Ten months after allocating $26 million in government funds for the establishment of one of the world's largest nanotechnology research centers at the Technion, Finance and Industry and Trade Minister Ehud Olmert announced Wednesday that Bar-Ilan University would get $33 million for its own.
Bar-Ilan will raise another $67 million on its own from donations and its own budget for its international nanotechnology center, Olmert said during a campus tour. The government grant will be spread over five years and help to finance research and build and equip labs. The new nanotechnology building will be dedicated on the Ramat Gan campus in 2008 and expand existing nanotechnology research at Bar-Ilan.
Nanotechnology is the branch of engineering that deals with things smaller than 100 nanometers (one billionth of a meter). Using fabrication technology, objects are designed and built by the specification and placement of individual atoms or molecules.
The first recognized nanofabrication experiments took place in 1990, for example with the depositing of individual xenon atoms on a nickel substrate to spell IBM's logo.
Among the many possible future applications of nanotechnology are tiny scanners for non-invasive checkups, microscopic water filters or ant-sized comprehensive libraries.
Olmert told senior faculty members and doctoral studies that nanotechnology "is the platform that can ensure the preservation and advancement of Israeli scientific excellence in the world."
During Olmert's tour, Prof. Benny Erenberg explained to Olmert his work using nanotechnology to improve cancer treatments. Prof. Arye Tzaban presented his work on developing solar energy cells on plastic mats. Prof. Aharon Gedenkan introduced his research which brought about the development of a patented antibacterial material used, among other things, to make odorless socks.
Prof. Avi Ulman, head of Bar-Ilan's nanotechnology center, said that it was unique compared to others in Israel such as those of the Technion and Tel Aviv University because of its focus on nanotech materials and its direct ties with industry, as well as in its bachelor's and master's degree programs. Other universities offer only a doctorate in the field. The new center will employ about 40 senior researchers in the fields of biology, engineering, physics and chemistry, including some who will be brought from abroad.
At last February's Technion nanotechnology center ceremony, when Olmert had not yet become finance minister, Olmert said that other academic institutions that managed to bring in major amounts would be entitled to similar matching funds for their scientific and technological projects.