About 15 years ago, there was a great media frenzy about a legendary technology, which was said to bring about radical changes in several industrial, medical and agricultural fields, and result in new products and raw materials unparalleled in human history. This revolution was called nanotechnology, and attention was drawn to it from all sides, so several research centers were established around the world, and the study materials related to it were intensified in universities, and media coverage of its activities increased, and the opinions of experts were taken about it and its future.
The nanotechnology revolution was not a media lie, but rather it is a reality in front of us today, and indeed there are a number of products and raw materials that have been developed by this strange technology, but in fact there were media exaggerations in what the technology can reach, and the extent of changes and discoveries behind it. . Of course, when the noise and the accompanying noise and jingle reached the doors of “Wall Street” the spread of the nano-phenomenon increased, and a large number of companies began claiming proximity to Lily, as it was said, and investors flocked to companies that seemed to have a large share of this technology.
In this report, we conduct a quick review of the reality of nanotechnology, in terms of its definition, the research centers in the Kingdom in which it operates, and what international companies have achieved in this field and have products extracted by nanotechnology. We also address the nature of the risks that were said to result from this technology, and we wonder if there are any indications of the reality of these risks, and whether any of them actually happened.
The concept of nanotechnology and its importance
Nanotechnology is the technology of dealing with infinitesimal areas, so that it is possible to produce materials that have different properties from the materials with which it works traditionally. Most industrial, medical, and agricultural developments over hundreds of years have been based on technologies that deal with relatively large molecules, and cannot get down to microscopic levels. However, this began to change in the eighties as a result of a number of researches and discoveries, which resulted in the invention of the STM microscope, through which it was possible to view individual atoms and study the links between them easily and easily, to the extent that it became possible to control the atoms and change their numbers and connections and the resulting Material.
When we talk about the nanoscale, we are talking about very small particles. For comparison, the width of the body of bacteria is about 2000 nanometers, and viruses are generally within 30 nanometers, and this is the level at which nanotechnology works, which often deals with particles that do not exceed 100 nanometers in length.
Progress in the field of nanotechnology came through many developments that made it possible to carry out work in narrow spaces: for example, for the work of some microscopic designs, precise electronic rays are shed on the surface required to draw lines with lengths not exceeding 10 nanometers. It is also possible to manipulate some atomic configurations to change the bonding at the atomic level and produce new ores.
Nanotechnology is used in organic chemistry, physics, electronics, surface science, and in the study of physical and chemical changes for the transfer of matter from one form to another, for example when changing from a liquid to a vapor or from a solid to a gaseous substance. It is also possible through nanotechnology to make a water filter to filter water, the capacity of its holes is measured in nanometers, so that the water is filtered from impurities, microbes and bacteria, so it becomes possible to desalinate water in ways that are less expensive than what is available today through other technologies.
Among the promises that have not been realized so far, despite the great efforts and research directed at them, are the promises and hopes that have been placed on nanotechnology to reach successful and conclusive treatments for various types of cancers that affect humans. Although most of these promises have not been realized, there are great developments related to cancer, starting with methods of detection, prevention, and finally treatment, and there are some companies specialized in this field, which we will look at in this report.
Research centers for nanotechnology in the Kingdom
The Kingdom is one of the first countries to adopt nanotechnology and has devoted efforts and financial support to it since about 2006, including the King Abdullah Center for Nanotechnology of King Saud University, which is a center specialized in nanotechnology research and its applications, training specialized scientific cadres, as well as spreading scientific awareness of nanotechnology. Nano and its technologies. The research directions of the center are in the areas of water technology, nanomedicine, uses of nanotechnology in the environment and renewable energy. The center has advanced technical laboratories that contain equipment for dealing with tiny particles. Over the past ten years, the center has obtained 39 patents in nanotechnology from patent offices in the United States, Europe and King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology.
The other research center is the Center of Excellence for Research for Nanotechnology at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, which was established in 2007 and focuses in its activities on industrial applications of nanotechnology, especially with regard to oil and petrochemical industries, including, for example, microscopic machines to study nanomaterials capable of discovering residual oil. The center has just over 50 patents in the past four years.
Also, in 2007, the Nanotechnology Center was established at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, which has a lot of advanced research and contains research equipment and supplies and specialized laboratories, and focuses in its work on the engineering, pharmaceutical, medical and genetic fields as well as materials science.
There are other bodies that have research centers and interests in the field of nanotechnology, such as King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, where King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology was one of the first research bodies in the Kingdom to establish laboratories and research centers in 2007, and presented hundreds of research in this field.
What about the dangers of nanotechnology?
Since the launch of the nano revolution in the eighties, a number of concerns have been raised about this technology, its uses and effects on human health, due to the small size of the particles used in the technology and the fear of the possibility of inhaling it through the air and entering the human body in a way that its health effects in humans cannot be known. There are concerns about the ease of penetration of these particles into the tissues of the body, penetrating the membranes of the lungs, and affecting the work and pulse of the heart, as well as unknown dangers if these particles reach the human nervous system. These fears are justified, as the human body already has the ability to deal with many natural impurities and nanoparticles, but no one knows how the human body will respond to new man-made microscopic particles that may contain chemicals that the body cannot handle properly.
