Intelligent Machines

Singapore Center Sets Ambitious Goals

Singapore’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology is rapidly emerging as a world leader in nano-based biosensors and diagnostic devices.

Efforts to commercialize nanotechnology are gaining momentum around the world. But nowhere are those efforts more intense than in the high-tech centers of Asia. In the most recent illustration of this trend, Singapore’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology is rapidly emerging as a world leader in nano-based biosensors and diagnostic devices. Already home to more than 100 researchers, the nanotech institute, which is part of Singapore’s new Biopolis biomedical research center, has applied for a dozen patents over the last year and plans to translate its most advanced research projects into commercial products in the next few years.

The institute reflects heavy nanotech investments by several governments in Asia-chiefly China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore-that aim to produce everything from extremely sensitive diagnostics to superfast computers. In particular, Japan, South Korea, and China “will be world nanotech leaders in the next few years,” says David Tomanek, a nanotech expert at Michigan State University who maintains a research group at Tokyo’s Research Organization for Information Science and Technology. “In some areas, you could say they’re leading now.”

One of the nearer-term efforts at the Singapore center is a new blood-glucose sensor that allows people with diabetes to draw one-tenth the amount of blood required by conventional home systems and get readings in five seconds. The device uses a thin membrane dotted with tiny holes and laden with sensors; the holes control the flow of blood so the sensors have better access to the glucose molecules contained in it. The Singapore center says it is in discussions with an unnamed company that might commercialize the device in two years.

This story is part of our April 2004 Issue
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

Other devices in the works include ultrasensitive sensors for detecting the molecular and genetic signals of breast cancer and SARS and strong, durable orthopedic implants. “Nanotech allows you to tailor biomaterials and devices in an unprecedented manner. You can do better than nature,” says Jackie Ying, the executive director of the institute, currently on leave as an MIT professor of chemical engineering. And when it comes to improving on nature, the Asian nanotech centers hope to do better than their counterparts around the world.

Sampling of Nanotech Leaders in Asia
ORGANIZATION TECHNOLOGIES
Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry,
Chinese Academy of Sciences, Changchun, China
Fast, stable sensors for biomolecule analysis and diagnostics
Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, Singapore Biosensors, medical implants, sensitive biochips for diagnostics
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Daejeon, South Korea Sensors and chips for detecting toxins
NEC, Tokyo, Japan Carbon-nanohorn-based fuel cells
Samsung Advanced Institute of
Technology
, Giheung, South Korea
Carbon-nanotube-based flat-panel displays
Become an MIT Technology Review Insider for in-depth analysis and unparalleled perspective.
Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all five of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium

$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.

  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

You've read of free articles this month.