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NanoLockin is developing, producing and selling instruments for the detection and quantification of nanoparticles based on their heating due to light absorption. The company is located in Fribourg, Switzerland - founded in 2018 as a spin-off of the Adolphe-Merkle-Institute and the ZHAW School of Engineering.
Most nanoparticles absorb light and produce heat when subjected to light irradiation. The heat generated by nanoparticles is measured and quantified using lock-in thermography. Additionally, different nanoparticle materials can be analyzed by modifying the irradiation wavelength as each type of nanoparticle has a specific thermal signature. This principal is used by NanoLockin's analytical devices.
The Calorsito VIS-NIR operates at a wavelength range between 400 and 950 nm (Figure 1). It is equipped with an LED array to easily select and change the appropriate wavelength for the experiment. A second instrument, which operates in the UV at 320nm, is currently being developed.
The instruments are standalone devices, which are easy to use and can be operated by anyone after a short introduction and without complicated training. The uniqueness of the method lies in the simplicity of the measurement combined with a fast readout and no need for sample labeling or complex preparation steps, leading to significant time and cost savings for nanoparticle analysis (Figure 2).
With NanoLockin's devices, large surface area analysis is easily feasible and can provide more comprehensive information than conventional microscopic methods. Figure 3 shows the comparison of the capabilities of NanoLockin's devices compared to state-of-the-art methods for nanomaterial analysis.
Our customers are industry branches producing and applying/using nanoparticles (e.g. electronics, medical products, food, cosmetics) with a focus on quality assurance and product development. In addition, public and private (research) laboratories are interested in our instruments for basic and applied research. Finally, governmental institutions could also implement our technology for screening products that include nanoparticles.
Our business model is the sale of the analytical devices to academic and industrial research laboratories as well as analytics and industrial laboratories. The price is in the range of 50,000 Euro. Additionally, NanoLockin is offering the measurements as a service, especially for industrial customers. Individual models with measurement services as starting point and later sale of a device taking into account the service turnovers are possible. Furthermore, renting devices is possible. Special discounts are offered, if the customer is willing to participate in application studies which will be published.
In a variety of studies, we could show that our measurements are suitable to rapidly screen a large number of samples without complex sample preparation. It is possible to analyze the “quality/reproducibility” of nanoparticles after their synthesis, their dissolution (e.g. silver nanoparticles) and/or colloidal stability in different fluids (e.g. biological or physiological media), or to detect and quantify carbon-based materials. It can, for example, be used to detect and quantify carbon nanotubes in cells or tissues without particle modification or (e.g. dye) labeling (see Figure 4).
Our technology will not replace the use of other established methods, such as electron or confocal microscopy, but can be used as a fast and complementary method to screen large sample numbers.