By Jim Dukart
NanoCon Show Daily
Sept. 21, 2006 — David Soane only has to look in the mirror to see how central nanotech has become in his life.
Soane, a self-proclaimed “serial entrepreneur” who has founded companies such as Aclara, Nano-Tex, Innovative Construction and Building Materials and Cosmetica, addressed NanoCon 2006 in Las Vegas on Wednesday with a personal anecdote about his graying hair and the development of a new nano-based commercial hair coloring system he is working on.
The new coloring product, he said, could replace current processes that bleach and dry hair, and could be completely reversible. Those who want to change their hair color would have a wide array of pigments to choose from, he said, and a user could apply a nano-based remover that will restore his or her hair to its original color. No more waiting for “bad dye jobs” to grow out, he said, and no more baking the hair under high heat to dry a dye.
Soane’s tonsorial tale was part of a larger talk about the effect nanotech is already having and will continue to have in daily life. “Small steps can have a major impact,” he said, referring to strong opportunities for nanotech in the pulp and paper industry, building materials, and more. “Nanotech will soon impact all aspects of life,” Soane said, “from the top of your head to what you write on to what you live in.”
That point was echoed by financier Wilbur Ross, chairman and CEO of WL Ross & Co., as well as chairman of Nano-Tex and general partner of Masters Capital Nanotechnology, a firm with investments in six companies producing products based on nanotechnology.
Ross — videoconferenced in from London — predicted that the unique properties of nanotechnology will make significant inroads in the textile, contract interiors, automotive, military/defense and medical industries, to name just a few. Other areas primed for nanotech offerings, he said, include optical components for telecommunications and computer networks as well as the water, electronics and energy industries.
Nanotech, Ross noted, has not enjoyed the frenzied level of private investment that the Internet and information technology industry did a few years back, but he argued that that may turn out to be a good thing. “Perhaps this way nanotech can avoid the problems associated with a rush to invest,” Ross said, adding that nanotechnology is already making its way into the so-called “old economy” businesses he is most familiar with — cement, steel, textiles, coal and automotive supply — and will continue to do so. “Some of our large companies may become nano companies,” he said.
Thomas Sawitowski, manager of nanotechnology for Altana Chemie/BYK Chemie, spoke about the use of nanotechnology in the paint and coatings market, noting that customers are drawn to nano-scale additives that are scratch resistant, anti-microbial, water repellent, provide UV protection and can be conductive and/or antistatic. Other properties that manufacturers may want in their paint or coatings, he said, include fluorescence (particularly for security or to address counterfeiting concerns), flame retardation, possibly magnetic properties, or the ability to be a barrier to gas and/or even be self-cleaning. “There is a very broad demand for nanotechnology [in the paint and coatings market] for a broad array of applications, Sawitowski said.
“Every story I see in the paper today has a nanotechnology angle to it,” summed up Scott Livingston, managing director of investment firm The Livingston Group of Axiom Capital Management. One example he used was recent security precautions on airlines preventing the carrying of liquids aboard. “Nanotechnology will certainly be involved in detecting explosives or other hazardous materials,” Livingston said. “I see nanotechnology everywhere.”