Today, in its printed edition, Diario Financiero publishes an interview with our executive director, Dr. Juan Escrig in which he highlights that among his plans is for the Center to have representation throughout the country and, to this end, it will increase the projects linked to the medicine and industry, among others. He warned that there is a lack of greater public financing and training of advanced human capital to develop this discipline.
Below is a transcript of the complete interview and if you want to read it directly from the digital version of the newspaper, ACCESS HERE
The Center for the Development of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (Cedenna), which is made up of 14 universities and is based at the University of Santiago (Usach), elected last August Juan Escrig, Doctor of Sciences and dean of the Faculty of Science of this house of studies, as the new executive director. Among its plans is to turn the entity “into a national research center.”
Cedenna, whose objective is to advance and promote science in nanometric dimensions and its technological applications, has 70 researchers from different universities and develops five lines of work - simulations, magnetic nanostructures, chemical nanostructures, packaging technology and nano biomedicine - and has with two business units: nanosecurity, which studies the safety of materials at a nanometric scale, and development of technological projects with companies.
Escrig commented that, to consolidate itself as a center with national scope, they must carry out a series of actions in the remainder of the year and the beginning of next year, in order to apply for public funds in 2024 to become a center with national representation.
“In that instance, we want to present ourselves with support from different institutions and not only from Usach, since today, although we have researchers from all universities, they are not necessarily involved in Cedenna,” he stated.
One of these actions is to install at the country level the importance of nanotechnology and nanoscience, “and that requires that people know about these issues, since they see them as something distant even though they are everywhere, from food to cosmetics. Therefore, one of our focuses is to educate through dissemination campaigns, activities in schools and science fairs,” said Escrig.
Industries and projects
The center has an applied research business unit for companies, where national and foreign companies that operate in the country come to analyze solutions from nanoscience and nanotechnology for their industries.
In this context, Escrig commented that the most advanced sectors in the use of nanoscience and nanotechnology are electronics and medicine, and others a little further behind, but with "development potential", are agriculture, construction and renewable energies.
He explained that products such as computers and cell phones “are composed of very small structures, while in medicine there was a boom with the pandemic, where the virus could be analyzed at a nanometric scale, something that the human eye cannot perceive.”
In the area of medicine, they are studying a therapy for the treatment of cancer - in the initial stages - which, instead of drugs, “takes magnetic nanoparticles and uses external fields, and due to the heat that these particles produce, it has been shown to help to damage and destroy cancer cells with no or very little damage to healthy cells,” he said.
He also commented that in recent times “several agricultural companies have approached the center to talk about nanofertilizers or packaging that better protects the food that is exported, which allows us to open new markets by being able to go further with a product in good condition.” ”.
Cedenna is already working with firms in areas such as agriculture and construction, and Escrig highlighted a project to create carbon nanotubes, “which allow the resistance of other materials to be increased and which can be conductors of electricity.”
He added that they have had conversations with construction companies about how to create materials that have durability and flexibility at the same time, “or even that repair themselves by applying nanotechnology,” he said.
On the other hand, he commented that another sector with potential for nanotechnology is renewable energy and announced that they plan to address energy storage, where “the development of batteries is key, even more so, considering that Chile has lithium, so that there are opportunities to advance towards more advanced nanomaterials that allow energy to be stored efficiently.”
Barriers to development
Escrig pointed out that, to advance the development of nanoscience and nanotechnology in the country, there is a lack of public financing.
Cedenna has an annual budget of $1.35 billion, of which 30% is allocated to projects. These resources come mainly from universities, companies and public competitions.
However, he warned that centers like this one are financed based on short-term competitions, so the projects cannot continue over time. "Although this science is key to the development of Chile, there is still a lack of resources from the State," he said.
Likewise, the academic warned that another barrier to developing this area is the formation of human capital at the national level.
"If we do not have human capital that is trained in these areas, then we are simply going to continue buying technology from developed countries and we will not be able to venture into new areas, so it is something urgent that the State must begin to promote," he said.