The most advanced facility to play with nanotechnology
The Nano Research Facility (NRF) was established by PSG and Sons’ Charities with a vision to work towards promoting nano-tech solutions for industries by creating a research and development environment to stimulate innovation. The NRF was inaugurated on Aug 13 , 2009, by late Dr.APJ Abdul Kalam, former President of India in a brief ceremony . Currently, it is handled by PSG Institute of Advanced Studies (PSG-IAS).
The production of nanomaterials in the NRF relies on two individual laboratories, the textile lab and the nano-chemistry lab. The nano chemistry lab synthesizes nano particles and the textile lab contains the electro spinning unit and other supporting equipments. The electrospinning unit produces nanofibers by manipulating voltage signals of high magnitude. These nanofibers are used in production of textiles and other medical applications. The chemical lab synthesizes silver nanoparticles which can kill microbes by breaking their cells.
Characterization of nanomaterials
To characterize nanoparticles, NRF utilizes state-of-art equipments like HRTEM (High Resolution Transmission Electron Microscope), SPM (Scanning Probe Microscope) , UV-Vis (Ultra Violet- Visible Spectroscopy), Polarizing microscope and Simultaneous Thermal Analyzer (TGDSC).The HRTEM, one of the most advanced and expensive equipments in the facility, provides state of the art solutions to problems in diverse fields ranging from material science to biology, through characterization of nanomaterials. It enables us to view lattice resolutions of 0.14 nm and point-to-point resolutions of 0.19 nm. It has an operating range of 80 kV to 200 kV, based on the samples. The HRTEM facility has multiple sample preparation equipments from Gatan Inc. for TEM specimen preparation.
HRTEM (High Resolution Transmission Electron Microscope)
In order to study the behaviour of nanoparticles during thermal decomposition, phase transition, and oxidation and to examine their thermal stability, a simultaneous thermal analyzer (TGDSC) is used. It allows the measurement of change in mass within a temperature range of 150oC to 1550oC. The specially designed furnace facilitates the required heating and cooling as well as highly accurate temperature control. When multimode operations are to be performed to obtain surface characteristics with a high degree of precision, multimode scanning probe microscope is used. This microscope can carry out experiments in air, vacuum and liquid.
Structural nanomaterials laboratory is dedicated to perform specific nanoscale metallurgical processes. This lab undertakes research on grain refinement of aluminum and magnesium alloys, nano structured materials, metal-matrix nanocomposites, biodegradable magnesium alloys and thermal barrier coatings. A pit type melting furnace,an ultrasonic cavitations probe, and a high-energy planetary ball mill are utilized to carry out the aforementioned processes.
Before deploying them, the nanoparticles must be coated with a material to enable activation. In order to coat nano particles, special machines that use PVD and CVD (Physical Vapour Deposition and Chemical Vapour Deposition) are utilized. The nanoparticles are coated with the material in an isolated atmosphere, since the presence of foreign particles can ruin the process. There are two types of clean rooms – a 200 sq.m room of class 1000 and a 50 sq.m room of class 10,000.
( Source: psgias.ac.in )
( Source : psgias.ac.in )
Hybrid solar energy laboratory
The NRF houses the hybrid solar energy laboratory which focuses on the development of third and fourth generation solar cells, including organic photovoltaic and quantum dot solar cells. Equipments used here include a solar simulator,a thermal evaporator, a spin coater and numerous PVD systems.
In order to promote research and development in the domain of biotechnology, NRF has a nano biotechnology laboratory. This lab focuses on microbial nanostructures, environmental applications of nano biotechnology, water purification and biosensors. One of the nanoparticles used for water purification is magnesium doped hydroxyapatite, which removes traces of strontium from water. The lab also supports a tissue engineering facility. Equipments deployed here include a gel documentation unit, a dynamic BP stimulator, a CO2 incubator, a multi plate reader, and a bio safety cabinet (Class I & Class II). The bio safety cabinet filters the air and removes foreign particles (e.g. Dust).
The Sensor Development laboratory focuses on one of the prime objectives of the NRF, which is the production and development of sensors. Sensors developed here include those that can detect even minute traces of gases like NH3, NO2 and CO2. Carbon nanotubes are also used in the production of said sensors. Equipments utilized in this lab include a Langmuir-Blodgett unit, a High intensity ultrasonic processor, a Keithley high resistance meter, a high vacuum gas calibration unit and a gas generator with a humidity module.
With its prime objective being research, the NRF also works with industrial partners on developing nano tech solutions to industrial problems. Companies such as Polyclone Bioservices, Pricol, Silver Crown Metal Coatings, Lakshmi Life Sciences, Huntsman, Oriental Aquamarine Biotech, Kennametal, TVS and KPM Plasto Rubber Co. work closely with them. The Nano research facility also supports start-ups through their interactions with PSG-STEP to promote entrepreneurs in the nanotechnology domain.
The NRF has made several breakthroughs in the field of nanotechnology, and their successes in the field are unrivalled. A few of their achievements are the production of an indigenously developed ammonium level analyzer which measures the presence of ammonium ions in water via a sensor coated with nanoparticles, production of sensors that detect ammonia in breath, and effluent water treatment using microbes.
The Bridge expresses its gratitude to Prof.K.K. Venkataraman of PSGIAS for his contribution and guidance.