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Argonne scientists win Federal Laboratory Consortium Award for ultra-smooth diamond film


ARGONNE, Ill. (Feb. 24, 2006) — Two scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory are co-recipients of the 2006 Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer from the Federal Laboratory Consortium.

The award recognizes their work to develop and commercialize a novel diamond coating technology, Ultrananocrystalline Diamond™ (UNCD™), which has enormous potential for applications ranging from biomedical implants, high-band width telecommunication systems, and micro/nano manufacturing. The technology has been licensed to Advanced Diamond Technologies, Inc. (ADT) of Champaign, Ill.

The Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer recognizes laboratory employees who have accomplished outstanding work in the process of transferring a technology developed by a federal laboratory to the commercial marketplace. A distinguished panel of technology transfer experts from industry, state and local government, academia, and the federal laboratory system evaluated the nominations.

UNCD is a form of carbon that capture’s many of the properties of diamond in thin film form but can be deposited on a wide variety of surfaces in thin layers. UNCD consists of diamond grains only 5 nanometers in size. The average human hair could contain 40,000 UNCD grains across its diameter. UNCD coatings are as hard as single crystal diamond (the hardest known material on Earth), but, unlike natural diamond, its properties can be adjusted and optimized for a given application.

The material is a superb electrical insulator, but can also be made to be highly conductive, and this conductivity can be tuned. This work has led to the use of UNCD for biosensors that use electrochemical reactions to detect biomolecules. It is also chemically inert and compatible with biological tissues, traits that have led to promising research into prosthetic implants for the eye as part of an artificial retina, as well as other bio-devices such as an artificial pancreas.

Formed in 2003, ADT was the first Argonne start-up company owned by the laboratory and the University of Chicago, establishing a new paradigm for technology transfer at the laboratory. Argonne’s John Carlisle and Orlando Auciello, the scientific founders of ADT and the recipients of the 2006 FLC Award, both developed the technology and worked closely with Argonne’s Office of Technology Transfer to develop the new paradigm and spin-off ADT. Others involved include Neil Kane, ADT co-founder and president, Stephen D. Ban, director of Argonne’s Office of Technology Transfer, Donald Joyce, Argonne’s deputy director, and Alan Thomas and Robert Rosenberg, both in the Office of the Vice President at the University of Chicago.

“UNCD is a platform technology with numerous potential beneficial applications in such areas as medicine, transportation and industrial production,” Ban said. “We decided more value can be captured by establishing a company than licensing individual patents piecemeal.”

The development of the device for producing UNCD received a 2003 R&D 100 award, given to the most innovative developments during the year.

“One of the goals of the national laboratories is to provide benefits to industry and the public by moving discoveries into everyday use,” said Ban. “Spinning off a company brings in private funds to take the risks of commercial development. Such development leads to benefits for everyone, and demonstrates the value of using tax dollars to support our early-stage scientific research.”

More information about Advanced Diamond Technologies can be found online at

The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory conducts basic and applied scientific research across a wide spectrum of disciplines, ranging from high-energy physics to climatology and biotechnology. Since 1990, Argonne has worked with more than 600 companies and numerous federal agencies and other organizations to help advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for the future. Argonne is managed by the University of Chicago for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.


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