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Rushford grows Nanotechnology

By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Jan 25th, 2013
Posted in Rushford Features

Picture taken with the Agilent 5400 Atomic Force Microscope (AFM). It is a titanium alloy and the scale is 25 micrometers or 25,000 namometers. Notice that this smooth sample is very rough at the nano level.

In 2002, Rushford Institute for Nanotechnology put the city on the map with the growing technology. Now, Rushford NanoElectroChemistry, an independent company, has garnered further attention and hopefully given rural technology development a boost.

“Approximately 18 months ago, there was a session where a rural nanotechnology strategic plan was developed. It brought the rural technology to attention at federal level. I’m most proud of rural technology being added to that plan,” says company owner Kevin Klungtvedt. “I’ve been at it long enough. 90% of all U.S. nanotechnology manufacturers have less than 100 employees and 60-70% have less than 20. I made the bold assertion, do we want to be a part of a $1 trillion industry?” he continues.

The growth in the industry could have a significant impact on the community, which is Klungtvedt’s goal. “I’m here to make jobs. We’re not a company that sits in the corner and hides money. We’re vested in the community. Nanotech businesses bring living wage jobs to the rural community, attracting talented workers. This is the perfect business for a small town. It’s a win-win for the company and the community,” he notes.

What’s more, Klungtvedt believes that the industry is a way to keep the best and brightest right here in our communities. “We educate them and send them off. We want these people back in our community. You can come back home to work,” he stresses.

The technology has applications in every industry, including medical, environmental, energy, heavy industry, and consumer goods. “This is the largest change since industrial revolution,” adds Klungtvedt. “I call it my green Escort theory. I used to have this green Escort. I never knew they existed and then I saw them everywhere. Look at it [the technology]. Notice it. It’s there,” he enthuses.

The small company currently has two full-time employees and one part-time individual. That could change as new products continue to be designed and developed by the team. “We’re involved in several projects and we’ve got several on the board. With the latest, a bio impedance meter for medical and consumer application, we didn’t go looking. They came to us asking to have it built.” The company has put out 5 prototypes of the meter and has its first order of 150 due mid-February. After more than a year invested in its development, the meter has great potential on the market.

“We’ve gotten a lot of help from a lot of people,” adds Klungtvedt. “We’ve got an extremely tight budget, which slows things down. But, we’ve built something unique, different from what’s out there.” Indeed. The Rushford NanoElectroChemistry meter is smaller than anything on the market and is roughly a tenth of the cost. Not bad for a small town company.

“We’re taking advantage of a new technology that doesn’t take a lot of resources or huge amounts of infrastructure, but has a potential impact, including plenty of business, in the area,” he says. “We’re not a one product company and we’re not competitive with other area businesses. We’re constantly talking and cooperative. We have the advantages of a large company with just a small town company.”

“We’re in worldwide arena and we’ve got the resources here for something fantastic.”

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