Pioneering scientists at The University of Nottingham have won a £1.2 million grant for research into the engineering of nanomaterials that could transform the global healthcare industry.
From medical implants to new drug treatments, nanotechnology is the big new hope for the future of health and human wellbeing but how to manufacture and scale up the production of nanoparticles and nanocomposites from an engineering point of view is a major challenge.
Nanotechnology is already being used in the healthcare sector. For example, hospitals use fabrics with silver nanoparticle coatings; this gives them an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal effect. This new research at the University will develop a way to produce medical polymer-based (plastic) nanocomposites for use as surgical implants that eventually break down, being absorbed safely by the body when they have done their job. In this way they could replace metal implants in bone surgery for example.
Pro Vice Chancellor Chris Rudd is on a mission to develop a route to the safe and efficient production of the nanomaterials, which will be used as vehicles for drug delivery and bone tissue regeneration. He said:
"This new grant represents a major opportunity for The University of Nottingham to lead the way in the global industrial development of nanoparticles and composites. It is the only way the cutting-edge nano-engineering carried out here can be translated to have real impact on the world outside the laboratory. Our unique collaboration with industry will produce the smart healthcare materials of the future and at the same time provide huge scope for economic benefits through the development of new material types, technology lines and new companies."
The project has been awarded this significant funding by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and will run for four years from October 2012. By the end, the researchers expect to be able to manufacture demonstration models so the research can progress to the clinical trials stage. Specific challenges in nanotechnology that the new research will tackle include: