Making a Big Impact at the Nano Level

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 4:37 pm    Post subject: Making a Big Impact at the Nano Level Reply with quote

Scotland is playing a leading role in the development of nanoscale technologies; with universities having been involved in nanotechnology since the 1980s, and long-established research groups at Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, St Andrews, Heriot-Watt and Paisley all enjoying international reputations.

Nanotechnology is having a significant impact in disciplines such as electronics, optoelectronics, cancer research, genomics and bioengineering; all areas where Scotland’s tradition of excellence and innovation in research is widely recognised.

As well as leading the way in research, Scotland is home to the Institute of Nanotechnology, which acts as a bridge between innovation and industry, making sure all parties know about the exciting developments taking place.

“Nanotechnology is at the leading edge of all scientific development and has applications in most industries,” says Ottilia Saxl, CEO and founder of the Institute.

“Scotland’s strengths, as a small country that produces and attracts some of the best scientific brains, lie in innovation, and we are proving adept at bringing the benefits of nanotechnology to bear in key areas such as medicine, electronics and new materials.”

There are a number of key opportunities for nanotechnology, including medicine, with the development of better therapies in terms of medical diagnostics and devices.

The increasing focus on the environment means that people are looking for technologies that are less resource intensive. At the same time, there will always be a demand for anything that improves manufacturing processes. These are both areas where nanotechnology could have a positive impact.

A number of Scottish companies are enjoying great success in these areas thanks to nanotechnology. Among them is Glasgow-based XstalBio, a spin-out from the Universities of Strathclyde and Glasgow.

Nanotechnology has enabled the company to develop a new system of drug delivery, which offers an alternative to injections.

XstalBio produces Protein-Coated Microcrystals (PCMC) – water-soluble micron-sized particles on which a therapeutic biomolecule can be coated. The size of the PCMC means that the drug can be delivered by inhalation.

With the global market for engineered protein and peptide drugs estimated at around $8.6 billion, XstalBio’s alternative and highly preferable delivery mechanism has significant potential.

The wide-ranging applications for nanotechnology are highlighted by Burntisland-based company Cellucomp, which has produced a high performance, environment friendly, bio-composite material.

Co-founders Dr Eric Whale and Dr David Hepworth have developed a material from natural sources that has superior properties to glass fibre in terms of strength, stiffness and density and almost matches carbon fibre.

“What we’re doing is essentially breaking down plant material and trying to use the nano fibres that are in there naturally and tap into their properties, which can be up in the region of carbon fibre,” explains Eric.

“Having the ability to utilise these materials at the nano-level has allowed us to build a better bio-composite.”

The company’s first product made with the new material is a fishing rod, which was launched in March, and Eric sees a range of other potential uses from the automotive industry to aerospace.

As the co-founder of a young Scottish company involved in nanotechnology, Eric is well aware of our strengths in this area.

“Nanotechnology is certainly a growing area in Scotland and there’s a hub of companies that are benefiting from the capabilities that it offers. Interest has been growing and I have no doubt that people will continue to find innovative and exciting applications for nanotechnology,” he says.

Scottish Enterprise, together with the Institute of Nanotechnology, is producing a comprehensive directory of nanotechnology capability in Scotland. This will be available for download in the next issue of Scottish Technology News.


Story posted: 4th May 2007
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