Automatgenererad bild.

14 April 2014

SEK 40m for nanotechnology with environmental benefits

Mistra is now to start a nano programme focusing on safety. The programme, based at Chalmers University of Technology, will be entitled ‘Mistra Environmental Nanosafety’. The researchers will have four years to develop methods that make nanotechnology a key element in a sustainable society.

At the end of March, after a long evaluation process, Mistra’s Board gave the go-ahead to the Mistra Environmental Nanosafety research programme. Chalmers University of Technology will be heading the programme, for which SEK 40 million (just over USD 6m) over four years is budgeted.

The overarching aim is to create an interdisciplinary research environment for developing technology that can be used in the environmental sector. The programme will also conduct research on the environmental impact of nanotechnology.

Today, nano is already a rapidly evolving technology. Nanomaterials are used in everything from electronics to pharmaceuticals. There are also hopes that the technology will yield unique materials that can be used to purify air and water, to be inserted in sensors that survey various pollutants or to become absorbents that capture carbon dioxide (CO2).

Broad academic base

The consortium behind the winning proposal comprises Chalmers University, the University of Gothenburg, Lund University, Karolinska Institute, KTH Royal Institute of Technology and AkzoNobel. The Programme Director will be Sofia Svedhem at Chalmers, herself engaged in research on how nanoparticles interact with biological interfaces and barriers.

Just as in other Mistra programmes, issues of social sciences and ethics are as important as the purely scientific ones. For example, it may be interesting to investigate which mechanisms are crucial to control in order to ensure the safe use of nanotechnology.

New products without environmental effects

‘The application now approved by Mistra’s Board is excellent, despite the long slog before all the details finally slotted into place. The programme is also fully in tune with the times, especially given the polarised discussion about nanomaterials that has been going on for the past few years,’ says Christopher Folkeson Welch, Programmes Director at Mistra.

His hope is that the findings from the programme will help to make nanotechnology usable in ways that generate benefits, with no associated reduction in our common safety.

Mistra’s initiative is also intended to strengthen Sweden’s already prominent position in the nano sector. Within a few years, the total market for nanotechnology is expected to have a turnover of 500 billion dollars, corresponding to the whole of Sweden’s GDP.

Per Westergård, Vetenskapsjournalisterna