Little things please learned minds

Scientists in the UK have received a boost of £18 million to set up new research collaborations in nanotechnology.

The money will be split between two consortia with one in bionanotechnlogy led by Oxford University, with the Universities of Glasgow and York, and the National Institute for Medical Research.

This collaboration also involves links with the Universities of Cambridge, Nottingham and Southampton.

The other is in nanotechnology and is led by Cambridge University, with University College London and the University of Bristol.

These Interdiscliplinary Research Collaborations are funded by three of the UK Governments’ Science Research Councils (EPSRC and BBSRC based in Swindon, and MRC based in London) and the Ministry of Defence.

The essence of this research is to make and use structures at the nanometre scale. It’s a multidisciplinary field involving materials scientists, chemists, physicists, biochemists, molecular biologists, engineers and applied mathematicians.

The enormous advances made during the last twenty years mean that the tools to make and measure minute objects on the molecular scale have become available.

Scientists anticipate extraordinary advances in manufacturing using these tools. Computers will shrink, medical diagnosis and treatment will be almost instantaneous and non-invasive, energy wastage will be dramatically reduced and the environment will become increasingly clean.

The Cambridge University led Consortium is directed by Professor Mark Welland, Head of the Nanoscale Science Laboratory in the Department of Engineering.

‘Nanotechnlogy is unique in that it brings together all the scientific and engineering disciplines,’ said Professor Welland. ‘This will inevitably lead to very significant scientific breakthroughs that in turn will fuel the diverse economies that will be nanotechnology based in the future.

‘The investment by Government funding agencies to establish new collaborations in nanotechnology will ensure that the UK plays a leading role in both scientific and commercial arenas.’

The Consortia will be supported with ‘ring-fenced’ funding for up to six years, after which they will revert to conventional means of support.

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