CHENNAI: Indian-American chemist Sumita Mitra, the first to have successfully integrated nanotechnology into dental materials to produce stronger and more aesthetically pleasing fillings, has been honoured with the European Inventor Award 2021 in the ‘Non-European Patent Office countries’ category. The award, one of Europe’s most prestigious innovation prizes, is presented annually by the European Patent Office (EPO) to recognise outstanding inventors from Europe and beyond.
The finalists and winners in five categories – Industry, Research, SMEs, Non-EPO countries, and Lifetime achievement – were selected by an independent international jury, according to a release. While working in the oral care division of US multinational firm 3M in the late 1990s, Mitra became aware of the limitations of existing materials used in dental fillings, which were either too weak to be used on biting surfaces, or quickly lost their polish.
Nanotechnology was an emerging-research field at the time, and Mitra decided to explore how these new developments could be applied to dentistry. She began working on nanotechnology-based solutions for a new dental material. Mitra and her team developed a technique for creating linked clusters of nanoparticles, which they called ‘nanoclusters’.
These clusters combine single nanoparticles of varying diameters, resulting in a strong, durable and shiny material. By adding tiny amounts of pigment, and altering the chemical composition of the nanoparticles, they were also able to create a range of shades.
“The use of nanotechnology gave me the opportunity to make a new material,” Mitra said, adding: “It restores peoples smiles and improves their lives.” “Sumita Mitra took an entirely new path in her field, and demonstrated how technological innovation, protected by patents, can transform a sector,” said EPO President António Campinos.
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