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New Zealand Invests in Tech

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand, July 19, 2007 -- New Zealand is investing NZ$628 million (about $498 million) in new research programs in an effort to position the country at the forefront of nanotechnology development and the production of new supermaterials, a government funding agency announced yesterday.

The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (FRST) said the projects will also help the country develop its economy, manage its resources sustainably and respond to climate change. Most contracts will start Oct. 1 and can last as long as eight years.

More than 30 organizations are receiving funding, including the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, one of New Zealand's seven National Centres of Research Excellence, which is linked to eight contracts totaling more than NZ$18 million (approx. $14.2 million).

Based at Victoria University of Wellington, the MacDiarmid Institute carries out research in materials science and nanotechnology, the science of understanding and controlling tiny matter (a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter). The institute partners with researchers at Victoria, Canterbury, Otago and Massey universities and at two crown research institutes, Industrial Research Ltd. (IRL) and GNS Science.

IRL will lead four of the research projects linked to the MacDiarmid Institute, targeting the development of new optical materials for devices used by the global telecommunications industry, a new electronics industry based on advanced magnetic sensors, nanostructured materials to meet global demand for new gas energy technologies, and the development of a unique New Zealand platform in nanomaterials design, the foundation said.

Another project receiving investment is led by Victoria University and aims to produce composite nanomaterials made up of quantum dots (semiconductor nanocrystals) and wool and paper fibers to create innovative fabrics, textiles and fashions and smart papers for the security packaging and labeling sectors.

Also linked to the MacDiarmid Institute is research at the University of Otago into quantum technologies; physicists at the university's Jack Dodd Centre for Photonics and Ultra-Cold Atoms have received NZ$7.1 million for their four-year research program. Headed by professor Crispin Gardiner, associate professor Andrew Wilson and professor Rob Ballagh, the program will build upon research performed at the center with the goal of enabling the development and manufacture of novel high-value physical devices in New Zealand, FRST said.

Involved in the program will be two university spinoffs, the Otago-based Photonic Innovations Ltd. and Southern Photonics Ltd. of Auckland. The research will make experimental and theoretical investigations into methods for using atoms, molecules and laser light for applications in information and communications technologies and for the development of sought-after new materials, such as so-called supermaterials.

The term "supermaterials" applies to crystals, semiconductors, nanotechnology, superalloys and metals, high-performance glasses, gels, polymer thin-films, and superconductors that are processed and produced using innovative techniques for applications including lasers, medical imaging, and pharmaceuticals.

"Our biggest area of research investment in this round is the primary production sector, accounting for about half of the total investment. This reflects the innate importance of this sector to New Zealand’s economy and the need for us to be innovative if we're to remain globally competitive. We are also increasing the amount we're investing in research to help us understand and respond to climate change," FRST Chief Executive Murray Bain said.

The foundation said it has invested smaller amounts in specific areas through other approaches and also invests about NZ$50 million a year to support firms undertaking research and development through its Technology New Zealand programs.

FRST is soliciting concepts from research organizations for possible funding next year. Approximately NZ$100 million per year will be available in the 2007-2008 investment round; details are available at the foundation's Web site:
Jul 2007
The use of atoms, molecules and molecular-scale structures to enhance existing technology and develop new materials and devices. The goal of this technology is to manipulate atomic and molecular particles to create devices that are thousands of times smaller and faster than those of the current microtechnologies.
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
Smallest amount into which the energy of a wave can be divided. The quantum is proportional to the frequency of the wave. See photon.
quantum dots
Also known as QDs. Nanocrystals of semiconductor materials that fluoresce when excited by external light sources, primarily in narrow visible and near-infrared regions; they are commonly used as alternatives to organic dyes.
A metal, alloy or compound that loses its electrical resistance at temperatures below a certain transition temperature referred to as Tc. High-temperature superconductors occur near 130 K, while low-temperature superconductors have Tc in the range of 4 to 18 K.
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