A new, world class laboratory will open at the University of Newcastle next week, paving the way for an exciting new program of multinational collaborative research in organic electronics and nanotechnology*.
The Nanostructure Deposition Facility is a $1 million investment by the University and the Australian Research Council (ARC) and provides the University with its only 'clean room'.
Associate Professor Paul Dastoor, Director of the University's Priority Research Centre (PRC) for Organic Electronics, said a key aspect of the facility was to build tiny nanotubes that would be incorporated into advanced electronic devices.
"A human hair is about 2,000 times bigger than these nanotubes," he said.
"For example, we'll be using these nanotubes as detectors in the microscope we're building with Cambridge University in England.
"It's a scanning helium microscope which allows researchers to look at single atoms on surfaces - for example, we could use it to see how viruses attach to cells.
"We'll also be working on building cheaper solar cells using plastics.
"Current solar cells made from silicon are energy efficient but are far too expensive. By using semi-conducting polymers our goal is to build large area solar cells at very low cost.
"These polymers are readily dissolved in solution and so, for example, we could use them in paints for roofs or dyes for fabrics, making them a viable way to create electricity and help to solve our global energy problem. The new lab will allow us to build much better quality cells."
Associate Professor Dastoor said the laboratory was a 'Class 1,000' facility.
"This means there are fewer than 1,000 particles per cubic foot in the lab," he said.
"Anyone who enters the lab needs to wear a full suit and mask to ensure that the lab isn't contaminated with dust particles in any way, and the air is constantly filtered to keep it clean.
"This facility is a really exciting move forward for our PRC, and we'll be bringing researchers from across the world into the facility to work with us."
* Nanotechnology is the science and technology of building devices from single atoms and molecules.
Photo opportunity: The Nanostructure Deposition Facility will be opened by Joel Fitzgibbon MP on Monday 12 March at 11am, in the Physics building foyer, Callaghan campus. Media will be able to obtain footage of students working in the facility.