Editorial Feature

Nanotechnology in Bulgaria: Market Report

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Bulgaria, a Southeast European country located between Romania and Turkey, covers an area of 110,879 km2. As of 2014, its population is 7,226,291.

Bulgaria has an industrialized market economy with the core industries being petroleum refinement, metals and minerals extraction, production of chemicals, steel, and machinery and vehicle components. The nation is the world’s largest producer of perfumery essential oils. The nation’s GDP in 2013 was 54.48 billion USD.

Bulgaria became a part of NATO in 2004 and the EU in 2007. The country still has a long way to match with the rest of Europe in the field of science as its scientific research budgets for 2010 was at 0.25% of GDP, which is the lowest in Europe.

Nanotechnology Companies

Since nanotechnology is a multipurpose field, it finds applications in numerous industries from water treatment and food, to space research, medicine, and information technology. The leading nanotechnology companies in Bulgaria that cater to these varied sectors are mentioned below along with a short introduction to each of them.

Multicoats—It was set up in 2003 as a cooperative Bulgarian/German start-up company specializing in the area of research and development. It focuses on applied laser-based technologies for depositing ultrathin and thin films, nanostructures, and nano-coatings and works with the aim to commercialize them.

Innovative Solutions Bulgaria Ltd—BudgetSensors® is a registered trademark of Innovative Solutions Bulgaria Ltd. The company focuses on a range of atomic force microscopes (AFM) probes.

Nanotechnology Education and Research

Some universities in Bulgaria provide research and educational opportunities in nanotechnology. Listed below are academic institutions and universities in Bulgaria and the academic courses or research opportunities provided by them in the nanotechnology domain.

Bulgarian Academy of Sciences—Supports the National Center on Nanotechnology (NCNT). NCNT is a national center for excellence in nanotechnology and nanoscience for both the manufacturing industries and academic community. The activities are typically multi-disciplinary and cover a broad spectrum of application in precision measurements and nanotechnology. The Institute of Optical Materials and Technologies is also involved in nano-based research.

University of Sofia—It is the largest and most esteemed educational and scientific center in the country. It hosts the following divisions that work in the field of nanotechnology:

  • Laboratory of Nanoparticle Science and Technology (LNST)—The Faculty of Chemistry manages the Department of Inorganic Chemistry, where LNST is situated. The lab was set up in 2000 and it creates novel nanomaterials based on the experience attained abroad, as well as the departmental traditions in the synthesis of phosphors, catalysts, monocrystals, and other inorganic chemical compounds.
  • Monte Carlo Group—The group has been exploring electrical and mechanical properties of defective single-wall carbon nanotubes since 2003 using classical Molecular Dynamics simulations and density functional computations (Ab Init; Quantum Esspresso; Real Space DFT). The distribution of the vacancies plays a vital role for both adsorptive ability and strength of the carbon nanotubes.

University of Chemical Technology and Metallurgy (UCTM)—The key scientific priorities of UCTM include study in the field of metallurgical and chemical technologies, which involves nanomaterials.

Recent Developments

NANO’2012, the 14th International workshop on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, was conducted at the library building at the Technical University of Sofia. The annual event’s goal was to explore the basic properties at the nanoscale and their applications in daily life.

Bulgarian scientists are up in arms with the outcomes of the 2012 grant proposals. With the financial support for science at a low point, and university budgets having been cut by 20% since 2009, researchers are annoyed that much of the insufficient funding is being directed to companies with little or no scientific research experience, or those that have close links to their national funding agency and its Chairman.

Inquiries into the review process have led to claims of corruption, while researchers are protesting as no explanation is being given on either projects that have won funding or any feedback for those suggestions that have been rejected.

The dearth of available funds, together with the alleged poor funding choices and the distractions of the investigations, will undoubtedly be restricting the development of science, including nanotechnology, in Bulgaria. As a result, it would not be surprising to hear more about the alleged misuse of research funding in Bulgaria than any scientific innovations.

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