Anew £2m facility at a North university could help manufacturers make smaller and faster gadgets - and even see a move towards plastic electronics.
The region's Centre of Excellence in Nanotechnology Micro and Photonic Systems (Cenamps) is working with one of the country's leading nanotech companies to build a new research and development facility at Newcastle University - the first of its kind in the UK.
It is hoped the new unit, which will open in the summer, will help electronic companies make more hi-tech computers, televisions and mobile phones which will use less power.
Cenamps also believes the technology could be useful in sealing components in equipment to prevent corrosion.
Dr David Robbins, chief technology officer for Cenamps, said: "There is a £2m capital investment to create a new clean room on the university campus and install equipment.
"There is the opportunity to work closely with the microelectronics research group. They have a very strong reputation for the quality of their work."
A new clean room is being created by refurbishing a laboratory in the university's Merz Court building.
It will house the `FlexAL ALD' tool which uses the `Atomic Layer Deposition' technique to build thin films on surfaces one atomic layer at a time.
ALD is an emerging technology that is rapidly being adopted in hi-tech industries including electronics and communications.
The facility will have three staff from Cenamps doing commercial work, and around the same number from the university working on academic research.
Dr Robbins added: "ALD is an extremely specialised technique requiring complex equipment and very clean conditions. The coatings can be accurately controlled down to a thickness of one nanometre, which is 100,000 times thinner than a sheet of paper, and hold exciting possibilities for a range of industries - from electronics to food packaging."
Chris Hodson, applications specialist at Oxford Instruments, the company working with Cenamps, said: "ALD has both established and many new exciting application areas.
"We see the Cenamps foundry service as key to realising the benefits ALD can bring to these new areas, by enabling organisations to explore ALD at low commercial risk."
* Dr Robbins is looking for North-East companies with an interest in ALD technology being used to seal equipment to prevent corrosion. He is to attend a European meeting to look at research in the area next week, and would welcome input from industry. He can be contacted on (0191) 280-4782.