ARCHIVED - New funding for nanotech applications

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June 08, 2008— Ottawa, Ontario

It won't be long before the world benefits from some new made-in-Canada advances in nanotechnology. Thanks to federal funding of $15 million announced on April 24, five top-tier Canadian research teams will work on new applications of nanotechnology in the areas of energy, the environment, and information and communication technologies. These teams comprise world-class researchers from 14 Canadian academic institutions, seven NRC institutes and 16 industry partners. And several other firms have been identified as potential receptors for the technologies.

At the funding announcement, NRC President Dr. Pierre Coulombe stressed the growing economic importance of nanotechnology. "Our nation's ability to compete globally will depend, in part, on our capacity to develop advanced materials and new devices from nanoscience and nanoengineering," he noted. "The potential products of the five award-winning proposals are truly impressive."

Nanotech's economic potential

Nanotechnology applies the science of controlling tiny pieces of matter – atoms and molecules – to produce revolutionary products and processes. Although still in its infancy, nanotechnology has the potential to alter the way we make everything from transistors to skyscrapers.

It is estimated that by 2015, more than half of all new products that contain advanced materials in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and electronics industries will be based on nanoscience and nanoengineering. Recognizing the need to position Canada as a world leader in this field, NRC invests in nanotechnology R&D through several of its institutes across Canada and through its technology clusters initiative in Edmonton.

The funding

Each team will receive $3 million over five years. NRC and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) will each provide $7.5 million, while the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) will provide expertise to help the researchers commercialize their technologies.

The funding was awarded through a competition run jointly in 2007 by NRC, NSERC and BDC. This tri-agency initiative aims to support collaborative nanotechnology R&D and assist in the commercialization of emerging technologies – one of the biggest challenges that Canadian innovators face.

Solar cells

Two of the winning teams will develop solar cells that are significantly more efficient and less expensive than existing technologies. The first team will create solar cells that incorporate "quantum dots" – artificial atoms on crystalline semiconductor surfaces. Dubbed "SUNRISE: Semiconductors using nanostructures for record increases in solar-cell efficiency", this project is led by Dr. Frank Shepherd of the NRC Institute for Microstructural Sciences (NRC-IMS) and Dr. Trevor Hall of the University of Ottawa. Their team includes researchers at two NRC institutes and two Canadian universities.

The second project, led by Dr. Ye Tao of NRC-IMS and Professor Mario Leclerc of Université Laval, will enhance solar cell efficiency through novel polymeric nanocomposite semiconductor materials. This initiative involves three NRC institutes and four Canadian universities.

Quantum cryptography

The third project will focus on the development of quantum cryptography – a technology based on quantum light theory that could pave the way to the ultimate security solution for information processing and data protection. Led by Dr. Robin Williams of NRC-IMS and Dr. Stephen Hughes of Queen's University, the team includes researchers from two NRC institutes and four universities.

Laser instruments

The fourth team will develop laser-based instrumentation to characterize "nano-aerosols" – tiny airborne particles known to worsen air quality and cause cardiovascular, respiratory and allergic distress. Led by Greg Smallwood of the NRC Institute for Chemical Process and Environmental Technology and Dr. Ruth Signorell of the University of British Columbia, this initiative involves three NRC institutes and four academic organizations.

Lightweight nanocomposites

The fifth team will develop strong, lightweight nanocomposite materials for the transportation, construction and packaging industries. Led by Dr. Johanne Denault of the NRC Industrial Materials Institute and Dr. Pierre Carreau of École polytechnique de Montréal, this project brings together more than two dozen researchers at three NRC institutes and four academic organizations.

From left to right: Dr. Albert Stolow, NRC Steacie Institute for Molecular Sciences; Dr. Ye Tao, NRC Institute for Microstructural Sciences (NRC-IMS); Dr. Frank Shepherd, Canadian Photonics Fabrication Centre and NRC-IMS; Greg Smallwood, NRC Institute for Chemical Process and Environmental Technology; and Dr. Trevor Hall, Canada Research Chair in Photonic Network Technology, University of Ottawa.
From left to right: Dr. Albert Stolow, NRC Steacie Institute for Molecular Sciences; Dr. Ye Tao, NRC Institute for Microstructural Sciences (NRC-IMS); Dr. Frank Shepherd, Canadian Photonics Fabrication Centre and NRC-IMS; Greg Smallwood, NRC Institute for Chemical Process and Environmental Technology; and Dr. Trevor Hall, Canada Research Chair in Photonic Network Technology, University of Ottawa.

Enquiries: Media relations
National Research Council of Canada
613-991-1431
media@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca

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