Nanoscience and Nanotechnology in India: What’s Happening

By Subhranshu Sekhar Samal and Amrita Samal

1889
Advertisement

This article discusses the scope of nanoscience and nanotechnology along with curricular courses, initiated by various Indian institution.

Advancements in science and technology have led to the emergence of nanoscience in India. This has further led to the development of various specialised courses for nanoscience and nanotechnology. Universities and institutions in India have started bachelor’s, master’s and research programmes in nanoscience and, subsequently, nanotechnology as an extended branch of basic sciences in India. Most nanoscience courses in India have emerged out of Physics, Chemistry, Life Science and other engineering departments of various institutions.

 

Advertisement

Introduction of nanoscience and nanotechnology started as an elective course. Then, with permission from apex bodies, institutions started full-fledged courses (mostly two-year ones). A few institutions have also started research programmes in interdisciplinary areas of nanoscience and nanotechnology. In some universities, these have come out as independent departments or centres, while in others as part of core departments.

Infrastructure facilities were not good 10 years ago, but now in many institutions, these are self-sufficient to run nanoscience and nanotechnology programmes. Teachers have been inducted from various basic science and engineering departments to contribute in their areas of expertise. In a few institutions, permanent teaching faculties have been hired to run the programmes under schemes such as special or innovation centres, or centres of excellence (CoEs).

Agencies such as CSIR, DST, DBT, ICMT, DRDO, ISRO, DAE and other national labs help post-graduate (PG) students with their final thesis or research projects through their established infrastructures. Certain institutions have started the nanoscience and nanotechnology programmes in collaboration with international universities. Students spend one or two semesters abroad as a part of the mandate of these collaborations.

PhD programmes are also running via such collaborations, in addition to independent guidance courses in universities and institutions.

The government of India has taken the following initiatives to support nanoscience and nanotechnology activities:

  1. Initiatives such as DST-Nanomission (nano-biotechnology activities) through DBT, ICMR and CoE in Nanoelectronics by MeitY support nanoscience, nanotechnology, nanobiotechnology and nanoelectronics activities.
  2. Eighteen sophisticated analytical instruments facilities (SAIFs) established by DST across India play a major role in advanced characterisation and synthesis of nano-materials for various applications.
  3. CoE in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology established by DST-Nanomission helps research and PG students in various thrust areas.
  4. Thematic units of excellence (TUEs) for various areas of nanoscience and nanotechnology play a major role in product-based research to support nanotechnology.
  5. Visveswaraya PhD fellowships offered by MeitY supports various nanotechnology activities in the country.
  6. INSPIRE scheme supports research fellows to work in interdisciplinary nanotechnology, nanoscience and nano-biotechnology areas.
  7. DST-Nanomission supports more than 20 PG teaching programmes to create a baseline for nanoscience and nanotechnology in India, out of about 70 PG programmes currently running in India.

Nanotechnology courses and academic programmes

Out of nearly 70 nanotechnology courses in India, South India occupies around 50 per cent of the institutions. Hence, southern India contributes the highest to capacity-building in nanoscience and nanotechnology.

Seventeen programmes have been funded by the government of India, including 10 from south India.

National Nanotechnology Initiative through Nanomission has impacted the following industries to tie up with academia and R&D labs to develop products and processes:

  1. NFMTC – IITM and MCRC and Orchid Pharma
  2. Nanotech Centre – UoH and Dr Reddy’s Lab
  3. Centre Innovative Smart Textile- IITD, ARCI and Industries
  4. Centre for Pharmaceutical Nanotech – NIPER and Pharma Industries
  5. Rubber Nanotechnology – MGU and Apollo Tyres
  6. Nanophosphor Application Centre, UoA – Nanotech Corp, USA

Many industries have shown interest in the area of nanotechnology in the last decade, including Tata, Mahindra & Mahindra, Piramal, Intel, Orchid Pharma, Apollo, Dr Reddy’s, Resil, Cranes, Panacea, Vecco, BEL, Moser Baer, Insta Power, SBP Aqua Tech and Eureka Forbes.

The nanotechnology programme in India has been successful through the following initiatives:

DST-Nanomission

DST sponsored 11 units of nanoscience, seven centres and one computational facility. Public-private partnerships and three private institutions played major roles along with 30 central, autonomous, state and deemed universities. Outcomes of the nanoscience and nanotechnology programme is shown in Fig. 1.

20 transfers of technologies
Fig. 1: 20 transfers of technologies

Impacting, Research, Innovation & Technology (IMPRINT)

Through IMPRINT-I initiative by the government of India (MHRD in association with other ministries), stress has been given to upgrading nano-education and various modules. Two projects have been initiated on nano-education, and 21 projects on nanotechnology and related hardware.

DRDO

It has also focussed on various nanotechnology activities through its establishments like SSPL, DMSRDE, DLJ, NMRL, DMRL, NPOL, HEMRL and DIHAR. DRDO also started CoEs in following areas:

  1. Nanotechnology-based sensors for NBC nuclear, biological, chemical (NBC) detection
  2. Nano optoelectronic devices
  3. ARCHEM-University of Hyderabad

DBT

 This is a nano-biotechnology initiative aimed at the intervention of nanotechnology for:

  1. Early translational science through innovation for future application strategies
  2. Translational research for proof of concept leading to product development
  3. Innovative tools and technology for pre-clinical research in priority areas

ICMR

ICMR has formed a task force on nanomedicines, and funded various activities on nanotechnology and nanomedicine.

