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`Smart materials will fuel tech revolution'

Our Bureau

Hyderabad , July 20

SMART materials and micro electro material systems that mimic human or biological systems will lead to a second silicon revolution and find myriad applications ranging from smart clothes that respond to the environment to smart skins on aircraft.

Dr.Vasudev K. Aatre, Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister, said they combined the potential of microelectronics on one side and the micro machines technology. Dr Aatre was delivering the convocation address at the International Institute of Information Technology here on the impact of science and technology today.

Detailing the current technology trends, Dr Aatre said smart materials were finding applications in myriad fields from smart clothes that respond to the environment to smart skins on aircraft— like in health monitoring of buildings, bridges and aero structures, and in automobile industry with bouquet of sensors from anti-collision air bags to smart tyres, in biomedicine from micro needles to drug delivery systems, and in aerospace with innumerable applications of vibration damping, sound suppression, micro air vehicles and micro jets and others. This application specific technology is our ingenuity and innovation. Biotechnology that enables us to identify, understand, manipulate, improve and control living organisms has tremendous potential in agriculture and healthcare.

"We can have `Designer Crops' that would enable us to feed the ever increasing population with high yielding varieties while battling the environment and pests. Specially grown bacteria to clean and protect the environment, and `Designer Drugs' to treat a plethora of diseases are just a few things which the biotechnology revolution would cover," he said.

Genetic engineering is already making waves with gene therapy to cure presently incurable genetic disorders and is threatening to clone everything from animals to human beings. What a revolution this would be, Dr Aatre questioned on its possible implications on the society.

The field of nano materials and technology, which enables us to manipulate materials at the level of molecules and atoms, has already opened a vista of potential applications. If Eric Dexler were right we would soon have self replicating nano robots roaming through our arteries and veins looking for whatever we want to look for.

Molecular electronics, nano electronics, quantum dots, self organising and self replicating systems are no longer topics for scientific fiction.

They are just waiting round the corner to be exploited and perhaps control us, he explained.

As if these were not enough, finally, the holy grail of human research is the issue of modelling of human brain. Researchers in the areas of cognitive psychology, neurophysiology, genetics, evolutionary biology, anthropology, computer science and artificial intelligence are synergising their efforts to understand how we perform the so called higher functions— perception, emotion, memory, language, decision making and indeed all cognitive functions.

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