NZ company receives grant to develop hydrogen sensors
A $582,000 Government grant has been awarded to Christchurch company Nano Cluster Devices Ltd to help it commercialise tiny hydrogen sensors.
The money will help NCD commercialise the sensors which, among other uses, could be applied to hydrogen-fuelled cars.
The grant was made by the Government's Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (Forst) over three years.
International patents have been filed for the sensors, which work on nano dimensions of one billionth of a metre, or around 100,000 smaller than the thickness of a human hair.
The company believed its sensors would be "cheaper, more sensitive and smaller than anything else on the market".
NCD was spun out in 2003 from the University of Canterbury to further develop work by Associate Professor Simon Brown.
His team discovered that under certain conditions, clusters of atoms will form naturally into thin electrically conducting wires.
The key to the new product revolves around self-assembly, NCD's managing director Michael Hawkins said.
Nano wires could be self-assembled between electrical contacts without "time consuming and expensive manipulation that typically hinders the production of nano devices".
"We ultimately hope that we'll not only be building hydrogen sensors but will also produce new kinds of computer chips and other high value products," Hawkins said.
He said the international market for hydrogen sensors was worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
Computers built on a nanoscale could be a hundred times more powerful than those available today.
Confidential negotiations, initiated through NCD's strategic partner US NanoDynamics Inc, are underway to open distribution channels for NCD's products.
"The outcomes for NCD will depend on the markets targeted but whatever numbers you look at, they are big," Hawkins said.
Hawkins said the latest grant would significantly help NCD commercialise the product, and develop the manufacturing process.
Other funding NCD has received includes a Marsden study grant was made to the team in 1998, after Brown moved here from Australia.
It has also received a NERF (New Economic Research Fund) grant from Forst to apply its research, and backing from the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology.
Brown said nanotechnology had the potential to change New Zealand from an agricultural producer to an industrial based economy because of the vast range of products that could be produced.
"I got into it because I thought it was important for New Zealand to be involved or we would miss out and be left behind the rest of the world."
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