Tag Archives: 3M

Nano and the NASDAQ

First, a caveat: I know very little about stock markets and investing so I’m not offering any comments about the quality of the investment advice offered in an April 23, 2014 article by StreetAuthority for the NASDAQ stock market website. The article is being featured here for informational purposes and because it focuses on nanotechnology (Note: A link has been removed),

A couple of months ago, the fund planners at Invesco PowerShares closed the book on one of the most unusual chapters in investing history, announcing a move to shut down the PowerShares Lux Nanotech Portfolio exchange-traded fund ( ETF ). A lack of interest was the main culprit in its demise.

… For many investors, the move signaled the end of the decade-long hype around nanotechnology stocks. Back in 2006, with nanotech mania in full bloom, Businessweek predicted that this emerging technology would represent a $2.6 trillion industry by 2014 .

That prediction overestimated the industry’s potential by at least $2.5 trillion.

StreetAuthority goes on to analyse some specific ‘nano’ stocks,

… A quick snapshot of where the remaining nanotech stocks trade in relation to their all-time highs paints a sobering picture. With the exception of FEI Co. (Nasdaq: FEIC ) , not one of these firms lived up to the hype.

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Just when you think all is lost the author finds reason for optimism (Note: Links have been removed),

Yet just as most investors have written off the notion of nano-investing, the underlying technology is being seeded in a widening range of applications. Many industrial firms such as 3M (NYSE: MMM ) already derive solid recurring revenue streams from nanotechnology and are spending heavily on new products , which bodes well for the companies that make the tools to help further this technology’s development.

FEI, for example, is expected to reach the $1 billion revenue mark this year for the first time. FEI’s equipment helps other firms analyze and develop nanotechnology-based products and chemistries, mostly in the semiconductor industry. The company has delivered on the promise of nanotech, but shares appear fully valued, as top-line growth is around 10% and shares trade for more than 20 times next year’s earnings.

A more intriguingly valued stock is Flamel Technologies (Nasdaq: FLML ) , a biotech firm that has developed a range of drug delivery methods to deliver nano-sized particles into the bloodstream. Though this firm could never live up to the nanohype of a decade ago — and a decade of annual operating losses will wilt any investor’s confidence — shares are starting to rebound as key products start to reach the market.

It’s nice to be able to supplement the information one gets from government reports on commercializing nanotechnology with some ‘stock market’ analysis. As for whether or not this is good advice, caveat emptor (buyer beware). I can say that the author does not seem to have a solid grasp of the term ‘nanotechnology’, e.g. “… a new and much-hyped technology known as graphene holds the same promise , and in a few years we may see huge sums of money chase after graphene companies, just as we saw with nanotechs.” [emphasis mine] Generally speaking, graphene is considered to be part of the ‘nanotechnology enterprise’.

3M’s new nanotechnology-enabled (?) Patch Plus Primer product

A Dec. 14, 2012 news item on Azonano has announced a new 3M product,

3M today introduced a new product designed using the latest technology in wall repair, making it possible to paint without priming when patching a wall. 3M™ Patch Plus Primer is the only product on the market that uses nanotechnology to create a quick-drying, strong, even patch in just one easy step.


The product was specially designed to address common challenges pro-painters and DIYers frequently face with wall repair such as shrinking, cracking and changes in paint sheen. Engineered nanoparticles create a primer-like film on the surface, allowing the repair to be virtually invisible under dried paint, for professional-looking results without having to prime. Square packaging was developed to easily accommodate a three-inch putty knife, and the product’s lid was created to be easier to open than traditional spackling products that require a putty knife to remove the lid.

Unexpectedly, there is no listing for the product on 3M’s DIY (do-it-yourself) website nor in its product catalog so I could find no additional details about the product other than those in the news item (which was originated by this Dec. 13, 2012 3M news release on BusinessWire).

50% more color on your liquid crystal display (LCD)

3M is promising more color on your liquid crystal display (LCD) as a consequence of its new deal with Nanosys Inc. From the June 5, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

Nanosys Inc. and the Optical Systems Division of 3M Company are joining technologies to provide wide color gamut technology for consumer electronic displays, allowing Liquid Crystal Displays (“LCDs”) to display 50 percent more color.

3M and Nanosys will work together to commercialize Nanosys’ Quantum Dot Enhancement Film(TM) (“QDEF”) technology. QDEF is a drop-in film that LCD manufacturers can integrate with existing production processes. It utilizes the light emitting properties of quantum dots to create an ideal backlight for LCDs — one of the most critical factors in the color and efficiency performance of LCDs.

“Combining the world class-technology and materials expertise of Nanosys with the engineering, design and supply chain capabilities of 3M will unlock a powerful new color viewing experience for consumers,” said Jim Bauman, Vice President of the Optical Systems Division at 3M.

Over the years, 3M technologies have enabled better LCD performance. However, color performance of LCD’s has gone largely unchanged. Current LCDs are limited to displaying 35 percent or less of the visible color spectrum. This means the viewing experience on an LCD is vastly different than what a person sees in the real world. Wide color gamut displays will allow consumers to enjoy more visceral, more immersive and truer to life color.

I was going to post this a few days ago but, luckily, I held back. Dexter Johnson in his June 7, 2012 posting on the Nanoclast blog on the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) website offers an interesting perspective on this deal based on his 2010 interview with Nanosys Inc.’s then Vice President of World Wide Sales and Marketing, Victor Hsia who explained,

Current LED backlights use conventional white LEDs (which are BLUE LEDs with YAG phosphor) that cannot produce saturated GREEN or RED colors. In contrast Nanosys’ Quantum Rail produces a pure white light by using a BLUE LED with Green and Red Quantum Dot phosphors, which results in a tuned white light source that enables over 100 percent NTSC color gamut using the same high volume LCD display manufacturing flow that exists today.”

