone. He was heading to the Cleveland airport in late October after his new company had just received the top prize in a nanotechnology business idea competition. A few weeks earlier, he had taken top honors in the Nikon International Small World Competition.

Although his entry into the microscopic photography contest was a more individual, creative quest than the bare-knuckle business plan for Cambridge, Mass.-based QD Vision Inc.,  both zoom in on his passion for quantum dots, or semiconducting nanocrystals.

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“They’re materials I handle on a daily basis. So to some degree, (the entries are) related,” said Coe-Sullivan, whose work as a graduate research assistant at Massachusetts Institute of Technology is providing the building blocks for QD Vision. He is also the spinout’s acting chief technology and chief executive officer.

Winning the International Business Idea Competition netted the firm $50,000 in cash, business plan writing assistance and additional advisory services. The competition’s organizers include representatives from Case Western Reserve University, Purdue University and Nano-Network, an Ohio-based consortium of scientists, entrepreneurs and supporting agencies.

He said venture capitalists serving as judges provided further help refining QD’s plan to commercialize quantum dots for hand-held flat-panel displays.

Three winners and five runners-up were chosen among 25 teams selected to participate in a semifinal round of judging. They were among entries from 14 states and four countries.

As for Nikon? Well, it was no less competitive. He was the top entrant in a field of 20 selections, which were chosen out of 1,200 from around the globe. A Nikon executive said in a written release that the winning photomicrographs, set to tour science and art museums beginning in January, “demonstrate scientific curiosity blended with extraordinary artistic sensibility.”

Coe-Sullivan, who captured quantum dots deposited on silicon, might add “happy accident” to the list: “Basically the picture I took was a failed experiment. Something completely different happened. It looked good, so I took a picture of it.”

The 2004 gallery of winning images can be viewed at the Nikon site. Calendars for 2005 featuring Coe-Sullivan’s work and other images are also available through the site.


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