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Science of the Very Fast and the Very Small at Core of NanoNet Conference 2015 in UL

21.10.2015

Science of the Very Fast and Very SmallThe vital importance of nanotechnology is being celebrated during NanoWeek in Ireland this week with the flagship event, the NanoNet Conference 2015 at the University of Limerick Wednesday 21st and Thursday 22nd October.

“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”.  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.  We can do this by using the natural tendency of atoms and molecules, the building blocks of life and everything else in the world, to assemble into 3-D architectures.”  Speaking on the eve of the NanoWeek conference at University of Limerick, UL researcher Dr Damien Thompson and his collaborator Prof Christian Nijhuis at National University of Singapore explained how they have developed a range of molecular devices that may help put the technology into nanotechnology, a field that consistently delivers fantastic science.

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 explains: “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 NanoNet Conference at UL, which is organised by NanoNet Ireland, brings together international speakers with direct experience in building technology companies, representatives from Irish industry, research and investment communities to share experiences in the commercialisation and application of nanotechnology and to highlight the nanoscience research and expertise currently available to industry in Irish Research Institutes. Speakers include Peter Dobson, University of Oxford and Strategic Advisor on Nanotechnology to UK Research Councils.

Speaking from the conference John Neilan, Director of Research and Development at Cook Medical said :“Cook Medical is delighted to collaborate with leading research institutions such as UL  on exploring the possibilities that nanotechnology or material surface science has for medical technology.  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.”

Gordon Wallace (Director of the Intelligent Polymer Research Institute, University of Wollongong, Australia) spoke about the field of wearable devices, monitoring and/or controlling human movement or physiology provides benefits for sports training and rehabilitation. He showed how 3D printing has facilitated the development of a knee sleeve and 3D printed implants to work directly with cells to facilitate cartilage, nerve and muscle regeneration.

Professor Dermot Diamond, Dublin City University, delivered his vision of how miniaturised robotic devices could become ubiquitous, autonomously perform complex analytical measurements while located in remote and environmentally hostile locations, such as the deep oceans, or inside the human body.

Professor Marty Burke (Professor of Chemistry at Univ. of Illinois, USA) has developed a machine that enables on-demand synthesis of complex small molecules. This technology is already making an impact in the pharmaceutical industry as these molecules represent a billion year headstart in the drug discovery process, but making them and their derivatives has been a major bottleneck in efforts to access this potential. The vision of Professor Burke’s lab for the future is that anyone who wants a new small molecule can essentially print it out from their computer, which will (finally!) enable realization of the extraordinary untapped potential that small molecules possess.

On Wednesday October 21st and Thursday October 22nd, University of Limerick and the Tyndall Institute hosted two Nanoscience Workshops bringing nanotechnology to DEIS primary schools around Limerick. These workshops “SSPC Smell Factory”, “Science Live!” and “Nano in a suitcase” aim to inspire primary school students to learn more about nanoscience.