IBM uses “ninja” nanotechnology to tackle world issues and not “waste time” on semiconductors.
Sun 27 Apr 2014
This article by Fast Company takes The Stack a little off our normal track but this is a fascinating tale for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it is the computing giant turning its R&D away from making computers go faster to saving lives. Secondly, just because the technology itself is amazing. I didn’t know IBM even had an advanced organic materials group but they produced the polymer-based “ninja particles” that can kill off MRSA and these polymers are now being lined up for other big tasks like new methods of drug delivery and combating diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Who knows, in a few years this work could help IBM get out of IT altogether….
“Although it has yet to yield a commercial product (Narayan says several joint ventures are in the works), the program also makes sense from a business perspective. Even as the price of computing power keeps falling for consumers, R&D and manufacturing costs are steadily increasing for semiconductor producers. That’s squeezing profits: Between 2000 and 2012, IBM’s hardware business went from contributing 35% of the company’s pretax income to just 14%. Perhaps that’s why in February 2014, Big Blue reportedly hired Goldman Sachs to explore a potential sale of its semiconductor operation. New areas such as nanomedicine could offer a way for IBM to continue profiting from its cutting-edge research in nanomaterials even if it does get out of semiconductors. “Now we have an IT–centric focus,” says Narayan, “but there’s no reason we couldn’t be more materials-focused, providing enabling technology for other companies.”