I’m finding the percentages a little confusing. In 2010, Nanosys could offer over 100% more color for conventional LCD displays. In 2012 and presumably in 2010, the consumer viewing experience offers 35% or less of the color spectrum.

The deal with 3M assures consumers  50% more color than the current 35% we can see.  Doesn’t that mean we’d get 52% of the color spectrum with this 3M/Nanosys deal? Please let me know if I got the numbers wrong or made some mistaken assumptions. In the meantime, I suggest taking a look at Dexter’s post for more technical information about the Nanosys technology and more background about LCDs.

Lighter, tougher gas tanks (to transport more natural gas) coming from 3M and Chesapeake Energy

They certainly have given the news of their (3M and Chesapeake Energy’s, that is) collaboration with an upbeat yet deeply concerned (about breaking the “foreign stranglehold” on energy imports) tone. From the Feb. 28, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

“3M believes in the potential of natural gas, and this agreement illustrates our commitment to the industry,” said George Buckley, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of 3M. “We are excited about this collaboration to speed the development and adoption of natural gas-powered vehicles.” [emphasis mine]

Increased political support and private investment have made natural gas a viable automotive fuel alternative with large growth potential. With more than a 100-year supply of natural gas in the United States and an average price per gasoline gallon equivalent of $1.00 to $2.00, the fuel is plentiful, affordable and domestic. [emphasis mine] The fuel also burns more cleanly than gasoline, cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent and particulate matter by 95 percent.

“This partnership brings together two leading companies from different sectors, both committed to advancing the natural gas transportation fuel market,” said Aubrey K. McClendon, Chesapeake’s Chief Executive Officer. “We applaud 3M for recognizing the future of natural gas as a low-cost, cleaner alternative to gasoline, and for creating innovative tank technology that will make natural gas vehicles more affordable and accessible to fleets and individual consumers nationwide. Our country needs a solution to break the foreign stranglehold on our fuels market, and today’s announcement is another step to transition our nation away from costly imports.” [emphasis mine]

The companies will be using a nanotechnology-enabled solution to making the tanks, which hold the natural gas, stronger and lighter. From the 3M/Chesapeake Energy Feb. 21, 2012 press release,

3M’s CNG [compressed natural gas] tank solution combines the company’s proprietary liner advancements, thermoplastic materials, barrier films and coatings, and damage-resistant films to transform the pressure vessel industry. Using nanoparticle-enhanced resin technology, 3M™ Matrix Resin for Pressure Vessels, 3M will create CNG tanks that are 10 to 20 percent lighter with 10 to 20 percent greater capacity, all at a lower cost than standard vessels. In addition to these benefits, the 3M technology produces safer and more durable tanks than those currently on the market. This tank innovation builds on 3M’s proven history of developing and introducing pioneering technologies to the market.

I’m wondering how the estimate for that “100 year supply of natural gas  in the US” was derived. It stands to reason that if you make natural gas an attractive alternative to current fuels that its use will increase, perhaps exponentially, should more uses for natural gas be discovered than simply as a ‘replacement’ for current fuels.

I did check out Chesapeake Energy, a company based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and not in a New England state (I think Chesapeake Bay is in Massachusetts) as I was expecting. Here’s an excerpt from the company’s home page,

We’re the second-largest producer of natural gas, a Top 15 producer of oil and natural gas liquids and the most active driller of new wells in the U.S. Headquartered in Oklahoma City, the company’s operations are focused on discovering and developing unconventional natural gas and oil fields onshore in the U.S. Chesapeake owns leading positions in the Barnett, Haynesville, Bossier, Marcellus and Pearsall natural gas shale plays and in the Granite Wash, Cleveland, Tonkawa, Mississippi Lime, Bone Spring, Avalon, Wolfcamp, Wolfberry, Eagle Ford, Niobrara and Utica unconventional liquids plays.

I also found out a little more about the technology that 3M will be incorporating in the new gas tanks (from the 3M™ Matrix Resin Technology page),

Carbon fiber composite products are limited by their compression strength. Under compressive loading, carbon fibers can micro-buckle (like a small wrinkle) resulting in breaking or failure of the composite product.

Creating a resin with a high concentration of uniformly dispersed nanoparticles makes a stronger composite. These nanoparticles are so tiny, they can uniformly surround and support the carbon fibers, significantly increasing the shear modulus of the resin, and effectively delaying the micro-buckling of the carbon fibers. The greater the nanoparticle loading, the stiffer the support of the carbon fiber. Where other nanotechnologies (like carbon nano tubes) deliver <3% nanoparticles loading, 3M’s proprietary technology uniquely enables loadings of >40% of uniformly dispersed nanoparticles.

3M’s ability to significantly increase resin shear modulus is a game changer in and of itself. But 3M’s technology truly bends the rules by simultaneously increasing fracture toughness. In the past, attempts to increase resin stiffness resulted in a significant decrease in fracture toughness, producing very brittle materials. 3M’s proprietary nanoparticles technology creates such a strong bond between the particle and the resin, that energy is dissipated when the composite is stressed, preventing crack propagation.

I am curious as to exactly what those nanoparticles might be made of but I gather that is proprietary information