Nanotechnology being considered
Initiatives to establish a Centre
to develop Nanotechnology in Sri Lanka are being taken
into consideration very seriously now. Professor Tissa
Vitarana, Minister of Science & Technology, is hopeful
that it would make a significant contribution to Sri
Lanka’s technology development process by becoming
the driving force for emerging industries.
“Though this could be just a
dream, many advances have been based on dreams.”
he said. “From all the evidence available, it
has perhaps the potential to outstrip all other technologies
and lead to a new industrial revolution. This emerging
technology is depended a lot on having the skilled human
He said there were a large number
of minerals in this country, including traditional medicines,
bio-diversities, etc. which are relatively untapped.
If these technologies can be applied,
new industries can be created then to add a very much
greater value to them than even the existing technologies.
This can even contribute to up-scaling our existing
industries to make them far more competitive in the
work. So this is the type of vistas that is opening
up, he said.
Professor Gihan Ameratunga, Head of
the Nanotechnology Department, University of Cambridge,
UK, explained that all technologies are based on some
sort of fundamental science, whether it is electronics
based on physics and mathematics or computer science
and information science. Nanotechnology is the basic
building block technologies which are physical materials
and scale these materials down to Nanometer scales –
tens of Naño meters.
Then they exhibit new properties which
have not been seen before. A nanometer is a scale which
is a millionth of a milli meter.
When a material is scaled down to
a millionth of a milli meter, then the concept of surface
and volume starts to merge. “From the concept
of surface of volume starting to merge, we get new physics
in chemistry appearing - the technology as to how you
use this material which exhibits new technologies of
physics and chemistry, to develop new devices, new chemical
effects of new drugs which you have not seen before,
in a very practical manner to the benefit of mankind,”
“You don’t need to have
an institute or a factory worth a million dollars. It
is revolutionary as much as one is trying to synthesize
new material; in this process it is not necessary to
manufacture conventional high tech processes.
The facilities required are somewhat
basic laboratory facilities together with analytical
facilities, such as microscopes. These are to some extent
standard laboratory equipments which would be found
in post graduate departments across the world. So catalytic
expenditure is not exorbitant to any industry,”
Sri Lanka has a world class industry
as in the garment sector and also in producing electronic
components. These industries in order to be comparative
and to become leaders in that field would want to apply
nanotechnology in proprietary manner.
Professor Ravi Silva, Head of the
Advanced Technology Institute of Surrey University,
UK, simplifying on nanotechnology, said: “What
we are trying to do is to design, manipulate and fabricate
devices on the most basic or fundamental level. When
you want to switch on an electronic device while you
are moving an electronic device, one contacts to the
other. In the case of Nanotechnology what we are trying
to do is to scale those devices right down so small
that ultimately we are talking of single electronics,
may be from one contact to the other. Thereby it increases
the speed of response and makes things smaller, so we
are putting more building blocks on the same space.
“Once you start putting different devices onto
your chip area, it increases the efficiency.
Then it becomes a very efficient device
that it cannot be improved further. If the electronic
industry space was taken up by the motor car industry;
you really should be able to travel 150 km in less than
two seconds with a tea spoonful of petrol! If the electronic
industry has brought a revolution to society and impact
to man, the Nanotechnology revolution would be meant
to be even greater. It is most significant when it comes
to impact in everyday activities to man.”
(The writer is the Assistant Director
– Media at the Ministry of Science & Technology).