Establish in Chile a multidisciplinary group/center devoted to the study of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology.
During the last decade Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (N&N) reached the forefront of present day attention all over the world due to its fascinating advances in basic or fundamental science, and relevant technological achievements, holding spectacular promises for new technologies.
Nanoscience and nanotechnology will have an impact in the twenty-first century equivalent to the one generated by the transistor and semiconductor physics in the twentieth century. In addition, the range of applications that become possible with this nano-atomic “tailoring” is immense, but most importantly, many unforeseeable uses will be added to the list of success stories as time evolves. Nanoscience and nanotechnology (N&N) was given priority by the present Chilean government administration, which is starting to crystallize into specific actions and programs.
Our Center, the Centro para el Desarrollo de la Nanociencia y la Nanotecnología (CEDENNA) has the potential to become the leading center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology in Chile, considering the high quality of the multidisciplinary human resources, (11 senior researchers, 19 high level associated researchers, 17 young researchers and post-docs, and more than 50 undergraduate and graduate students). In CEDENNA, basic scientists, experts in technology applications and transfer, as well as companies and private organizations converge in a synergic effort to contribute to the Chile’s development. Together with research in fundamental science, this Center will develop specific activities leading to the application and transfer of research results, as well as outreach to other sectors, which, in general, are not involved in N&N. In addition to the training of highly qualified human resources, and a very innovative outreach plan, CEDENNA has its focus on fundamental and applied research with a strategic vision.
Our fundamental research objectives are focused on the following areas: Magnetic and Laminar Nanostructures, where highly ordered arrays of magnetic nanowires and nanotubes and low dimensional, hybrid organic-inorganic functionalized nanostructures are investigated; Molecular Magnetism, where the investigation of polymetallic species is addressed; Cluster and Nanostructure Array Modeling, where, by means of first principle calculations, classical methods and numerical simulations, the behavior of isolated nanoparticles or arrays is studied. All these topics are of multidisciplinary character, involve many research groups, and are a natural extension of the work that the different groups which are involved in this proposal are carrying out at present. However, they also point towards the synergies and interactions that we expect to fully develop during the implementation of this project. The fundamental research topics outlined above have already reached world class standard, as can be verified from the publications and thesis already developed. This fundamental research constitutes the basis for the training and formation of highly qualified personnel. We expect, in the long run, to develop the so-called “technology push” areas in which academic research is converted, via patents and licenses, into technology and then into profitable business. We are also seeking practical objectives of N&N, which are mainly focused on the application of functionalized nanoparticles in the Packing Industry, where films with nanocompounds to control the permeability of gases and active containers with anti-microbial activity will be produced; the Environment, where nanoparticles will be used to contribute to the solutions of some severe problems, such as heavy metal and oil pollution of soil and water resources; Biomedicine and the improvement of animal farming, where nanoparticles will be used in the programmed release of compounds used in aquaculture, swine culture farms and localized drug delivery. For our country, (nearing the status of a developing nation) the benefit of research may also derive from the process itself rather than from the usefulness of its results. However, our applied research will, in a short time, indeed produce applications, patents, and technical development that will benefit directly the people involved as well as the Chilean industry.
Science, industry, and the economy are different fields of society that exhibit distinctly different sets of institutional arrangements, cultural schemes, scripts, and mental models. Many regional innovation systems have an excellent performance in scientific research, but fail to transfer the new scientific knowledge into applications with social benefits. From the perspective of innovation systems, the line of thought establishes that science, industry, and the government should work together to improve local science-based technology and local competitiveness. Based on this general principle, applicable also in Chile our country, the mission of CEDENNA will be the bridging of the gap between fundamental science in areas such as Physics, Chemistry and Biology, and industry. We have been searching for opportunities in areas where cost-effective innovations are foreseen. At this point we visualize such opportunities in animal farming, an emerging biomedical industry, environment and packaging.
The intention of the “Center for the Development of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (CEDENNA)” is to become an internationally competitive research center in nanoscience and nanotechnology (N&N), with the main focus activities in the formation of highly qualified human resources, generation of significant contributions to knowledge, and fostering the development of technological innovations arising from this emerging area. This focus will launch CEDENNA as a national and regional center of excellence in N&N, which should be recognized by the high level of the technological and scientific achievements of the researchers working at this Center by the international scientific community. To accomplish these objectives, the Center will prepare and execute R&D programs and N&N projects aimed at generating innovative applications, which should improve efficiency and contribute to the diversity of Chilean industry. We believe that with the resources granted, CEDENNA will have the capacity to conceptualize, design and produce nanomaterials with useful electrical, mechanical, magnetic, and optical characteristics, and biological compatibility, using ad-hoc nanoscale fabrication technology, as required for each intended application. CEDENNA will direct its nanotechnological outreach to act as problem solving in diverse areas of particular interest for Chilean and global interest as well. Besides the fundamental research, that is already of world standard, we have foreseen to focus on different applications to accomplish the main goals of the Center. Therefore we have established practical objectives of short, medium and long term.
In the fundamental research area, our short term objectives are related to building central experimental facilities to design, synthesize, characterize and test materials at the nanoscale. This work will involve the experimental and theoretical groups of our Center. We have already started to work on the synthesis and functionalization of zeolite and imogolite with nanoparticles of magnetite.
These efforts have been successful and we have recently sent for publication a paper involving researchers from different CEDENNA groups. Also, we have presented a patent application for the magnetization process in micro and nano compounds. Besides, a short term goal in outreach is to establish strong connections with the CONICYT-EXPLORA program to convey to students and scholars the importance of science in nowaday life and, in particular, the role that nanotechnology can play in our wellbeing. Another short term objective is focused on the improvement of our links with national enterprises. In relation to human resources, we expect to increase the number of graduate students, and also to start thesis work in fields related to the different areas of the Center. It is also important to point out that we will promote that undergraduate students develop thesis in the Center, which is a strong way to create interest among students about N&N.
A medium term objective is the creation of knowledge on nanoarchitectonics and molecular engineering directed to design, build, and characterize novel nanomaterials and to unleash the potential of nanotechnology. Researchers of the Center have the expertise and the background in several areas such as the study of hybrid organic-inorganic functionalized nanostructures. They are also involved in topics such as relationships between composition, molecular structure, size, and morphology of the particles. The properties, as well as the interactions and mechanisms involved in the generation of the nanocomposites and their potential use as materials in fields like soil and water pollution remediation, drug delivery, and smart food packaging, will be studied.
Long term objectives are related to the creation within CEDENNA of a multidisciplinary graduate program in competitive technological areas based on nanotechnology that will enable us to train qualified human resources with a strategic vision. As a long term goal we are also considering the marketing of the products developed through licensing or spin-off mechanisms.