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The Netherlands is a Western European country situated between Belgium and Germany. As of April 2013, it had an estimated population of 16,785,403. Covering an area of 41,543 km2, this country includes several overseas territories.
The Netherlands forms the Benelux economic union along with Luxembourg and Belgium. It is one of the founding members of the EU, NATO, WTO, and OECD.
In 2011, the country was reported to have the tenth highest per capita income across the whole world. The 2012 GDP of the country was $709.5 billion. It is known to have the fifth largest economy in the Euro-zone. The biggest industrial sector of the country is its food industry. Electrical goods, metallurgy, machinery, tourism, and chemicals are other major industries.
The Netherlands has several networks and organizations focused on promoting nanoscience and also exploring the future and challenges of nanotechnology. Mentioned below is a brief introduction to the major nanotechnology-related organizations in The Netherlands:
Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter (FOM)—Coordinates, promotes, and funds fundamental physics research in The Netherlands. With a yearly budget of 91.8 million euros, FOM is an autonomous foundation in charge of the physics division of the national research council, NWO.
Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)—Funds leading researchers, and drives the course of Dutch science through research programs and by handling the national knowledge infrastructure. One of the areas of focus is to reinforce The Netherlands’ international position in Nanosciences and Nanotechnology by funding applied and fundamental nano research.
NanoNextNL—This is a group of more than one hundred universities, companies, knowledge institutes, and university medical centers. The organization is focused on performing research into micro- and nanotechnology. The overall sum involved for NanoNextNL is 250 million euros, which is partially funded by the Government of The Netherlands, and partially by the members.
Nanotechnology is a multifaceted field that is used in several industries such as information technology, food and water treatment industry, medicine, and space research. The top nanotechnology companies in The Netherlands that cater to these diverse sectors are mentioned below, accompanied by a brief introduction to each of them.
Phenom-World—A top international supplier of desktop scanning electron microscopes and imaging solutions for submicron scale applications, the company’s SEM-based systems are employed in a wide range of markets and applications. Phenom-World was originally a part of FEI Company and has been continuously innovating to offer sharper, more rapid SEM imaging capabilities to users, while maintaining the Phenom products’ renowned flexibility and user-friendliness.
AkzoNobel—It is a major global paints and coatings company, and also a key producer of specialty chemicals. The company supplies consumers and industries across the world with groundbreaking products, and is also about providing them with sustainable solutions. The company’s portfolio includes established brands such as Sikkens, Dulux, Eka, and International. AkzoNobel is headquartered in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and continuously ranks as one of the leaders in the area of sustainability, with operations in over 80 countries.
Aquamarijn—Founded in 1994, Aquamarijn focuses on developing high-flux, precision microfiltration membranes, “microsieve membranes™.” The company uses nano and micro engineering to produce new technologies for filtration, cell detection, (micro) analysis, micro molding, and nanopatterning. It specializes in MEMS micromachining, fiber spinning, and polymeric micro molding techniques.
ASML—It is the leading provider of lithography systems in the world, catering to the semiconductor industry. The company produces complex machines that play a key role in the production of integrated circuits or chips. ASML, headquartered in Veldhoven, The Netherlands, is traded on Euronext Amsterdam and NASDAQ under the symbol ASML.
Nano-FM—Founded in December 2010, Nano-FM is a privately owned Dutch biomaterials company with a firm background in molecular self-assembly. The company focuses on developing synthetic micro-environments that permit mammalian cells to proliferate optimally and maintain their completely differentiated characteristics using Nano-FM’s proprietary self-assembling nanofibrous hydrogel technology.
Nanomi—It is an independent, privately owned Dutch high-tech company that focuses on the development of accurately defined functional emulsions and microspheres. Founded in 2004 as an independent spin-off from the University of Twente, Nanomi is located in the Eastern Netherlands. The company has been profitable from the very beginning, and in spite of being a comparatively new business, it is already involved in manufacturing products for many Forbes 2000 companies across the world.
Nanosens—Creates and utilizes state-of-the-art developments and advancements of the emerging field of nanotechnology to develop smart, inexpensive, and portable sensing systems for ultrasensitive and rapid detection of chemical and biological species.
Nanosens focuses on bringing new concepts and ideas from the sensor laboratories to the application worlds (I2A). The company also focuses on the sensor application areas that have a huge impact on society and on the industry. These areas include nanobio and chemical sensors for life sciences and healthcare (medical), water control, security (warfare), and nano gas sensors for the pollution control, automotive industry, health, and safety.
MAPPER Lithography—Founded in the year 2000, the company currently employs more than 200 people and is continuing to grow rapidly. MAPPER has been creating a machine for the semiconductor industry and is looking to the future.
Enceladus—A young, small-scale drug development company, Enceladus has launched Nanocort, a liposomal pharmaceutical containing anti-inflammatory corticosteroid. This pharmaceutical selectively targets the actual sites of pathology in severe inflammatory disorders such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), as well as in cancer. Nanocort may come up with an innovative and highly effective therapeutic intervention approach.
In a variety of experimental disease models, it was proved that intravenous treatment leads to selective accumulation in diseased areas in the body. Hence, a drastic increase in durability and intensity of the therapeutic effect was demonstrated, with very less adverse effects.
Innosieve Diagnostics BV—A product company possessing its own R&D facilities, Innosieve Diagnostics BV operates in the area of innovative diagnostic applications. The company focuses on the manufacture and marketing of user-friendly, micro/nanotechnology-based applications for detecting micro-organisms, finally to even avoid the need for the use of enrichments. To achieve this, the company has a strong know-how in sample preparation, immunological assays, and molecular diagnostics, particularly in the area of detection of microbial organisms.
