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EDITIONS
 Monday, 27 January, 2003, 14:17 GMT
London's little idea
Building, London Centre for Nanotechnology
The centre will be built on Gordon Street
Nanotechnology may be the science of the small, but it is surely destined for bigger things.

I don't think people will be happy with the speed of today's computers in 10 years' time

Dr Quentin Pankhurst, LCN deputy director
The new London Centre for Nanotechnology (LCN), due to open in 2004, is a joint venture between University College London and Imperial College, designed to put British science at the centre of this emerging field.

Based in a new building with purpose-built clean rooms and laboratories, the centre is funded by a 13.65m higher education grant under the Science Research Infrastructure Fund.

"There is now a huge effort in nanotechnology worldwide," said deputy director Dr Quentin Pankhurst. "We believe our central location and expertise will attract both interest and investment from the capital."

Dust devil

He is convinced that the new centre will deliver results across many disciplines, including electronics, chemistry and medicine.

Bucky ball
Nanotechnologists aim to engineer the world at the molecular level
It will employ about 100 people, including 25 principal investigators and 50 students.

"The core of the new centre is a 200-square-metre clean room, which will allow novel nanoscale processing techniques to be developed and applied to problems in areas ranging from health care to quantum computation," said Dr Pankhurst.

The tiniest dust particles can cause havoc in the nanoworld, and the centre will have the most up-to-date facilities to combat this.

Chips away

The core mission of nanotechnology is to accurately control the physical properties of materials with single molecule precision.

In London, the focus will be on quantum devices and nanobiotechnology.

The physical limits of computing are on the horizon, and many agree that a radical development is needed to push computers into the future.

Novel quantum devices will be used to make the next generation of machines that will process information in ways entirely different from the bit-by-bit computations of ordinary microchips.

Smart stuff

But can this really be done? "I don't think people will be happy with the speed of today's computers in 10 years' time," said nanomagnetism expert Dr Pankhurst.

"In business, where there's a will and people pay wages, a way will be found to deliver."

Nanotechnology promises more immediate benefits, from ultra-sensitive chemical sensors to combat bio-terrorism, to smart bandages and food wrapping that indicates bacterial contamination.

Dr Pankhurst also foresees a revolution in medical diagnostics, driven by ingestible nanodevices with on-board sensors.

Its unique position in the midst of the London biomedical complex, comprising world-class hospitals and medical research laboratories associated with the Imperial and University Colleges, will provide the London Centre for Nanotechnology with a tremendous competitive advantage in the health care field.

See also:

05 Sep 02 | Business
21 Nov 01 | Science/Nature
09 Aug 01 | Science/Nature
13 Dec 99 | Science/Nature
23 Nov 99 | Science/Nature
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