Nanotech scientist wins national award
Thursday, 7 November 2002
A chemist at the University of Adelaide has been awarded with a national medal for his groundbreaking work into the tiniest technology imaginable.
Professor Stephen Lincoln from the Department of Chemistry has been awarded the H.G. Smith Memorial Medal from the Royal Australian Chemical Institute for his work on "supramolecular chemistry" and "molecular machines" - which may lead to applications in nanotechnology.
The national medal is awarded for the most outstanding research by an Australian chemist in the preceding 10 years. The medal is given to the person deemed to have contributed the most to a particular field of chemistry in Australia.
Professor Lincoln, who has been a professor at the University of Adelaide for more than 10 years, says he's elated at the recognition.
"At the same time, the award is also a recognition of the hard work of many gifted postgraduate students and colleagues, mainly at the University of Adelaide, without whom this research could not have been done," he says.
In the Department of Chemistry, nanotechnology has been a steadily growing field over the past five years.
"The research and teaching recognises the prior role of extraordinarily sophisticated 'molecular machines' that function in biological systems, and seeks to emulate them through computer-aided design and constructions of assemblies of molecules that function as rotors, pistons, light switches etc. at the molecular or nano scale," Professor Lincoln says.
"On a worldwide basis many of these systems are 'proof of concept' devices rather than being at the stage of practical application - which is what nanotechnology is.
"However, they are likely to lead to new light, electrical impulse and pressure-responsive materials for a variety of uses, exemplified by computer hardware, specialised coatings, sophisticated sensor systems, and many other uses. There are other forms of nanotechnology being developed by physicists, such as quantum computing and quantum entanglement."
Professor Lincoln says the future of nanotechnology research at the University of Adelaide is potentially bright.
"Any quality university seeks to be at the cutting edge of research and teaching and this requires a steady flow of innovation," he says. "There is no doubt about the quality of staff and students at Adelaide to respectively introduce and absorb this innovation."
He says the opportunities for students wanting to study nanotechnology at the University of Adelaide were excellent.
"My own department is revising its courses to accommodate more of the chemical aspects of nanotechnology as part of a continual review of course content. Excellent opportunities exist in physics also. Thus a student can select modules for their BSc (Bachelor of Science) program that will equip them as nanotechnologists."
Professor Lincoln says it's important not to give the impression that there is "nanotechnology" and "other technology".
"Nanotechnology, exciting as it is, is simply a reflection of human curiosity discovering more about existence and applying these discoveries in practical applications, which in this case, because it is at molecular scale, has become nanotechnology.
"Thus, it is a continuation of the miniaturisation of technology that pervades everyday life. It represents the parallel progress of science and technological innovation," he says.
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