Nanotechnology in Sri Lanka should focus on adding value to the country's commodities which will result in immediate gains for industry, according to noted scientist and nanotechnology researcher, Prof. Veranja Karunaratne of the Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology and the University of Peradeniya.
Prof. Karunaratne made these comments in response to a question from the audience at the recently held "Public Lecture on Nanotechnology: Social and Sustainability Issues", organised by the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science in Colombo.
He also indicated that the current avenues of research locally were centred around nanotechnology materials which could lead to improvements in plastics, fabrics, etc. International successes in this area have led to nano tubes being used to increase the strength, while at the same time reducing the required quantity, of materials such as concrete rubber, etc, while nano particles have been used in skincare creams and sunscreen for greater protection of skin.
Prof. Karunaratne also suggested that, while the greatest harvest from nanotechnology research would be for developed countries, especially since Sri Lankans did not have the research budget to fully benefit from this fledgling science and local nanotechnology advances would not have the same impact as those from more advanced researchers with better funding; Sri Lanka could benefit from the potential offered from second nature patents. This is when technology patent holders will be in the west and local researchers can use these to develop new applications and pay them royalties.
Likening nanotechnology to a "rollercoaster heading towards a big climb", Prof. Karunaratne said that he did not "know at this point where it is actually going". Elaborating, he suggested that new means of production, exponential proliferation, cheap rapid prototyping and desktop manufacturing units would all come together to completely innovate the field, virtually minute-by-minute. He also noted that currently theoretical, but soon to be realised, concepts such as molecular manufacturing would result in "a very sharp turn", changing of the existing methodology.