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Home arrow Engineering, Technology, Research and Development arrow Nano science to Nano manufacturing: Mano Manoharan, GE JFWTC, Bangalore
Nano science to Nano manufacturing: Mano Manoharan, GE JFWTC, Bangalore Print E-mail
Written by George Cheriyan   
Thursday, 24 September 2009
Bangalore: "Most of the work in nano-technology has been in what I would consider as nano-science, which is important critical work, but what is really missing is the link translating that into products, which I generally say is nano manufacturing," says Mano Manoharan who is the head for Global Research at the GE John F. Welch Technology Centre.

He feels that it is a culture-shift that is going from ‘I have a material, where can I use it' to ‘here is my problem, what material do I need'.

Mano Manoharan - General Manager, Global Research at the GE John F. Welch Technology Centre"Initially you know what you know, and you say I found a new thing where can I use it. Over time it changes, saying ‘oh! I can use it here' and that is a slow evolutionary process, it will take time. But I think it is beginning to happen, people are having those thoughts. I see more people talking that language than I saw 5 years ago," he explains.

On the status of the applications of nano-technology in GE's products, he said ", we are at a stage before that. Some of the early nano-technology that we are working on are likely to be in our products in the near future."

At GE, the nano technology effort is targeted at a range of applications from engines to health-care products. The team, headed by Mano Manoharan, at JFWTC in Bangalore is currently involved in lubrication and wear related areas.

"In metallic materials, we are looking at how you make the micro structure of the materials smaller, which makes them stronger. In the case of coatings we are looking at how you make the coatings more durable and make them at a better quality at a lower cost."

"In the area of surfaces we are looking at things like super hydrophobic surfaces which are capable of shedding water but can be made out of materials that are durable."

"It has to be durable, even if it is found that it is super hydrophobic to begin with, I have an engine running for thousands of hours, so it has to stay that way. Can it resist fouling? Can it resist particle depositions? We have to go through all this, and so we are in somewhat the mid-stage of looking at and solving some of those issues and we are looking at what better can be done by those materials. A lot of the early work on super hydrophobic materials has been in materials which are not usable in harsh environments - not the kind of materials we are interested in for our engines," he explains.

In lubrication, he said, "I think a lot of the work in the area of lubricants has been in the science of lubrication. How do you make a lubrication better using nano-tech? In my view a lot of the challenges in the area of lubrication are going to be in the technology of lubrication. How do you ensure that the material stays stable, long term durability, keeping the viscosity constant etc. We have a tribology centre of excellence in Bangalore and we have been thinking about this problem, not just for using nano but for solving a wide range of real world problems ."

Hiring plans

Speaking about the company's hiring plans he said ", We don't hire for nano-technology. My experience has been that you hire good physicists, good chemical engineers , materials engineers and mechanical engineers, and they would work in this field. I'm not a nano-technologist, I'm a metallurgical engineer. It's not a field where there is normally a degree."

"Do you have the right skill set, do you have the right attitude, do you have the passion to do research, that to me is much more important," he explains.

"The global research centre in India is world class and is very comparable to GE centers anywhere in the world, in terms of the talent, the technology we work on and in terms of the kind of output we have (ie:patents, publications and the kind of product value we bring to GE).

University collaborations

Speaking about collaborations with universities, he said that, the company is in talks with the Department of Science and Technology to formulate an appropriate method for collaborations.

The company recently entered into a collaboration with Venkateshwara university in Thirupathi in the area of new solar materials. GE is also in talks with the metallurgical department of IISc. GE is open to collaborations in which there are value propositions for both parties.

Currently, a lot of nano-technology work involves first making the nano-material and figuring out where it can be put. Academic research is in discovering what is the right nano-material, it’s properties - which is very important.

"But the reverse is beginning to happen, what I call nano-manufacturing," explains Mano.

He feels that nano technology will have a lot more impact if it is driven from the product out and hopes that the Indian funding in the research institutions are also focused in that direction.

Mano Manoharan is the General Manager, Global Research at GE's John F. Welch Research Center in Bangalore, India with a team of about 330 people. He looks at a broad range of technical programs across GE's Global Research organization and help identify collaboration opportunities and synergies across businesses and technology teams.

 
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