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Emerging sector benefits local companies

Although nanotechnology development in Oregon is in an early stage, some companies here already are benefiting from the emerging sector.

Two of them, FEI Co. in Hillsboro and Portland-based IDC Inc., make 'tools' that nanotech researchers need to do their work.

• FEI ÑÊwhich last year had $341 million in sales, largely to the semiconductor and data storage markets Ñ makes a variety of powerful electron microscopes and 'ion beam' systems for nanoscale imaging and analysis. The instruments make it possible for researchers to see, in three dimensions, atomic-scale structures and to alter or manipulate them.

'The trend toward decreasing feature sizes and the need for structural information will be ongoing drivers for our business,' says Jay Lindquist, FEI senior vice president of corporate marketing and strategic planning.

FEI's customers range from such companies as Intel, LSI Logic, Hewlett-Packard, Fujitsu and Hitachi to universities and research labs, including Portland State University, Oregon Health & Science University, University of Oregon, Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Cambridge University and the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego.

FEI has operations in Massachusetts, California, the Netherlands and Czech Republic. The Dutch corporate giant Philips Electronics has a 25 percent ownership stake in FEI.

• IDC Inc., or Industrial Design & Construction, designs and builds research labs for companies and institutions involved in nanotech research. Based in Portland, it is a subdivision of CH2M Hill and has offices in seven states and five countries, including three in China.

The company's worldwide commercial and university clients include Albany NanoTech at the University of Albany, New York; Center for Integrated Nanotechnology, Sandia National Labs, Albuquerque, N.M.; and the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta. The company also is helping to build a nanotech research facility for the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Seoul, South Korea.

As for Oregon, IDC spokesman Ted Johnson says, 'It's not at all a leap of logic to imagine that nanotechnology would be a type of technology we could successfully serve well here in the Northwest.'

ÑÊMary Bellotti