This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project will further develop a new software package for automatic dimensional analysis of nanomaterials from electron microscopy images. The difficult task of manual dimensional analysis of nanomaterials is a significant barrier to the success of the emerging nanotechnology industry, nanotechnology research and development, and nanotechnology-related government programs. The current methods of manual analysis are slow and tedious, introduce human errors and have no traceable standards or procedures. The innovation of this project lies in the application-specific design of the proposed software and the special features that will enhance the user's experience and understanding of the results. The main objectives of this Phase I proposal are the refinement and validation of algorithms and software routines for automated diameter and length measurements, and self-calibration. Validations will be conducted by comparison of the automatic measurement results with those from traditional manual measurements. Images of samples in the form of both "string-shaped" and spheroid nanomaterials will be used for this research and then calibrated using gold nanoparticles size standards. The anticipated result of this proposal is a software package that is well suited for nanomaterials dimensional analysis: fast, reliable, and easy to use.

The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is its facilitation of the emerging nanotechnology industry by saving time and money and reducing errors during dimensional analysis of nanomaterials. The commercial impact to industry will be greater profitability for nanomaterial manufacturers and nanotechnology device producers, which will use the software package to conduct rigorous but cost-effective dimensional quality control on their products. Additionally, the proposed software package will foster trust along the nanomaterials supply chain by establishing the first universal standardized dimensional analysis procedure. The target market for the final software also includes nanotechnology research facilities, where an educational impact will result from the use of the proposed software by the next generation of nanotechnology scientists and engineers. Regulation of nanomaterials and nanotechnology will also benefit from the traceability and reliability afforded by this software, and this will facilitate greater public acceptance and trust of nanotechnology, stemming from improved nanomaterials quality control.

Project Report

This Phase I SBIR project was focused on the study of feasibility and commercial potential of developing an automatic dimensional analysis software package for measurement of nanomaterials in electron microscopy images. During this project, dozens of businesses, universities and organizations have provided images and samples of nanomaterials, project feedback and referrals through in-person meetings. A library of innovative algorithms are being developed in collaboration with the Georgia Institute of Technology as a part of this project. The current prototype software was developed using large batches of images that were sent in from prospective customers. Additional images were captured in this Phase I project during several transmission electron microscope sessions from samples sent in by other potential customers. The prototype software was then used to compare the dimensional analysis results of the algorithms with the results produced by traditional manual analysis (done by a person using traditional image manipulation software to conduct pixel measurements). The objects in the images included silver nanowires, gold and ferrous nanoparticles, nanodiamonds and other commercially important or emergent nanomaterials. The overall final goal for development was to optimize the performance of the algorithms to achieve the discernibility of judgment by the human eye. The dimensional metrology included diameter and length measurements of "string-shaped" nanomaterials (like nanowires and nanotubes) as well as diameter measurements of spheroid nanomaterials (like nanoparticles). Feedback on the core value proposition was collected from over fifty potential customers, and the project algorithm development was conducted using hundreds of images that were provided from customers. This project has had broader impacts through the research and development conducted in technical fields spanning computer science and electrical engineering to chemistry and nanotechnology. If the final development goals for the project are reached, the product stands to significantly facilitate the reliable and efficient dimensional analysis of nanomaterials. This type of analysis is a critical production feedback and quality control measure in the applied nanotechnology and commercial nanomaterials manufacturing industries. By establishing a new industry standard for dimensional analysis, this project will have educational impacts on young engineers and scientists training to use industry standard tools. The product of the this project, an automatic dimensional analysis software, will globally facilitate the flow of nanomaterials and empower emerging nanotechnology companies as more new consumer products enabled by nanotechnology enter the market.

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Fullscalenano, Inc.
United States
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