Technology Summary

Nano Elements Source, LLC has the rights to proprietary Nanofermentation intellectual property from Oak Ridge National Laboratory to create low-cost nanoparticles. Similar to the process of fermenting alcohol, sugar is fed to single-celled organisms. As these cells grow, they produce the desired nanoparticles.

20L of fermentation mixture ready for nanoparticle separation.  Photo courtesy of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

20L of fermentation mixture ready for nanoparticle separation.  Photo courtesy of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The nanoparticles produced by this technology are compounds from 1-30 nanometers in size that have a metallic component. This metallic component gives them beneficial properties such as conductivity and magnetism. The particles’ small size and narrow size distribution improve these characteristics, making the particles valuable for wide-ranging industrial applications. Several current examples of applications include electronic displays, sensors, cosmetics, fiber optics, cancer treatments and medication delivery.

In addition to producing higher quality nanoparticles, we can replace the current methods of producing nanoparticles. Current technologies for nanoparticle production include harmful chemicals, temperatures from 400-600℃ and mechanical grinding to reduce the size of the particles. These methods make the energy requirements, and thus cost, for producing the particles extremely high. Nanofermentation reduces the required temperatures to only 70℃ with no additional mechanical requirement reducing the energy consumption and need for toxic chemicals.

 



NanoFermentation History

An image showing the comparison between the amount of nanoparticles (small dots) and biomass (three bacteria). Photo courtesy of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

An image showing the comparison between the amount of nanoparticles (small dots) and biomass (three bacteria). Photo courtesy of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The history of NanoFermentation begins in extreme environments.  In 1999, the discovers of Nanofermentation isolated extremophile bacteria from a two mile deep gold mine in Africa.  Other Nanofermentation species were found in oil and gas deposits in 1992.  The NanoFermentaion process won the research team a 2006 R&D 100 award and a 2006 Micro/Nano 25 award.  Nanofermentation research continues at ORNL as scientists engineer bioreactor conditions to create more varied nanoparticles.


If the 20th century was the century of physics, the 21st century will be the century of biology
— J. Craig Venter and Daniel Cohen