The pi man: Entrepreneur sets his hope on a big number

First, it was the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence. Then came William Shakespeare’s sonnets and J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.” Now, NanoJems is trying to put the first million digits of pi on a pendant.

How? Using its own patented micro-engraving technology and money gathered at Kickstarter, the online funding platform.

The Reno-based company run by nanotechnology pros launched its Kickstarter project last month and hopes to raise $16,800 before Aug. 27. The goal is to etch the million digits onto single-crystal gems which can be mounted on pendants or lockets as jewelry in time to celebrate National Pi day — March 14.

The achievement might also get NanoJems into the Guinness Book of World Records, according to Jesse Adams, co-founder of the company, who says the organization asked them to submit an application for etching the most digits of pi.

NanoJems, founded in 2001, engraves jewelry with varying sizes of words from famous documents such as the Constitution. Some text can be read by the naked eye, some with a jeweler’s loupe and some with a digital microscope, available for sale at its Web site.

“We bridge the credibility gap by having a combination,” says Adams.

Some of the engravings can be read only with a high-powered microscope, which NanoJems hopes to make available for buyers to use at destination stores in the future.

The company also envisions fundraising events and viewing parties where the microscopes will be part of the entertainment, all to raise money for groups such as Wounded Warriors and the Boy Scouts, two organizations the company is talking to about using the engraved jewelry as gifts and memorabilia. NanoJems donates 10 percent of sales made to non-profits back to the buyer.

Adams, a University of Nevada, Reno, graduate who holds a masters of science degree and a doctorate from Stanford University, is also involved with two other local nanotechnology start-ups: NanoLabz, which is developing cancer therapy, and Nevada Nanotech Systems Inc., which makes sensor modules that can detect molecule types for applications such as shipping security and drug development.

With NanoJems, Adams is focused right now on driving backers to its Kickstarter campaign.

“I want to get the word out about pi,” says Adams. “It’s a cool number.”


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