Innovations made at the size an atom

By Jim Stafford Modified: November 27, 2007 at 5:40 am •  Published: November 27, 2007
NORMAN — Daniel Resasco donned protective eyeglasses and walked into the laboratory of SouthWest NanoTechnologies on Monday morning to show off the process by which carbon nanotubes are made.

Technicians were monitoring "reactors” in which the company's patented catalytic process creates tiny carbon nanotubes that are finding their way into a multitude of consumer and medical products.

Carbon nanotubes are expected to be widely used in various composite applications because of their strength and light weight, as well as their ability to conduct electricity.

Resasco invented the process that creates the single-wall carbon nanotubes that sell for $500 per gram. He was honored earlier this month by Small Times magazine as one of five finalists for its Innovator of the Year award.

As his "CoMoCAT” catalytic process created nanotubes in nearby reactors, Resasco provided a glimpse into how the tiny technology will be used in the future.

"They will be used in thin film transistors, on the order of one nanometer thick, a hundred thousand times thinner than a human hair,” Resasco said. "In the medical area, these materials are fantastic because they absorb light and emit light with very precise frequencies.”

"So you can use them either as tracers because they can penetrate a human cell, and because they adsorb light so effectively, you can use them to kill (cancerous) cells without harming other cells.”

Resasco directed the University of Oklahoma research team that invented the "CoMoCAT” catalytic process and founded the company in 2001. He holds the Hilda and Douglas Bourne Chair of Chemical Engineering and a George Lynn Cross Research Professorship at OU.

"We are the only one in the world that can make this particular semiconducting type (of nanotechnology),” said Resaco, now the chief scientist for the Norman company.

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AT A GLANCE
Not just one honor
The recognition recently received by Daniel Resasco, founder and chief scientist of Norman-based SouthWest NanoTechnologies, as one of five "Innovator of the Year” finalists by Small Times magazine is not the only honor the company has earned.

In October, the SouthWest NanoTechnologies was one of 55 U.S. companies honored with the 2007 Tibbetts Award from the Small Business Technology Council. The company was selected from 17,000 companies that receive contract and grants under the Small Business Innovation Research Program.

Business Writer Jim Stafford

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