Recent Advances in Nanoscale Materials
How is nanotechnology exploited by the cosmetics industry? How can nanoparticles be used in non-powered memory devices? What are the optical properties of metallic versus semiconductor nanoparticles?
These compelling questions and more were deftly addressed by the experts at this year’s Advanced Materials for Micro- and Nano-Systems (AMM&NS) Summer Short Course, held on 9-13 July 2007 at NUS.
Following a successful inaugural run last year, the 2007 session attracted another strong turnout from academia, research institutes and industry. The 5-day course was helmed by Prof Carl V Thompson and Assoc Prof Francesco Stellacci, both from MIT, and Asst Prof Liu Xiaogang from NUS. Overall, attendees gave the event a thumbs-up for the excellent lecture quality.
With the theme Introduction to Processing and Properties of Nanoscale Materials, the intensive course allowed industry participants to update themselves on the novel properties and recent advances in synthesis and characterization of these materials. On a nanoscale, electrical, optical and thermal properties are distinct compared to their bulk counterparts. As nanomaterials are highly tunable and efficient, it is precisely these unique properties that industry can exploit.
According to Assoc Prof Stellacci, most materials on a nanoscale can be dispersed in a solvent, with a fraction made indefinitely stable and ‘truly soluble’. Biological actors such as proteins and enzymes are naturally in the order of nanometres, so the body has distinct reactions at this scale. “These are the reasons why cosmetics remains the biggest market for nanomaterial applications. Pharmaceutical giant Merck KGaA alone produces tons of silica nanoparticles a year,” the Finmeccanica Assoc Professor said.
Participants gained insight from the field authorities on nanomaterial application in electronics too, as in the case of Nanosys, Inc., which was cited for using nanoparticles’ capacity for electron storage to develop non-volatile memory for MP3 players, mobile phones and digital cameras.
During an industry round-table session held in conjunction with the event, ideas were shared on developing a stronger interface between industry and the AMM&NS Programme. Some industry members seized the opportunity to surface their areas of interest. The participants acknowledged that the purpose of research was not limited to solving the companies’ problems but should also include opening new markets and creating new products.
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