Titanium reserves in Sri Lanka ranked ninth largest in the world

By Steve A. Morrell

Titanium reserves in Sri Lanka have been ranked the ninth largest in the world, says Professor Ajith de Alwis, Science team leader Slintec, Sustainable Nanotechnology. He presented his findings at the project inception meeting on Nanotechnology in South Asia- Building Capabilities and Governing Technology (Nano Tec Phase II), at the National Science Foundation, Colombo, last week Chairman, National Science Foundation (NSF), Prof. Sirimali Fernando inaugurated the sessions.

The Nanotechnology Task Force set up in 2005, initially had 40 Scientists recognized to move forward National Science and Technology policies for innovative planning with projections for 2015 to 2020. At that meeting, through presidential intervention Rs. 5.6 billion was allocated for Research and Development (R&D).

Industry involvement was, at this point in time, limited, but subject to interest shown by for example the garments industry. There was some arithmetical progression in provoking interest in the Industrial Sector. About five outstanding Industries have evinced interest in supporting Research and Development in Nanotechnology.

The new Development Paradigm for Sri Lanka is through the Resource Board for Economic Development and Knowledge. The institute for Policy Studies was also represented.

Director NSF, Dr. Sarath Abayawardana chaired the sessions.

Scientists from India, Senior Programme Officer Innovative Technology and Society, International Development Research Center (IDRC), Dr. Veena Ravichandran, Associate Fellow, Science and Technology, The Energy and Resource Institute, Delhi, (TERI), Dr. Shilpanjali Sharma, Dr. Subhasis Sahoo, also from TERI, and Professor and Chairman, Preston Institute of Nano Science & Technology, Preston University, Islamabad, Pakistan were present.

Scientists from other Science Institutes from India and Pakistan also attended the sessions.

Dr. Ravichandran said the decision to hold the first conference on Nanotechnology in Colombo bodes well for its applied forecasts. More so, Sri Lanka had demonstrated leadership in the Science and both Sri Lanka and Pakistan were placed concurrent to India.

However Phase I did not engender much progress in developing countries. Progress seen was classified fragmented and disjointed. Phase II would be more positively extended morphed to better and cohesive applications, particularly optimizing use of the science expected to rouse public awareness for its sustained progress. There would be anticipatory risks; but given progressive interests of the public sector, who should be the main funder, extenuating circumstances could mean positive progress.

Governments of India and Pakistan have already taken active interests. Regulatory frame work in place demonstrates the Sri Lanka context to be progressive and futuristic.

Products for applied Nanotechnology include health foods, energy, the environment, agriculture, water treatment ; waste re-cycling and allied uses.

Emerging involvement in industry received salutary comment, but what was achieved did not even dent positive possibilities that could be achieved to further such applications. There existed collaborative void which should be quickly addressed and rectified.

Progress over the last ten years lacked net-working to identify knowledge gaps, for instance drinking water. Adequate tests to make the product safe should be a priority matter.

Professor Ajith de Alwis said Titanium reserves in Sri Lanka are substantial and more so it is presently a surface metal; and cost effective in its mining production. The importance of Titanium is its ability to be alloyed with most metals and its multiple uses include use for corrosion resistance in many environments. Its combination of high strength, Low density, and excellent corrosion resistance, explains it use for many parts of air craft, space craft, missiles, and ships.

Attributing its value and that known reserves place Sri Lanka as being the ninth largest reserve holder in Titanium in the World, he said possibilities are at present immeasurable.

Questioned by the press, on why it is then a Government priority that they are still prospecting for oil which has still not surfaced, he said there was no indication that there was no oil. He agreed Titanium should receive quite some priority.

At tentative assessment its value at about 5000 metric tons a year, earning capacity was as much as 12.5 million Dollars.

He also said presently Universities of Colombo, Jaffna, Peradeniya, Wayamba, Moratuwa, and Sri Jayawardena Pura, are actively pursuing its multiple uses and future potential.

These institutions will in time target at least 200 scientist, with Doctorates to spear head Research in this field.

Dr. Butt from Pakistan said Nano Science, could have uses for health, environment, electricity, Textiles, computer science, Pharmaceuticals, and nuclear science.

Dr. Shilpanjali Sharma too presented a paper on Scientists, Research, Growth, and Development.

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