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00:47 | Jan 15 | 2013

Materials and products of the future

The Yakut scientists have something to surprise the scientific world with.

The North-Eastern Federal University is now one of the largest centers of science and education in the Far East. Special attention is given to innovation in science there; the NEFU Arctic Innovation Center was created for these purposes, the projects of which are the story of this article.

The thinnest and most durable
Today one of the aims of the NEFU Arctic Innovation Center is the creation of small innovative enterprises. They started from the construction industry and not accidently. First, the university has a strong engineering and technical department, second – construction projects quickly earn profit and, third, the very nature of the region pushes development of construction.
Another area of development of the AIC is nanotechnology and high-tech materials. The most modern equipment and computers were purchased for these purposes and the so-called clean zones were created. The specialists focus on the popular now graphene, a flat form of carbon, which is a source of new opportunities for use.
“We have developed a method of creating graphene electrostatically, chemically created graphene flakes and begin to create larger-sized graphene using the same special chemical methods,” says Svetlana Smagulova, Head of the Laboratory of nano-graphene technologies, candidate of physical and mathematical sciences. By the way, a grant to establish the laboratory in the amount of 56 million rubles was won by NEFU through a tender.
Graphene’s qualities are truly unique. It is 200 times stronger than steel, its thermal and electrical conductivity is four times higher than that of copper. Optical transparency of graphene is very high. All this makes it a prime candidate for manufacturing of the next generation of more powerful, faster and less energy intensive electronics.
“Another feature of this material is its ultimate flexibility: it can be folded or rolled up,” says Daniil Nickolaev, candidate of physical and mathematical sciences. “We are working on generation of graphene paper that is six times lighter than steel, 10 times more durable and has 13 times higher flexural stiffness. It is an ideal material for the automotive and aviation industry.”
It is assumed that in the future graphene will replace silicon chips, will be used to create transistors, solar cells, will replace copper wires, will be used as a sensor for the detection of single molecules of chemical substances.
And this is only a small part of what the thinnest and most durable material can be used for. Undoubtedly, the prospects of commercial applications of graphene are wide. However, its production is not yet discussed: it is insufficiently studied by scientists, its production would require power supply of another level, but today Yakutia has a real opportunity to become one of the leaders in this area in Russia.

Yakut health
If the prospects for commercial production of graphene are still far away, Yakut lichens, the unique properties of which have been long known, are a different matter, but up to this day there was no practical use for them. Japan and Latvia showed interest in the Yakut developments based on scientific work. Pilot batches were recently sent there.
In recent years the Yakut Research Institute of Agriculture developed a range of innovative pro-biotic products based on biologically active, unique in their kind local natural strains of bacteria. These drugs are effective for prevention and treatment of respiratory, digestive systems, immune correction of the body. They are successfully used as mineral and vitamin supplements at breeding farms not only in the Republic but also Novosibirsk and Amur regions, Buryatia and Mongolia.
Biotechnology research has been conducted at another institution, the Institute of Biological Problems of the Cryolithozone of RAS, (Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences), since 1988. A biological product “Epsorin” made of reindeer antlers waste which has adaptogenic, immune-modulatory and bio-stimulant action has been developed. Expansion of “Epsorin” production could significantly increase the profitability of reindeer herding. That's not all that Yakut biologists can offer. They designed a biological product “NanoYagel-M”, which can be used as a micro supplement into juices, undiluted milk and other foods to increase the retention period by five times. The use of micro biological product “Yagel-T” improves the quality of bakery products, their retention period will be doubled, moreover, the bread will not get moldy or stale.
“Based on basic opportunities of the physical infrastructure, bio-resource and economic potential of Yakutia, biomedical sector needs to be developed in the Republic first,” said Lyubov Yavlovskaya, deputy chairman of the State Committee on the Innovation Policy and Science of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia).
For this purposes a special sub-program within the framework of the state program “Scientific, technical and innovative development of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) for 2012-2016” is being developed. There are numerous opportunities for the proposed innovative options. They include the development and introduction of new drugs based on local raw materials, immunogenetic and molecular studies on child and adult population, treatment of socially significant diseases.
With the help of the proposed program and collaboration with the Fund “Skolkovo” new food ingredients, enzymes and vitamins are planned to be developed. Naturally, this will lead to improvement of the quality and safety of food, development of scientific technologies to create new types of bio-products and traditional northern foods. But these are the problems of food safety of the Republic.

From the exhibition to a contract
Recently a Yakut delegation of scientists and experts returned from Moscow where they participated in a number of representative assemblies: the international innovative development forum “Open Innovation”, high-tech exhibition “Open Innovations Expo 2012” and the 6th International Biotechnology Exhibition “RosBioTech-2012”.
Participation of the Yakutian delegation was productive and efficient. Innovative projects presented at the participatory exposition of the Republic aroused great interest among the other participants. This is evidenced by the fact that the Yakuts received five gold and three silver diplomas. Negotiations were conducted, workshops were held, in the long term their result is expected to be signing of a number of significant contracts and agreements of cooperation.

Georgy Spiridonov