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Published

24 January 2013

Mistra invests SEK 40m in environmental nano research

Nanomaterials are used in ever more areas. At the same time, there are wide gaps in knowledge of their environmental properties. Mistra is investing in a research programme with two aims: to survey the environmental effects of nanomaterials and to devise new applications that solve various environmental problems.

Nanotechnology is developing at tremendous speed. Today, nanomaterials are used in such product categories as electronics, cosmetics, drugs, energy technology, chemical processing technology and advanced construction materials. In the environmental sector, too, new opportunities are arising. These concern, for example, nanomaterials to purify air or water, sensors to detect various contaminants and absorbents to capture carbon dioxide.

‘Mistra is investing in nanotechnology to survey the potential for new environmental applications and develop knowledge of the risks of using nanomaterials. According to certain studies, these materials can affect our health. And they’re ending up in the environment where they could have undesirable effects,’ explains Lars-Erik Liljelund, Mistra’s Chief Executive.

The new programme, Mistra Environmental Nanotechnology, will fund research on how technology can safely help to bring about a sustainable society. Swedish research groups are invited to submit proposals for research programmes in this area. Mistra will invest up to SEK 40 million in the programme over four years.

Tackling environmental risks on a broad front

Several issues are relevant to the programme. Mistra commissioned an international expert group to identify areas of interest for Mistra’s initiative. Bengt Kasemo, Professor of Physics at the Division of Chemical Physics, Chalmers University of Technology, headed the group.

‘This research field is extremely young and fragmented, with wide gaps in knowledge. For a start, there are no methods or basic models and modelling systems for studying the environmental effects of nanomaterials. Every substance can vary greatly in size and appearance, and perhaps with a huge variety of environmental properties,’ Kasemo says.

Mistra’s intention is to invest in an interdisciplinary research environment that can develop new technology for the environmental sector and provide new knowledge of environmental effects. It will also raise issues relating to social sciences, including mechanisms connected with risk assessment and ways of balancing the advantages and disadvantages of nanomaterials in decision-making processes.

New solutions to environmental problems

Mistra’s initiative is also intended to strengthen Sweden’s already prominent position in the area of nanotechnology, by encouraging researchers’ and companies to find new applications that solve various environmental problems. The total market for nanotechnology is expected to attain a value of USD 500 billion, as much as the whole of Sweden’s GDP, within a few years.

Mistra is expecting keen interest in its call and has chosen a two-stage selection process. In the first stage, research groups can submit brief pre-proposals. After evaluation, a few of these will be shortlisted for the second stage, in which funding is provided for submission of complete applications. Finally, one research environment will be selected and the programme is expected to start at the beginning of 2014.

For more information, contact:
Christopher Folkeson Welch, Mistra Programme Director, chris.welch@mistra.org, +46-8-791 1026
Malin Lindgren, Mistra Communications Manager, malin.lindgren@mistra.org,
+46-8-791 10 27

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