Nanomix With a Nano First

It is widely believed that the commercialization of nanotechnology will come courtesy of "big boys" like IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) , Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) , or another 800-pound gorilla. But last week, private California-based Nanomix announced its first commercial product launch: a hydrogen gas-detection device for use in industrial settings, based on the company's patented "Sensation" detection technology.

This marks one of the first commercial products enabled by carbon nanotubes, tiny cylindrical forms of carbon that have unique electrical and thermal properties. Doped with proprietary chemicals and silicon, the carbon nanotubes on Nanomix's devices are incredibly small and sensitive. In fact, each nanotube is 1 nm in diameter, and the device in total is only the size of a pinhead. Every nanotube is positioned at the surface of the device, meaning it can detect the smallest buildup of gas. According to Nanomix, the device eliminates false alarms because of the sensitivity of the nanotubes. In addition, the company claims that it uses only "nanowatts" of power, essential for wireless integration and easy deployment. It has been in beta site testing since 2004.

The 2004 industrial sensor market was worth $6.1 billion. According to one research report, the market is characterized by regional niche players rather than one dominant technology, a situation that leaves plenty of room for Nanomix and its backers to reap handsome rewards. One of those backers is Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation Harris & Harris (Nasdaq: TINY  ) , which participated in Nanomix's latest venture. According to TINY's most recent 10-Q, it holds 9.8 million shares of Nanomix at a total cost of $2.5 million. Daniel Leff, a vice president of Harris & Harris, also sits on the board of Nanomix.

Formerly known as Covalent Materials, Nanomix was founded in 2001 by Dr. Marvin Cohen and Dr. Alex Zettl, two distinguished nano scientists from the University of California, Berkeley. Nanomix is hoping to develop other nano-based devices using its innovative "Sensation" technology. A medical breath-detection device has a planned commercial launch of 2006, and a nano electronic bio device, to be used as a personal diagnostic tool, is in the works.

We've said before that we are at the dawn of a nano commercial age. With this product hitting the market, we've just heard the first crow of the cock. Want to learn more about the commercialization of this exciting and disruptive science? Join us for a free 30-day trial to Rule Breakers.

Motley Fool Rule Breakersnanotechnology analysts Carl Wherrett and John Yelovich both own shares of Harris & Harris but of no other companies mentioned. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.


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