MeitY

Meity has funded more than 45 projects in various areas of nano-electronics, such as LEDs, OLEDs, organic electronics, flexible electronics, carbon materials, pulsed laser techniques, nano-fabrication, silicon-based materials, III-V and II-IV materials, plasma-based CVD, sensors, band-gap materials, simulation, spintronics, data storage, MEMS, NEMS, nano-crystalline materials, devices and advanced nano-materials for sensing, health, detection, agriculture and neuroscience. The best and most productive initiative was CoE in Nanoelectronics (CEN) at IISc and IIT Bombay, and Indian Nanotechnology Users Programme (INUP phases I and II). Outcomes have been extremely promising with nearly 72 patents and more than 1000 papers.

Nanotechnology intervention in the field of agriculture has already started in India through various R & D projects, including:

  1. Crop protection
  2. Fertilizers
  3. Soil quality improvement
  4. Water purification and pollutant control
  5. Sensors for environmental monitoring
  6. Breeding
  7. Nanomaterial production from agricultural resources
Number of institutes offering nanotechnology courses in different states in India (43 per cent of the courses are offered in institutions in South India of which 23 per cent are in Tamil Nadu)
Fig. 2: Number of institutes offering nanotechnology courses in different states in India (43 per cent of the courses are offered in institutions in South India of which 23 per cent are in Tamil Nadu)

Apart from the above stated, established companies and various startups have also entered the market of nanotechnology in various domain areas of nanoscience and nanotechnology. Some such companies are:

  1. Adnano Technologies: Carbon nanomaterials and advanced characterisation instruments
  2. Advanced NanoTech Lab: Coating products
  3. Auto Fibre Craft (AFC) Powders: Specialised silver nanomaterials
  4. AVANSA Technology & Services: Carbon-based nanomaterials and instruments
  5. Bee Chems: Nano-silica products
  6. Bilcare: Unique security technology called nonClonable using composites to provide a fool-proof security system
  7. Bottom Up Technology Corp.: Carbon nanotubes
  8. Dabur Pharma: Drug delivery
  9. Egoma Technologies: Nanopowders
  10. Eris Technologies: Nano-education and certification
  11. Icon: Analytical instruments, with a focus on nanotechnology and related analytical techniques
  12. Kerala Minerals & Metals (KMML): Titanium dioxide nanoparticles
  13. Micromaterials (P) Ltd: Nano and micro technologies and materials catalysts; new-generation catalysts are the result of a radically new patented process
  14. Mittal Enterprises: Nanofluid
  15. Nano Cutting Edge Technology NanoCET: Bio-stabilised nanoparticles
  16. Nanomics Technologies: Nanopowder, nanomaterials and suspensions
  17. NanoResearch Elements: Nanomaterials
  18. Nanoshel: Nanotubes and nanomaterials
  19. NanoSniff Technologies: Commercial spin-off from CEN at IIT Bombay; formed to productise technologies developed as part of research work conducted at CEN. This is the first Indian company to successfully commercialise microcantilever and microheater sensor technologies
  20. Nanospan: Graphene and instruments
  21. NanoXpert Technologies: Nanoparticles
  22. Navran Advanced Nanoproducts Development: Polymerised toners
  23. Neo-Ecosystems: Metal nanopowders
  24. Nilima Nanotechnologies: Nanocoatings
  25. NoPo Nanotechnologies: Carbon nanomaterials
  26. Platonic Nanotech: High-quality graphene
  27. Quantum Corporation: Nanomaterials and nanocomposites as core materials for telecommunications, electronics, drug delivery, conductive films, lighting and energy industries, without the need to change existing processes
  28. Reinste Nano Ventures: Nanomaterials
  29. Saint-Gobain Glass: High-quality nano-coatings
  30. Sisco Research Laboratories (SRL): Chemicals and nanomaterials
  31. Smart Nanoz: Nanoparticles
  32. Ultrananotech: Nanoparticles and graphene
  33. Vecco: Analytical instruments

Future roadmap

The scientific community, policy makers, apex bodies and funding agencies are continuously striving to progress in various areas of nanoscience and nanotechnology, in the fields of water, clean energy, defence, health, medicine, infrastructure, communications and more areas of topical interest. In the last two decades, India has achieved many milestones in the areas of nanoelectronics, nanomaterials and nano-biotechnology, and many are yet to be achieved. It has created many scientists of international repute in the areas of nanoscience and technology, while many young minds are still being formed.

Initiatives like Digital India, Make in India, Startup India, Skill India and other innovative and ambitious programmes like Nanomission, INUP – I and II, and IMPRINT – I and II have given a great thrust to Indian nanotechnology programmes.


Subhranshu Sekhar Samal is co-ordinator (PMU), International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy & New Materials (ARCI) and co-founder, Evergreen Association

Amrita Samal is co-founder, Evergreen Association

Advertisement


SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS & COMMENTS

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here