Nanotechnology provides diverse approaches to problem-solving

On 14 November 2018, a Nano-Tech Apéro was held at the premises of DSM in Kaiseraugst. An audience of around 50 interested individuals took the opportunity to learn about applied research supported by the Swiss Nanoscience Institute (SNI) as part of the Nano Argovia program and to network with participating researchers and industry representatives.

Companies from a wide range of industries hope to improve their products and processes with the help of applied nanotechnology. With this in mind, the Nano Argovia program was launched 13 years ago by the Swiss Nanoscience Institute (SNI). Since its establishment, the program has been responsible for 70 applied nanotechnology research projects.

A steady stream of new projects
New questions and lines of research are incorporated into the program on an annual basis, and the SNI organizes a Nano-Tech Apéro once or twice a year to provide an update and encourage communication between successive project partners from industry and academia. At the event in Kaiseraugst on 14 November 2018, Dr. Andri Vital, project leader of the Hightech Aargau program, reaffirmed the significance of nanotechnology for the Canton of Aargau, as well as the growing contribution of high-tech industry to the value chain.

A varied mix of successful partnerships
The focus then shifted to successful research projects in a series of talks by the respective scientists from the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW), the CSEM in Muttenz, and the University of Basel.

For example, Dr. Joachim Köser (FHNW Muttenz) explained how, in collaboration with DSM, he has managed to reduce the adhesion of bacteria to surfaces using nanostructures. Further studies will be necessary in order to give the surfaces additional antibacterial properties. Dr. Tim Grüne (PSI) described how electron-beam diffraction can be used in an industrial context to determine the three-dimensional structure of tiny crystals that are too small for X-ray structure analysis. He recently published an SNI-funded Nano Argovia study on this topic in cooperation with the companies Dectris AG and Crystallise! AG. The publication received an extremely positive media response within the scientific community.

Dr. Benjamin Gallinet (CSEM Muttenz) spoke about a successful collaboration with Rolic Technologies Ltd. that aims to develop a plasmonic phase retarder for displays in sensor technology or imaging applications. The scientific talks were rounded off by Thomas Stohler, who is in the process of founding a start-up based on the results of various projects from the Nano Argovia program and the SNI PhD School. He plans to provide a fully automated sample preparation platform for cryo-electron microscopy and single-cell analysis. The individual components of the device have been developed over the last few years by scientists in the group of Dr. Thomas Braun (C-CINA, University of Basel) and could now help other teams of scientists with their research.

During the break and at the end of the event, the guests had an opportunity to discuss posters with the leaders of other Nano Argovia projects and to learn more about the various lines of applied research. “Lots of useful discussions took place, and new contacts were established,” says Dr. Michèle Wegmann (SNI), who organized the event for precisely this purpose and thanked DSM for being a perfect host.