In recent decades, scientists have developed an understanding of our world by probing the world of atoms and molecules. More recently, science has explored the interesting and unexpected phenomena caused by the quantum nature of particles in matter whose size is only a few nanometres. Engineers are learning how to use nanotechnology to assemble micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS). Not much bigger than a living cell, these systems have many potential applications from motors, pumps and engines to sensors and actuators. Nanotechnology is growing so rapidly that many predict it will overtake growth in the semiconductor industry. Leading researchers in the Electrochemical Technology Centre will give industry partners a window into this rapidly developing field.

Prof. Dan Thomas studies porous silicon, whose nanoscale structure gives it unusual optical and electronic properties, particularly light emission stimulated by photo- and electroluminescence. Some of the procedures that have been developed for producing this material may find applications in flat panel displays.

In a joint project with Prof. Mark Baker, Thomas is investigating how the nanostructured electrochemical formation of electrodes will drastically alter their electronic structure and hence their ability to carry and transfer electrons. This would lead to unusual electrochemical reactivity properties, such as with electrocatalytic reactions. The researchers intend to develop highly selective electrodes that can oxidize or reduce a particular component while leaving others unaffected. Potential applications for this technology include sensors, waste remediation, environmental cleanup and catalytic specificity.