From smartphone touchscreens, to the most advanced defense systems, to
photovoltaic solar panels, nanotechnology has become an increasingly integral
component of everyday life.
Representatives from companies in a wide
range of sectors presented their innovative tiny-sized technologies during the
Monday morning session of “NanoIsrael 2012: The Third International
Nanotechnology Conference and Exhibition,” held in Tel Aviv on Monday and
Dr. Jonathan Goldstein and his start-up firm 3G Solar are
beginning to use nanotechnology to perfect their unique type of photovoltaic
panels, which are made with low-cost Dye Solar Cells – a layer of nano-sized
titanium dioxide particles saturated with dye, according to the
Unlike standard photovoltaic cells, which are generally made of
silicon or thin film, the 3G cells with titania and adsorbed dye act more like
electrochemical batteries, Goldstein explained. Moreover, these cells are
made of much cheaper, less toxic, more lightweight materials, and are less
sensitive to cloudy weather, temperature fluctuations, orientation and shade, he
While their cells already operate in a very efficient manner, the
company is aiming to continue increasing this efficiency, and is currently
working in a partnership with teams at Bar Ilan University and the Weizmann
Institute of Science to further develop the cells using a mechanism called
Förster Resonance Energy Transfer, he said.
Espousing similar ideals of
efficiency, but in an entirely different sector, a company called CollPlant is
manufacturing a nano-sized product as an effective mechanism for orthopedic
treatments and wound management. CollPlant is proliferating human
collagen molecules – the most abundant protein the in the human body, only 1.5
nanometers in diameter – by replicating the five genes responsible for the
protein in plants, explained Yehiel Tal, CollPlant CEO. Expressed in plants, the
genes have the ability to generate the precursor to human collagen, called
procollagen, according to the company.
“This is the basic building block
– and for this reason we selected this molecule,” he said, calling collagen a
“scaffold” for tissue repair.
CollPlant is now conducting a study in
partnership with Maccabi Health Fund, in which researchers are treating 16
patients with diabetic foot ulcers using Vergenix, one of the company’s collagen
healing products, Tal said.
Nanotechnology, a field to which Israeli
companies like 3G Solar and CollPlant continue to be substantial contributors,
involves making the most of something tiny using human brain power – something
that President Shimon Peres called making “more and more of less and less,”
during his opening address at the conference.
“All of this started with
the nanotechnology,” Peres said, stressing just how much nanotechnology has
changed basic scientific concepts over the past couple of decades. “Look
at the great secrets that are hidden in small pieces of material but also
[those] of chemistry, of connections, of relationships, of systems. And
so I believe in the coming 10 years we will see a very, very different
“We live in a world where the questions are not changing; the
answers are changing,” he added.
Nanotechnology will be a key element of
the global challenge to achieve environmental sustainability – and is therefore
an integral part of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development’s
Green Growth Strategy launched in May 2011, according to Dr. Francoise
Roure, chair of the France-based OECD Working Party on
Roure’s group was established in 2007 as a subsidiary of
the OECD’s Committee for Scientific and Technological Policy and aims to promote
international cooperation to facilitate research, development and responsible
commercialization of nanotechnology.
From last year through 2014, the
working party will be monitoring and analyzing policies for nanotechnology,
investigating how to gain economic returns from nanotechnology investments and
monitoring the societal impact of nanotechnology, Roure explained.
such societal impact – of nanotechnology and other scientific fields – is the
cross-border cooperation that must occur in order to ensure their successful
development, experts agreed.
“We live in a world where borders have
disappeared in the science and innovation environment,” said Dr. Suzanne
Fortier, president of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of
Students and researchers of nanotechnology and other scientific
fields need to be part of high-performing teams all over the world, and
governments therefore must promote the mobility of young people in these areas,
according to Fortier.
“We need to be part of these strategic teams of
researchers in public and private sectors to be a strong competitor,” she said
of her own country.