Editorial Feature

Nanotechnology in Singapore: Market Report

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Singapore is an island country located in southeastern Asia between Malaysia and Indonesia. It covers a total area of 697 km2 with a population of 5,850,096 as of 2019.

Singapore has a prosperous, market-based economy. Despite the global economic downturn of 2009 when its economy contracted by 1.0%, it rebounded to 14.8% in 2010 and 4.9% in 2011. The country has the fifth busiest ports in the world and prides itself on being corruption-free. The GDP of Singapore was US$314.9 billion in 2011.

Nanotechnology Organisations

Singapore has organisations and networks committed to promoting and exploring nanoscience. A brief introduction to the chief nanotechnology-related organisations in Singapore is given below:

  • Nanocluster – The Nanoscience & Nanotechnology Cluster (NanoCluster) is a Nanyang Technological University (NTU) wide network of research centres that includes shared facilities for nanofabrication, nanocharacterization and the exploitation of nanotechnology applications.

Nanotechnology Companies

Nanotechnology is a diverse field that links many different applications and industries. The major nanotechnology companies in Singapore are listed below along with a brief introduction to each of them:

  • Nanoglobe – NanoGlobe was founded and is managed by Dr. Lerwen Liu, “Asia’s Nanotech Ambassador.” The company specializes in government and corporate strategy, business development, information intelligence and networking, especially in the Asia Pacific Rim. Since 2002, Dr. Liu and her team of analysts and partners have been actively connecting and serving nanotechnology leaders worldwide and driving nanotech businesses towards sustainable development.
  • Nanomaterials Technology – NanoMaterials Technology Pte Ltd (NMT) is a technology-based company founded and incorporated in Singapore in 2000. NMT specializes in the development, manufacturing, commercialization, and licensing of nanomaterial products for various markets such as oil and gas, coatings, plastics, glass, electronic materials, pharmaceutical and speciality chemicals.
  • NanoYo - nanoYo™ was founded in Japan more than 18 years ago. It is a liquid with an active ingredient, which is an n-type semiconductor photocatalyst and has nano-sized titanium dioxide (TiO2) particles. Responsive to light, it is an antimicrobial, deodorising, UV-blocking, long-lasting treatment that can be used in a variety of applications and situations. Their head office is located in Singapore.
  • Omniyo - Omniyo Pte Ltd was established in 2011 to bring together the latest advancements in nanoscience technology for the masses to provide affordable and practical products and services. A priority objective for the company is to make the environment a safer and healthier place through the propagation of breakthrough healthcare technologies that transform surfaces to become "self-sanitizing"; which results in deleterious bacteria and viruses being eliminated upon contact, thus reducing the risk of infections and to promote greater hygiene throughout the world.
  • Quantum Precision Instruments - also known as Quantum-π, this is a nanotechnology company that is developing two different product families based on quantum tunneling principles. Their sensors are unmatched in sensitivity. nanoTrek® dimensional metrology devices address problems associated with the next generation of metrological devices in the microelectronics and scientific instrumentation markets.
  • WinTech Nano-Technology Services - WinTech is a dynamic organization using  cutting-edge technology within the semicon industries. Their technical specialists are well trained with years of experience and are committed to working confidentially with their clients to satisfy all requirements on failure analysis, IC circuit editing and materials analysis services.
  • Qtech Nanosystems - Qtech Nanosystems Pte. Ltd. is an R&D Center focused on making products based on nanotechnology. It is engaged in a collaborative New Product Development and Launch (NPDL) which conducts research and collaborative product and technology development activities in diverse areas to propel innovation in nanotechnology.
  • Shayonano - ShayoNano specializes in the research and product development of nanomaterials and nanotechnologies, right from conception to commercialization. ShayoNano offers solutions that meet the highest demand in various sectors from engineering to environmental through their innovative materials and proprietary technologies. ShayoNano has developed patented process technology for industrial-scale manufacturing of nanomaterials that can be synchronized in size, structure, are scalable and have high purity in terms of quality.

