I'ts a matter of size

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Event report

Volvo looked for nano solutions at Update 2011

Fuel-saving low friction coatings, nanowire LED:s, mine detection and drug delivery systems. These were some of the topics discussed when 220 researchers and company representatives from 15 countries gathered in Helsingborg for Update 2011 on 23-24 May.

A Parkinson patient reaches for a glass of water on the table in front of him. He struggles in vain to control his heavy tremors as he tries to bring the glass to his mouth to drink. The image projected on the screen is both disturbing and emotional. In the next sequence, a nurse touches his chest to activate his brain implant. Seconds later, the man lifts his glass again. This time he is able to drink without spilling.

– The brain is soft, like butter, explains Lund University professor Lars Montelius from the podium.

– The implants available today are a great help to patients with severe neuro degenerative decease. But they are rather big and cause extensive scarring to the brain.

He underlines his statement by showing an image of damaged brain tissue. Lars Montelius hopes that the research carried out today, using nanowires for neural implants, could lead to future applications, that cause less damage to the brain.

Montelius' talk was part of the Nano today and tomorrow session that kicked off Update 2011. In other presentations, professors Bengt Kasemo of Chalmers, and Anja Boisen of DTU, gave other examples of how nanotechnology is likely to affect our future, in applications ranging from energy saving to mine detection.

Science and industry

The goal of Update 2011 was to bring the scientific community and industry closer together. In addition to plenary sessions and in-depth seminars on life science, energy and materials, the conference also included organised matchmaking where participants could book face-to-face meetings with interesting companies and researchers in advance.

The academic world was represented by international names such as Michaël Grätzel,EPFL and Federico Capasso, Harvard University as well as Scandinavian professors like Morten Meldal, University of Copenhagen, Per Delsing, Chalmers, Lars Samuelson, Lund University, Pentti Tengvall, University of Gothenburg and Anders Baun, DTU, to name but a few.

Small improvements, big money

A number of “pure” nanotechnology companies like LayerLab, Insplorion and Applied Nano Surfaces presented their work. Major corporations such as AB Volvo, Fiat and Tetra Pak came with “big ears” as AB Volvo Senior Vice president Jan-Eric Sundgren put it. For companies like this, nanotechnology does not necessarily need to turn everything upside-down to be relevant. An incremental improvement in a product or process could mean millions of dollars saved, or a competitive advantage gained.

In the Going nano session, talks were given on safety, the regulatory framework, and the possible benefits of embracing the new technology. A partner in the NanoPlast project, LEGO hopes to replace chemicals with nanostructured surfaces to produce its brightly coloured toys. Per Høvsgaard, Senior director of mechatronics & prototyping at LEGO articulated what the company hopes to gain, and DTU researcher Rafael Taboryski discussed how to make it happen.

Equal parts entrepreneur and scientist, Genovis CEO Sarah Fredriksson took a step back from the tech-talk and stressed the importance of communication, when it comes to selling a new technology or product.

– The customer buys a solution to a problem. The technology used is of secondary importance to the customer.

Face-to-face meetings

Update 2011 was arranged by Nano Connect Scandinavia, in collaboration with Enterprise Europe Network who organised the matchmaking sessions. These resulted in 123 pre-booked face-to-face meetings, opening the door to future projects and collaboration. Update 2012 will take place at Dunkers kulturhus in Helsingborg, on 27-28 March 2012.

Go to the Update 2012 site >>

Update 2011 - The movie

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Presentations for download

Combined sensing >>Anja Boisen, DTU

Electrodes and fuel cells - cases and visionsPeter Holtappels, Risø DTU

Nanostructured materials and the life science sectorLars Montelius, Lund University

Nanoscale science, engineering and technology: past, present and futureJames Murday, University of Southern California

Towards piezoelectric nanocarbon/PVDF fibresRodney Rychwalski, Chalmers University of Technology

Manufacturing of porous nanocomposite SOFC anodes by aqueous tape castingJohanna Stiernstedt, Swerea IVF

Nanobased materials in AB Volvo: Present technology and future challengesJan-Eric Sundgren, AB Volvo

Chalmers University of Technology DTU Imego Lund University