Because of these concerns, there have been international efforts to issue legislation and impose certain specifications to regulate the process of using technology and raise the level of awareness and responsibility towards it.
It is noted in the table of the top ten countries in the field of nano-research, that the highest growth rate in the number of research issued in 2020 compared to 2019 is for the Kingdom, where the percentage is 45 percent, while it is within 10 percent for the rest of the countries!
Nanotechnology storms “Wall Street” 2007
About 15 years ago, the corridors of “Wall Street” were abuzz with excessively optimistic news and speculation about nanotechnology, and how it would change the course of life because of the enormous potential that this new technology would offer. It is known that stock markets always anticipate events due to the speed of investors in seizing opportunities and early entry into any new and promising areas. In fact, it is known that stock markets anticipate the economic movement in many countries, as it has become one of the best means of predicting the future movement of the overall economy, Unemployment levels, interest rates, etc.
Are there listed companies specialized in nanotechnology?
There are a number of companies that use nanotechnology in their activities and achieve high results in the quality and diversity of their products, in a way that was not possible in the past. Many major industrial companies use nanotechnology in one way or another, but here we shed light on companies that are highly specialized in technology or at least benefit from it in achieving a large part of their annual revenues.
Some pharmaceutical companies and medical companies that adopt nanotechnology
Most of the applications of nanotechnology in the medical field revolve around detection and sensing mechanisms and the best ways to deliver drugs to disease sites in innovative, accurate ways. Among the largest and well-known companies in this field are Amgen, Biogen, Merck, Gilead, Pfizer, Sanofi, Roche and others. However, there are smaller companies that specialize more than these. big companies.
Among those small companies that make extensive use of nanotechnology in the medical field is Jazz Pharmaceuticals, which has treatments for sleep-disordered patients and muscle paralysis, and effective treatments for some cancers and neurological diseases. The company is a medium-sized company with a market value of ten billion dollars, sales of 2.5 billion dollars, and profits of about 500 million dollars.
There are other medical companies that benefit from nanotechnology in particular, including the Japanese Eisai Co, the French company Ipsen and the American company Arrowhead.
Thermo Fisher Scientific
This company is specialized in the natural sciences, established in 1956, and focuses in its work on providing solutions to support nanotechnology activities around the world, from various measuring devices to laboratory equipment and providing the tools and means necessary for virus detection and examination for pathogens and contaminants. The company has several products related to genetic engineering and biological products, including products related to the fight against the novel coronavirus.
The company has a significant growth in sales and profitability, as its sales rose from $21 billion in 2017 to about $36 billion in the past 12 months, and its profits during the same period rose from about $2 billion to $8 billion. Thermo Fisher is one of the big companies, with a market value of $209 billion.
The Chemours Company
This company was established in 2014 and is highly specialized in employing nanotechnology in its work, and it works in several delicate fields, including titanium technologies that produce industrial dyes that give a bright white color to many products, as well as products used in cooling and special solutions related to the production of polymers and advanced raw materials, to Besides, it has chemical products that are used in the manufacture of gold and some industrial and household products.
The company has a slight decrease in sales after 2018, with a loss of $52 million in 2019, but profits rebounded to reach $219 million in 2020, and the stock rose as a result. The company is a medium-sized company in terms of market capitalization of $ 5.3 billion, and over the past two months the stock has received three buy recommendations from “Goldman Sachs”, “Argus Research” and B of A Securities, and the stock price is still close to its price at the time of those recommendations.
BPG is one of the oldest industrial companies in the United States, where it was founded in 1883, and it was and still specializes in coating materials, coatings, coverings, producing industrial solutions, insulators and adhesives for a large number of sectors such as cars, planes, trains, ships, roads and bridges, and its products and services are sold to the commercial and military sectors. The company is characterized by the production of covering materials for metals, which have been developed using nanotechnology in order to obtain unique properties to meet the needs of customers in terms of durability, ability to withstand different climatic conditions and adherence to health requirements, and these materials are found in protective covers for food and beverage cans, packaging of pipes and plastic structures, and in The field of packaging materials in general.
Nanotechnology caused a sensation in the media about 15 years ago, and despite the media hype and exaggerations against this great technology, the technology has already entered into several fields and a large number of products have already been produced that have benefited from the microscopic accuracy of this technology that works in areas not exceeding 100 nanometers. There are still hopes for medical discoveries and effective treatments for a number of rare and incurable diseases.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the most important countries in the field of nanotechnology-related research, in comparison with the number of scientific publications and patents obtained. Finally, in this report, a number of companies listed in the international markets that are specialized in the field of nanotechnology, or at least those that benefit from technology in some of their most important products and activities, were reviewed.