Nanotechnology Education and Research

Singapore is home to a number of universities offering research and educational opportunities in nanotechnology. These organizations and the academic courses or research opportunities they offer is listed below:

Agency for Science Technology and Research (A*Star)

  • Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) - promotes interdisciplinary research combining science, engineering and medicine. IBN is focused on generating new knowledge and creating innovative technology platforms that use novel catalytic chemistry, biomaterials, nanofabricated devices and microfluidic systems with biological and biomedical engineering.
  • Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) - IMRE is committed to high-quality, extensive materials research and development for enabling technology platforms which support the growth of new industry capabilities. Using these capabilities, several R&D programmes have been established, including research on organic solar cells, nanocomposites, flexible organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), solid-state lighting, nanoimprinting, microfluidics and next-generation atomic scale interconnect technology.

National University of Singapore

  • Nano Biomechanics Lab – operates as a part of the Department of Bioengineering, and has state of the art facilities to conduct multi-disciplinary research in the areas of micro and nano biomechanics and mechanobiology.
  • Nanocore – funded by NUS, this is open to research staff and students who want to work across traditional scientific and engineering disciplines to achieve progress in the technology on the nanoscale. The center also offers NanoCore PhD scholarships.
  • Silicon Nano Device Laboratory – part of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The lab offers nanotechnology-based research opportunities.
  • Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Initiative - aims to promote nanotechnology research. It facilitates research efforts by NUS faculties, researchers and students.

Singapore-MIT Alliance

Offers the Advanced Materials for Micro and Nano-Systems (AMM&NS) degree program.

Nano and Microfabrication Core

Part of the Mechanobiology Institute (MBI), and was formed to support the microfabrication needs of MBI PIs, collaborators, research fellows (RF) and graduate students. Funding is provided by both the National Research Foundation and the Ministry of Education to create a new research centre in mechanobiology to benefit the discipline and Singapore as a whole.

Recent Developments

A*STAR’s SIMTech and NUS Faculty of Engineering have launched joint lab facilities aimed at boosting manufacturing productivity. One outcome of the venture will be in the area of multi-axis nano-positioning systems for high-end machines.

A team of researchers at Nanyang Technical University have developed silica-coated stirrer bars made up of iron oxide nanoparticles. The nanoparticles are lined up for form chains about 40nm long. Their diminutive size means they can be used in the tiny channels in lab-on-chip devices. Their size also enables them to stay suspended in a solution and they can efficiently mix small volumes down to a few picoliters.

In October 2012, researchers based at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and A*STAR Institute of Microelectronics (IME) developed a low cost, yet efficient thin-film solar cell. The NTU-A*STAR nano-structured solar cell is stated to produce a current of 34.3mA/cm2, setting a world record for a silicon solar cell of its kind.

In August 2012, materials scientists used a nanoprinter to achieve 100,000 dots per inch, which was 10 times the previous record for high-resolution color printing. The research team was led by Joel Yang, a scientist at the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering in Singapore.

In May 2012, new improved anti-reflective plastics hit the market in Singapore. These plastics provided better performance and wider viewing angles over the existing anti-reflective plastics. This was achieved by researchers from A*STAR’s Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) and their commercial partners. A locally developed nanotechnology technique was used to create a complex design comprising super tiny structures that copy the patterns of a moth’s eye, which is known to possess a unique method of diffusing light.

In 2012, Singapore had plans in place for over 20 years to ensure science remains an integral part of the economy. In 2010 gross expenditure on R&D was S$6.5 billion, growing 11 fold from the 1990 figure of S$570 million. Of the S$6.5 billion, the private sector was responsible for contributing S$3.9 billion.

Over the same period, Singapore's share of the world scientific publications grew from 900 (0.14%) to 8500 (0.73%), with many of the papers being published in high impact factor journals. The manufacturing industry in Singapore also experienced massive growth over the same period, increasing output from S$73 billion in 1990 to S$372 billion in 2010.

Singapore has a small land area and a highly educated population. This, combined with their lack of natural resources, means that they should continue to innovate and focus on knowledge-related activities to remain competitive. In line with this commitment, their RIE plans intend to establish Singapore as one of the most research-intensive, innovative and entrepreneurial economies in the world.

With this level of commitment to science and technology, there is little doubt that nanotechnology will also benefit. Singapore is committed to the commercialization of research outcomes which should see technologies being developed through research. The high level of private sector involvement may, however, see some developments quietly develop until they are ready for market. With strong support from government and industry, Singapore will continue to be a vibrant environment for research and nanotechnology.

Sources and Further Reading

This article was updated on the 2nd September, 2019.

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