Monday, April 30, 2012

Nano Mission – Towards Global Knowledge Hub

Nano Technology is acknowledge-intensive and ‘enabling technology’ which will influence a wide range of products and processes. It will have far-reaching implications for national economy and development. The Department of Science and Technology (DST) launched many initiatives over the period of time and Nano was one of them. DST launched a modest programme called Nano Science and Technology Initiative (NIST) in 2001 in Nano Sciences. The Nano Mission is successor of this programme. The Government approved this as Nano Mission in 2007 with an allocation of Rs 1000/- crore for 5 years. The Nano Mission has been structured in a manner to achieve synergy between the national research efforts of various agencies in this field and launch new programmes in a concerted fashion. Today India has emerged 6th worldwide in terms of scientific publications. An active research community of about 1000 researchers has emerged. Besides, some interesting applications have already come out of the country.
Capacity building of the research is of utmost importance for Nano Mission so that India can emerge as a global knowledge hub. Large number of man power is getting prime attention in research and fundamental aspects of Nano science and training. Nano Mission is also striving for developments of products and processes for national development, especially in the area of national relevance like safe drinking water, materials development, sensors development, drug delivery etc. The objectives of Nano Mission include basic research promotion, infrastructure development, Nano applications and technology development, human resources development and international collaboration.
Basic Research Promotion
Basic research being carried out by individual scientist and /or groups of scientists will be funded. The Centers of excellence pursuing studies leading to fundamental understanding of matter that enables control and manipulation at the Nano scale will be created.
Infrastructure For Research
A chain of shared facility of expensive and sophisticated equipments required for various activities will be established across the country. Investigation on Nano scale require optical tweezer, Nano Indentor, Transmission Electron Microscope, Atomic Force Microscope, Scanning Tunneling Microscope, Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Time of Flight Mass Spectrometer, Microarray Spotter and Scanner etc.
Nano Applications and Technology Development Programme
To catalyze Nano Application and Technology Development programme leading to products and devices, the Mission proposes to promote application-oriented R&D projects, establish Nano Applications and Technology Development Centers, Nano-Technology Business Incubators etc. The industrial sector is being involved directly or through Public Private Partnership ventures into this Mission.
Human Resources Development
The Mission will focus on providing effective education and training to researchers and professionals in diversified fields so that a genuine interdisciplinary culture for nanoscale science, engineering and technology can emerge. M. A. and M. Sc. programmes will be benefited. National and Overseas post-doctoral fellowships, chairs in universities are other aspects.
International Collaboration
          Academia-industry partnership at the international level is one of the aspect under international collaboration. Besides, exploratory visits of scientists, organization of joint workshop, conferences and research projects, access to sophisticated research facilities abroad etc., are being achieved.
Structure and Activities
Nano Mission is steered by Nano Mission Council. The technical programmes are being guided by two advisory groups namely Nano Science Advisory Group (NSAG) and the Nano Applications and Technology Advisory Group (NATAG). Department of Science & Technology has supported a number of activities in Nano Science and Technology.
           Individual scientists have been supported for R & D projects. Detailed technologies have been developed for the medical purposes. Membrane scaffolds for wound healing using chitin/chitosan gels containing nanoparticles and nanoparticles for ophthalmic drug delivery have been developed by Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Kochi and Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad and USV, Mumbai respectively. Around 130 projects have been supported for individual scientists mainly working on fundamental scientific aspects of nanoscale system. Extensive studies on semiconductor nanocrystals have been undertaken in several projects. As semiconductor particles exhibit size-dependent properties like scaling of the energy gap and corresponding change in the optical properties, they are considered as technologically important materials. Several projects have looked into synthesis of important nano materials like CdSe, ZnO etc. Size tunable, organic soluble industrially important CdS, AIN, GaN and InN nanocrystals have been  prepared by employing novel solvo thermal techniques and some soft chemical routes.
The other discovery of flow of various liquids and gases over a mat of single-walled carbon nanotube (SWNT) bundles generate electrical signals. This has several important technological implications. Development of micro fluidic devices will have several applications in the fields of biotechnology, pharmaceutical industry, drug delivery, intelligent pneumatic systems, information technology etc.
DST has established an array of sophisticated equipments to enable researchers to work with nanoscale system. Eleven Units/Core Groups on Nano Science  have been sanctioned across the country. They house some of the more sophisticated facility for sharing with other scientists in the region and would help in promoting scientific research on nanoscale system in a decentralized manner. Seven centres for Nano Technology focusing on development of specific applications and a centre for excellence on Computational Materials has also been established. Joint R & D activities are taking place with several countries. DST has also promoted Joint Institution-Industry Linked Projects and some other Public Private Partnership activities for human resource development. (PIB Feature.)
Kalpana Palkhiwala*

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