UL celebrates science of the very fast and very small

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Taking part in the workshops were Sean Chitedze and Ola Olatilewa, Thomond Primary School, with Maryam Karimijafari, SSPC, UL. Picture: Alan Place/Fusionshooters.
Taking part in the workshops were Sean Chitedze and Ola Olatilewa, Thomond Primary School, with Maryam Karimijafari, SSPC, UL. Picture: Alan Place/Fusionshooters.

THE University of Limerick celebrated the vital importance of nanotechnology during NanoWeek in Ireland last week.

At the university’s NanoWeek conference, UL researcher Dr Damien Thompson and his collaborator Prof Christian Nijhuis at the National University of Singapore explained how they developed a range of molecular devices that may help put the technology into nanotechnology.

The university also hosted two Nanoscience Workshops, bringing nanotechnology to DEIS primary schools around Limerick.

The workshops ‘SSPC Smell Factory’, ‘Science Live!’ and ‘Nano in a suitcase’ sought to inspire primary school students to learn more about nanoscience.

“Nanotechnology promises a step-change improvement in our quality of life, by creating new types of materials and devices that work ‘from the bottom up’.

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“We can use nanotechnology to change the nature of existing materials to better suit our needs, making our smart technology even faster; we can create entirely new materials with the exact kind of properties we require, giving us the possibility, for example, of faster lighter aircraft,” said Dr Thompson.

Their advance, published this month in the leading journals Nano Letters and Advanced Materials, is to create devices that do not suffer from defects and so work better and last longer than previously achieved.

Dr Thompson explained: “Working down at one billionth of a meter means forgetting what you’ve learned about how the world works at the human scale. The rules that apply to us large, slow creatures completely break down. Matter is more fluid, crystals become waxy and even metals are liquid. We are slowing learning to work with this ‘weird science’, a new frontier where unexpected, and wonderful things can happen.”

The conference brought together international speakers from technology companies, Irish industry representatives, and research and investment communities to share experiences in the commercialisation and application of nanotechnology and to highlight the nanoscience research and expertise currently available.

John Neilan, director of Research and Development at Cook Medical said: “Nanotechnology and the science of how we solve problems is having significant impact on how we approach disease, design medical devices, and treat patients in the near future.

“Conferences such as this are critical for sharing and raising the awareness of new technologies and techniques that can help us solve existing complex medical challenges. These conferences are also a great opportunity to network and spark new areas and ideas for industry/academic collaboration.”