Nanotechnology - Tiny solutions with a big impact

Norway is a hotbed of activity within nanotechnology R&D, exploring ways to apply this fascinating technology to our everyday lives. Research organizations such as SINTEF and the University of Oslo’s Center for Materials Science and Nanotechnology are working with a wide range of companies to find practical solutions that come from this microscopic world.

The Center for Materials Science and Nanotechnology at the University of Oslo is focused not only on the theoretical aspects of Nanotechnology, but also how theory can be applied to everyday life. Hallvard Angelskår, a PhD student at the Center, is engaged in a project to develop Diffractive Optical Elements (DOEs) into inexpensive optical spectroscopy tools for everyday use - in the grocery store, at the doctor’s office - and eventually, even in the home. The fabrication of these DOEs employ nanotechnology, and are an integral part of the spectroscopy application. Today, optical spectroscopy tools of various kinds are found in many laboratories, but the goal of this project is to take a major leap ahead that will result in a broader use of DOE-based spectrometers.

 

SINTEF has worked extensively with these detectors, and earlier developed a design for a low cost spectrometer now used by Tomra Systems in material characterization of household waste such as polymer containers. Says Hallvard Angelskår regarding the project; “We are currently working on characterization and computer simulations of the diffraction from the DOEs. This may allow us to improve the design of the surface patterning in order to optimize the response from the DOE. The cooperative project involves Tomra, Simtronics, Balter Medical, OptoSense, Mole, Snipos, SINTEF and the University of Oslo.”
 
Standing Tall
There is wide interest around Norwegian research regarding the fascinating strength of cellulose microfibrils. Fibrils make up the micro-foundation of trees, giving them the ability to stand tall even in the face of the strongest winds. Until now, fibrils have been a well-kept secret, quietly doing their job as reinforcements in nature as well as in the man-made world of paper-based products. That may all well change as a result of joint SINTEF, NTNU and Paper and Fibre Institute (PFI) research activities led by SINTEF’s Bjørn Steinar Tanem and PFI’s Kristin Syverud.
 
One of the aims of the project is to find ways to use these mighty nano-pillars of strength in developing environmentally friendly nano-composites of high strength. Since fibrils come directly from nature, such composites represent sustainable and future-oriented material solution, but there still is a great deal of work to be done in understanding their full value. As Kristin Syverud indicates; “Fibrils can be bonded easily to other substances, and this opens up a wide range of possibilities of use that include packaging materials that are biodegradable and at the same time preserves the food, antimicrobial paper products (for medical use), use as stabilizers of emulsions, as reinforcement in synthetic- or biobased polymers (plastics) giving improved strength and possibility to manufacture strong and low-weight composite materials.”
 
NANOMAT
One of the Research Council of Norway’s large-scale programmes, NANOMAT (Nanotechnology & New Materials) finances projects that develop expertise within nanotechnology and new materials. The programme’s goal is to contribute to the development of new knowledge and research-intensive industry, and advance sustainability in traditional Norwegian industry.
For more information on the NANOMAT programme, visit

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