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A*STAR IMRE to advance nanotechnologies via foundry

01 Oct 2013

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A*STAR's Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) and partners on September 30 have unveiled a Nanoimprint Foundry that is intended to bridge the gap between laboratory-based nanotechnologies and real-world products.

The foundry will develop, test-bed and prototype engineered plastics and surfaces with the aim of commercializing the technologies. This is considered the first time that Singapore nanotechnology suppliers and manufacturers have collaborated to advance the commercialisation of nanoimprinting. The technology has potential applications in dry adhesives, aesthetic packaging, contact lenses, biomedical cell scaffolds, anti-frost surfaces, and anti-bacteria materials. Sectors that may benefit from this development include consumer care, biomedical devices, optics, filtration, displays, and maritime.

Adhesives that leave no sticky residue, 'skins' that keep medical instruments germ-free, new anti-reflective protectors for displays or surfaces that prevent barnacles from attaching to ships – these are just some of the products that nanoimprinting technology is capable of producing.

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Figure 1: IMRE prototype roll-to-roll nanoimprinter has production speed of more than 30m per minute.

The multi-party investment will bring together national research organisations, suppliers and manufacturers in the nanotechnology field, and government agencies to promote the technology. The Foundry is part of a masterplan spearheaded by A*STAR to push translational research and accelerate commercialisation of home-grown technologies. In partnership with other A*STAR research institutes, IMRE will work with companies like Toshiba Machines, EV Group, NTT Advanced Technology, NIL Technology, Kyodo International, Micro Resist Technology, Nanoveu, and Solves Innovative Technology to produce prototypes for real-world products and applications. The Foundry and its partners will also work closely with Singapore's Economic Development Board (EDB) and SPRING to promote its nanoimprint applications to industry as part of the plans to boost Singapore's manufacturing capabilities.

"We can help companies develop up to 20,000 samples for proof-of-concept and pilot production allowing manufacturers to shorten the product cycle but minus the heavy capital R&D investment," said Dr. Karen Chong, the IMRE scientist who is heading the Foundry. Dr. Chong added that the Foundry will be a one-stop shop for companies seeking to conceive, design and develop solutions for new products based on the nanoimprint technology.

"There is a billion-dollar, virtually untapped market for new advanced nanotechnology products that can make use of what the Foundry has to offer," said Andy Hor, Executive Director for IMRE. In consumer care for instance, the global market for contact lenses, where nanoimprint technology can be used to produce new functionalities like multi-coloured lenses, is expected to grow to $11.7 billion by 2015.

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