The Nano Mission is an umbrella programme for capacity building which envisages the overall development of this field of research in the country and to tap some of its applied potential for nation’s development. In brief, the objectives of the Nano-Mission are:
Basic Research Promotion – Funding of basic research by individual scientists and/or groups of scientists and creation of centres of excellence for pursuing studies leading to fundamental understanding of matter that enables control and manipulation at the nanoscale.
Infrastructure Development for Nano Science & Technology Research – Investigations on the nano scale require expensive equipments like Optical Tweezer, Nano Indentor, Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM), Atomic Force Microscope (AFM), Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM), Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Time of Flight Mass Spectrometer (MALDI TOF MS), Microarray Spotter & Scanner etc. For optimal use of expensive and sophisticated facilities, it is proposed to establish a chain of shared facilities across the country.
Nano Applications and Technology Development Programmes- To catalyze Applications and Technology Development Programmes leading to products and devices, the Mission proposes to promote application-oriented R&D Projects, estabsish Nano Applications and Technology Development Centres, Nano-Technology Business Incubators etc. Special effort will be made to involve the industrial sector into nanotechnology R&D directly or through Public Private Partnership (PPP) ventures.
Human Resource Development – The Mission shall focus on providing effective education and training to researchers and professionals in diversified fields so that a genuine interdisciplinary culture for nanoscale science, engineering and technology can emerge. It is planned to launch M.Sc./M.Tech. programmes, create national and overseas post-doctoral fellowships, chairs in universities, etc.
International Collaborations – Apart from exploratory visits of scientists, organization of joint workshops and conferences and joint research projects, it is also planned to facilitate access to sophisticated research facilities abroad, establish joint centres of excellence and forge academia-industry partnerships at the international level wherever required and desirable.
International Synchrotron Radiation Facilities and Neutron Facilities for materials science research
The Nano Mission is a Mission-Mode programme within DST. At the apex level, it is steered by a Nano Mission Council (NMC). It is currently being chaired by Professor CNR Rao, FRS, National Research Professor and Honorary President & Linus Pauling Research Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bangalore.
The technical programmes of the Nano Mission are also being guided by two advisory groups, viz. the Nano Science Advisory Group (NSAG) and the Nano Applications and Technology Advisory Group (NATAG).
DST Activities in Nano Science and Technology so far
The Nano Mission is the second phase of DST activities in Nano Science and Technology. DST, in October 2001, had launched a modest programme in Nano Science and Technology, called the Nano Science and Technology Initiative (NSTI), and the Nano Mission is the successor of this programme.
Under NSTI, and since May 2007 under the Nano Mission, DST has supported a number of activities in Nano Science and Technology. A brief resume of those programmes is being given below.
i) Support for R & D Projects to Individual Scientists:
Around 130 projects have been supported to individual scientists mainly working on fundamental scientific aspects of nanoscale systems. Investigations are aimed at looking into new and improved understanding of the relationship between structure of various nanoscale systems and their properties using sophisticated characterization facilities.
Significant results have been reported from these projects. Extensive studies on semiconductor nanocrystals have been undertaken in several projects. As semiconductor particles exhibit size-dependent properties like scaling of the energy gap and corresponding change in the optical properties, they are considered as technologically important materials. Several projects have looked into synthesis of important nanomaterials like CdSe, ZnO etc. Size-tunable, organic-soluble industrially important CdS, AlN, GaN and InN nanocrystals have been prepared by employing novel solvothermal techniques and some soft chemical routes. In another project, it has been reported that flow of various liquids and gases over a mat of single-walled carbon nanotube (SWNT) bundles generate electrical signals. This discovery has several important technological implications. Negative differential resistance in a one-dimensional molecular wire with odd number of atoms attached between two macroscopic electrodes at some critical bias has generated considerable interest for possible device applications. Towards development of micro fluidic devices, interesting results have been obtained in another project. It may have several applications in the fields of biotechnology, pharmaceutical industry, drug delivery, intelligent pneumatic systems, information technology etc.
ii) Strengthening of Characterization Facilities
Research with nanoscale systems requires sophisticated characterization facilities which were not available in our institutions. Realizing this gap, DST has established an array of sophisticated equipments such as Optical Tweezer, Nano Indentor, Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM), Atomic Force Microscope (AFM), Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM), Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Time of Flight Mass Spectrometer (MALDI TOF MS), Microarray Spotter & Scanner etc. at various locations in the country.
iii) Establishment of Centres of Excellence
Eleven Units/Core Groups on Nano Science have been sanctioned across the country. These centres of excellence house some of the more sophisticated facilities for sharing with other scientists in the region and would help in promoting scientific research on nanoscale systems in a decentralized fashion.
