Tuesday, December 08, 2009

'Nano materials are not a new invention'

IIT Kharagpur - Nano materials - The Times of India

NAGPUR: Nano materials are not very new, scientists all over the world, especially chemists, have been creating them in medicines for over half a century, said Padmashree Kasturi Lal Chopra, honorary professor, IIT Delhi, and former director, IIT Kharagpur, on Monday. He was speaking at the inaugural session of the two-day international conference on 'nano-biomaterials for environmental applications' organised by National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (Neeri).

Chopra said, it is only recently that the 'nano' has been hyped worldwide. "What has changed the scenario and made nano materials more useful today is the coming together of pharmaceutical industry, the biotechnologists, the physicists and the life sciences scientists. Nano biotechnology and nano agriculture have a promising future," he said.

Prof Chopra also cleared a lot of myths about nano materials, like the one about these materials being new inventions. The second myth he busted was the one being projected by agencies like the UN task force on nano materials, that these technologies will save humanity. "These materials cannot solve problems of big countries like India, where they are being projected as technologies that can be used to purify drinking water. This is something totally non-viable, economically and socially," Chopra said.

Elaborating on the history of nano materials, Chopra said that these technologies have been around since 1950-60s, the beginning of the microelectronics era, though scientists didn't actually calling them by this name. He said that it is only now that the scientists can produce even metallurgical materials putting aside all theories of thermodynamics. However, large-scale application of these materials for production of mass scale products is just impossible, he said. "They are too expensive materials to be used on a mass scale, at least in developing countries," he said.

Prof GM Chow, professor and chair, department of material sciences and engineering, National University of Singapore, gave the key note address. Tapan Chakrabarti, acting director, Neeri, said that nano materials definitely have an important role in environmental applications while SR Wate, head, Environmental Impact Risk Assessment division, explained the role of newer nano materials in changing the water and environmental technologies.

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