Using Nanotechnology to Explain How Ice Forms Clouds, Drug Development, Drug Delivery, Nanosensors and Clean Energy to be Discussed at Materials Simulation Laboratory Open Day

Medical, environmental and chemical conundrums – including the mystery of how ice forms in the sky and goes on to create clouds – will be unravelled at a conference hosted by UCL (University College London) to mark the opening of UCL’s Materials Simulation Laboratory on Monday 31 March 2008. The four-day conference will explore the properties and manipulation of nanostructures such as nanosensors that could one day be used for small molecule drug screening. Talks and posters will also cover the chemistry of bioglass implants and a new polymer for heart bypass grafts and valves.

UCL scientists have been modelling ice nucleation in the hope of better understanding the mysterious molecular processes by which ice forms around dust particles in the atmosphere, and goes on to create clouds. Knowing how these particles trigger ice formation is crucial for climate change models. UCL’s Dr Xiaoliang Hu will present new data on kaolinite, a key ice nucleating agent in the atmosphere, while Dr Angelos Michaelides will chair a session on the properties of water and ice.

Previous attempts to make synthetic arteries for heart surgery have been hampered by the fact that the body perceives them as foreign and triggers an ‘injury’ response to start blood clotting in the implants. Now, a UCL team led by Professor Alexander Seifalian has created a new generation of nanocomposite materials – known as UCL-Nano – for use in heart surgery. These nanomaterials overcome previous problems such as the risk of thrombosis (blood clotting) and are being used to develop arterial bypass graft, stent and heart valves.

Professor Mike Gillan, Director of the UCL Materials Simulation Laboratory (MSL), says: “The MSL brings together 90 UCL researchers, making it the largest concentration of materials modelling experts in the UK. Research at our centre, funded with £19 million in grants, covers a wide range of materials research including clean energy production, those that could play a role in climate change, and materials for future computing devices and for healthcare.”

Professor David Price, UCL Vice-Provost for Research who will be giving the inaugural address, says: “Materials modelling plays a crucial role in enabling major advances in areas such as nanotechnology and energy efficiency. Our world-leading expertise in this field will be further strengthened by a new £3.9 million investment in research computing that we are undertaking.”

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