The National Centre for Nanostructured Materials (NCNSM) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. Nanotechnology is concerned with materials at the very small scale of between one and 100 nanometres. A nanometre is a billionth of a metre.
“Research and development at the nanocentre supports the manufacturing of bulk materials with improved properties, such as plastics that are able to tolerate very high and low temperatures and plastics with fire-retardant properties or high resistance to tearing,” highlighted NCNSM nanager and CSIR chief researcher Professor Suprakas Sinha Ray. “This includes development of detection devices that use nanomaterials capable of detecting gases at parts-per-million levels with greater sensitivity and accuracy.”
Nanomaterials can have unique properties – chemical, mechanical, optical and physical – that can be exploited to create new materials for various applications. To enable local research in the field, the centre has been well equipped with state-of-the-art upscaling, polymer processing, characterisation and testing facilities. These have been funded by the Department of Science and Technology.
In 2015, the Nanomaterials Industrial Development Facility (NIDF) was established within the NCNSM. The purpose of the NIDF is to help scientists, technologists and engineers to close the gap between the development of materials and their commercialisation. It assists other research agencies, industry and small, medium-sized and microenterprises in developing and scaling up new nanomaterials.
Currently, it is focused on employing nanotechnology as a key element in the development of cosmetics, polymers and other chemicals-related products. The intent is that such developments, assisting local businesses, will result in the creation of new jobs.
The NCNSM already has a number of achievements to its credit. It has developed a prototype breath analyser which detects diabetes without needing a blood test. It has established new nanoresearch areas by setting up water and catalysis research groups. And it has created a polymer processing laboratory to test and evaluate industrial nanomaterial samples.
The centre has also trained more than 130 postdoctoral fellows, PhDs, and master’s students.