Seven Centres for Nano Technology focusing on development of specific applications have also been established.
In addition, a centre of excellence on Computational Materials Science has also been established at JNCASR, Bangalore.
iv) International Collaborative Programmes
As expected, Nano Science and Technology has prominently figured in all S&T cooperation agreements entered into in recent times. Joint R&D activities are already taking place with several countries. For example, with the US, several projects have been funded on CNTs in composites, nano-encapsulating materials, etc. under the DST-NSF programme. Several Indo-US Workshops have also been held. With Germany, a programme on engineered functional nanocomposites has started which would focus on magnetic properties, magnetic interactions, gas-solid interactions including catalysis, etc. Programmes are also on with Italy, EU and developing with Taiwan. ARCI, Hyderabad, which is an autonomous institute of DST has active programme in nanomaterials with institutions in Russia, Ukraine, Japan, Germany and USA.
v) Joint Institution-Industry Linked Projects and Public Private Partnership activities
In order to focus the existing expertise in research and educational institutions towards developing products and processes of direct interest to industries, DST, under the Nano Programme, has promoted Joint Institution-Industry Linked Projects and some other Public Private Partnership activities in recent times. In many these activities, the industrial partners have also invested financially into the project. These activities will help us to simultaneously leverage the scientific knowledge-base existing in our research and educational institutions and the commercial vision of our industry to generate competitive technologies leading to products and devices. Six such projects have received financial support so far.
vi) Human Resource Development in Nano Science & Technology
In order to train and nurture human resource in the area of Nano Science and Technology, a number of activities have already been undertaken— for example, organization of national and international conferences, national review meetings and advanced schools, support for post-doctoral fellowships through JNCASR, Bangalore, etc. The following activities for manpower training have been organized so far:
Three International Conferences organized focusing on different aspect of Nano Science and Technology - at Kolkata in December 2003, Delhi in March 2006 and Chennai in February, 2008
Two National Review and Coordination Meetings organized based on projects supported under the programme in March 2005 and February 2007.
Three Advanced Schools organized—on 'Nanomaterials Preparation, Characterization and Manipulation' at Bangalore in February 2003, on 'Science of Size Reduction, Different Routes of Preparation and Characterization of Nanomaterials and Applications' at Kolkata in February 2005 and on ‘Nanoscience & Nanobiology’ at Bangalore in February 2007.
Postdoctoral Fellowships initiated through JNCASR, Bangalore.
How to Apply for Financial Support
The Nano Mission receives proposals for financial support throughout the year. In other words, there is no last date for applying for financial support. Decisions on various funding applications are taken periodically. Currently, financial support for the following R&D activities is available —
R&D projects from individual scientists or a group of scientists. Normal duration of such projects will be 3 years.
Establishment of centres of excellence and sophisticated research facilities. Normal duration for such projects will be 5 years.
Joint Institution-Industry Linked projects for development of products and devices utilizing nanotechnology. In such projects, partial financial contribution by the participating industry is desirable. For the participating industry, DSIR’s SIRO recognition is desirable. Normal duration for such projects will be 3-5 years.
Launching M.Sc./M.Tech. programmes in Nano Science and Technology in government institutions.
Financial support for Post-Graduate Teaching Programmes (M.Sc./M.Tech.), establishing centers of excellence, units and sophisticated research facility, has been temporarily suspended. The proposals already submitted and under consideration in DST will be considered as and when this funding is started again. Institutions and scientists are earnestly requested not to submit fresh proposals under this category for funding till further announcements.
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