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View from India: Nano science becoming increasingly heterogeneous

Nanotechnology is being tapped for its interdisciplinary nature through specialised nano science centres.

Two different locations, Bangalore in the south and Mohali, Punjab, in the north-west of the country are home to these centres. Both centres - the Centre for Nano Science and Engineering in Bangalore and the Institute of Nano Science and Technology in Mohali - have been envisioned to make nanotechnology the next frontier technology through collaborative research, patents and outreach programmes. All this and more has been revealed at the ninth edition of the Bengaluru India Nano 2017 event.

The spotlight was on the Mohali Institute at the event, as Prof. Ashok K. Ganguli is its founding director. He was awarded the Prof. CNR Rao Bangalore India Nano Science 2017 Award, which carries a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh. The award, from the CNR Rao Foundation, was presented by Prof CNR Rao.

What is known is that Prof. Ganguli scores for his design applications for energy and environment. However, the seeds of nano science were sown much earlier. The awardee is a relatively early entrant to nano science, as he began to pursue it way back in 1999. “The application of nano science with long term deliverables is important. The significance lies in converting the properties of nano science into usable products, the process will be facilitated by technology,” said Prof. Ganguli.

The Institute of Nano Science and Technology is focusing on making nano structures for solar energy and low-cost nano absorbents for water purification. Even electric waste is being tapped as high alkaline batteries are being converted as field emitters. “We are discussing this technology with battery manufacturers. Toxic waste emitted from industries has been put to use in the form of nano structure materials for textile dyeing,” added Prof. Ganguli.

The Centre for Nano Science and Engineering in Bangalore has researched on several products including nano tubes and graphene. The thrust is on nanoscale systems, solar cells and nano materials. At an industry level, some companies have come forward and shown interest in the research areas.

Through the development of nano science, chemists are beginning to speak to biologists and physicists connect with mathematicians. New tools and solutions will be developed to address and solve complexities in science, medicine and engineering. At a broader level, nano science finds applications in healthcare, luxury and consumer goods and auto industry, among others.  

Besides nano neuroscience, biochemistry and tissue engineering, what is gaining popularity is the use of nanotechnology for applications in bio medicine, especially in cases of bio imaging for detecting cancer cells. Nanotechnology facilitates multimodal imaging and therapy for radiation and advanced healthcare requirements, apart from being tapped for monitoring the blood sugar level. The application of nanotechnology is healthcare is vast, pointed out Prof. Krishna N Ganesh, director Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Tirupati (IISER).

“The challenges in medicine lie in the detection and diagnosis, biomaterials prosthetics, drugs and drug delivery that are now being addressed by nano science. We can use quantum dots to detect cancer, intercellular imaging and multiplex diagnosis. Nano particles can be tapped for DNA sensing, electro bio sensing and drug delivery. Nanoparticle drugs are now available for ovarian and breast cancer as well,” added Prof. Ganesh.

In times to come, nanotechnology should be leveraged to create affordable devices to harness the power of natural resources for solar energy and potable clean water.

Let’s hope all these efforts begin to attract venture capitalists (VCs) who will begin to invest in nanotechnology.

Here’s wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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