XiO Photonics—Located in Enschede, The Netherlands, XiO Photonics is an innovative company that has strong expertise in products based on Integrated Optics, Light-on-a-chip. The primary focus of XiO Photonics is on the design and assembly of modules that integrate the optical chips for products in visible light applications. The company’s first-class team has thorough knowledge and years of hands-on experience in micro- and nanotechnology, design, fabrication, and assembly technology.
Nanotechnology Research and Education
Some of the universities in The Netherlands offer educational and research opportunities in nanotechnology. Mentioned below is a list of academic institutions and universities in The Netherlands, and the research opportunities or academic courses that they offer in the field of nanotechnology.
Department of Quantum Nanoscience—Part of the Delft University of Technology, the three research profiles within the department are Quantum Information Science, Quantum Theory, and Quantum Devices and Materials. Research at the department is supported by modern facilities, especially the cleanroom facility Kavli Nanolab Delft for the fabrication and investigation of functional nanostructures.
Radboud University Nijmegen—The University’s Faculty of Science offers a Master’s program in Physics and Astronomy, which offers students an opportunity to specialize in Nanomaterials and Molecules. The Master’s program in Natural Science allows students to explore many fields, including nanoscience.
University of Twente—Situated in Enschede, this university hosts MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology, which is one of the leading nanotechnology research institutes across the world. The Nano Electronic Materials group is another initiative of the university.
Eindhoven University of Technology—The Department of Mechanical Engineering supports the Micro- and Nano-Scale Engineering group, which focuses on microdevice design and microfabrication techniques.
AMOLF—It is one of the research laboratories of the Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter (FOM), part of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). With an annual budget of 14 million euros, AMOLF performs research in two key directions: Physics of Biomolecular systems and Nanophotonics.
The research is conducted within three research departments that work closely together: Systems Biophysics, Molecular Biophysics, and Nanophotonics. The research is carried out in five research laboratories that have equipments shared among the research groups. All laboratories welcome external users.
Nanotechnology for Development—This is a research project that focuses on understanding how nanotechnology can contribute to development. By exploring ways people deal with nanotechnology in India, Kenya, and The Netherlands, the project will come up with suitable ways for governing nanotechnology for development.
Four PhD researchers who are part of the project will focus on knowledge brokerage, cultures of innovation, traveling technology, and risk governance in India, Kenya, and The Netherlands. The program is organized by Maastricht University, The Netherlands.
University of Amsterdam—The Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences supports the Analytical Chemistry Research Group, the key research objectives of which are advanced spectroscopic and separation methods and data analysis (“chemometrics”). Advanced chip-based separation systems based on nanotechnology is the program’s latest area of focus.
The Colloids and Nanomedicine 2012 conference was held in Amsterdam from July 15th to 17th. This conference focused on the rapidly growing Nanomedicine area. It provided a platform for the exchange of thoughts and discussions with international engineers and scientists working in the fields of drug delivery, biomaterials, imaging, diagnostics, and sensors.
The Society for the Study of Nanoscience and Emerging Technologies (SNET) Conference 2012 took place from October 22nd to 25th at the University of Twente. SNET is a global association promoting intellectual exchange and critical inquiry in connection with the development of nanoscience and emerging technologies in society. The conference attracted practitioners, scholars, and policymakers from all over the world who are focused on the advancement and implications of emerging technologies.
In January 2013, researchers from the NanoElectronics Group at the MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology partnered with the Paul Drude Institute in Berlin to develop an inexpensive and simple approach for producing ultra-high-frequency (up to 23 GHz) surface acoustic waves (SAWs) in silicon substrates. Even though the acoustic waves were similar to earthquakes, their amplitude was less than a nanometer. This type of acoustic wave exhibits a remarkable effect at the nanoscale due to its ability to capture and transport electrons inside silicon.
This phenomenon can be extensively applied in several areas such as the definition of a universal current standard, single-photon sources, quantum information technology, and spintronic devices. This discovery is known to be the highest surface acoustic wave frequencies ever achieved in a silicon-based system.
In terms of nanotechnology policy, the Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment organized an invitation-only conference to discuss the status of EU legislation on nanomaterials, specifically, whether or not the existing legislation is satisfactory. The Chairman’s report specifies that instant action is needed to look into the public’s concern and that databases or registries will be vital for gathering essential information.
Researchers from TU Delft, partaking in an EU project known as W2Plastics, have used iron oxide nanoparticles in a process known as magnetic density separation to sort plastic waste into different polymer types in just one step.
Dutch scientists at the MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Twente have succeeded in developing 3D fractals at the nanoscale, by employing a technique known as corner lithography.
In the meantime, a research team from University of Utrecht in The Netherlands and Aalto University in Finland has joined forces to produce single-atom contacts between gold and graphene nanoribbons. This could be a step toward graphene transistors.
Researchers from the University of Utrecht have also created a ferro-nanocatalyst capable of producing Syngas from wood waste. Syngas, very similar to naphtha, can be used to produce plastics.
Europe’s micro and nanoelectronics industry, as well as those in The Netherlands, could benefit from a 5-billion Euro pledge from the EU to motivate the sector, which is believed to lag behind Asia and the United States.
In spite of its small size and population, The Netherlands has been proving that size is not important, and has been creating a high volume of nanotech advancements. This will possibly increase if the EU funding for nanoelectronics materializes, placing the country in a powerful position moving forward. The Netherlands is thus a country worth keeping an eye on, in the near future.