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MEI Online: General Minerals Engineering: Latest News: November 12th 2003

:: From Little Things, Big Things Grow  

The Parker Centre is thinking big by studying the chemistry of the very small. Through its involvement in the new Nanochemistry Research Institute (NRI) at Curtin University, the Centre hopes to discover how to manipulate the chemistry of mineral processing down at the level of groups of atoms and molecules.

If successful, this research could result in ways to produce better crystals or stop the growth of unwanted crystals or create minute particles for use in impurity removal.

Nanochemistry is chemistry at the level of nanometres (a nanometre is one millionth of a millimetre). “It’s at the level where you start to get collective behavior of groups of atoms and molecules," says Professor Gordon Parkinson, NRI Director and the Parker Centre’s Crystallisation Program Manager. “Properties at this level differ from the properties of large masses of the same materials."

Professor Parkinson says the expertise of the NRI and the Parker Centre in crystallisation research provides Australia with a niche opportunity to enter the field of nanotechnology. Nanochemistry spans the physical and life sciences by bridging the gap between nanotechnology and biotechnology, two hot sciences which promise to change our lives if they live up to expectations.

Nanochemistry research being undertaken by the NRI in the area of mineral processing includes using additive molecules to modify crystal growth or produce nanoparticles which may have different uses. The NRI is also investigating biomaterials such as kidney stones, lactose crystals and pharmaceuticals. “We can see potential benefits in our life sciences work for the hydrometallurgy industry as well," says Professor Parkinson. “So I believe there will be big benefits through synergy between the Institute and the Parker Centre."

The Parker Centre’s participation in nanochemistry research is timely with “novel efficient ways of commodity extraction and processing” and “nanotechnology” included in the national research priorities announced by the Australian Government in December 2002.



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