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Thursday, March 24, 2005

Imago: On the Cutting Edge of Nanotech

I just finished reading a wonderful article in Space Daily (thanks to Rocky Rawstern at Nanotechnology Now for bringing it to my attention) which discussed researchers ability to develop a new “high-security” steel that would be resistant to possible terrorist attacks.

The technology that is making this development possible is a new advanced microscope called the Local-Electrode Atom Probe (LEAP). This amazing piece of equipment can literally pluck atoms off a material’s surface one at a time and then, layer-by-layer; analyze the chemical composition of that material. Even more amazingly, it does this at a rate 720 times faster than today’s state-of-the-art SEMs and TEMs. (It can collect 72 million atoms an hour as opposed to 100,000 atoms).

For some reason, however, the article, while touting LEAPs technology, failed to mention who makes this equipment. The company is Imago Scientific Instruments and they are a small, private start-up located in Madison, Wisconsin. If investors of FEI, Veeco or Hitachi have not yet heard of this company, I suggest that you now put it on your radar screen because it has a very promising technology which has the potential to take significant market share away from those companies. Not only can Imago’s equipment be used to test materials like steel, it can also be used to study semiconductors, conductive polymers and, quite possibly, biological materials. This suggests that, at a minimum, Imago could avail itself to two huge potential markets. The first is chip manufacturers—who are always interested in analyzing and quickly detecting defects in their chips. In fact, Seagate is already reportedly using Imago’s LEAP equipment. The second market is for biotech companies who are interested in viewing nanoscale samples in 3-D and might find the equipment helpful in facilitating drug discovery.

The bottom-line is that because Imago’s LEAP can do these things 720 times faster than traditional scanning electron microscopes (SEMs) or TEMs, and can do it in 3-D; it makes Imago a company to watch.

Jack Uldrich

Related Links:
Imago Scientific