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WORLDWIDE PARTNERSHIP NEWSWIRE Going Small, Thinking Big Nanosystems. A French-Japanese laboratory celebrates 20 years of excellence and looks to the future. BY ARBY GHARIBIAN I n January, the oldest and largest CNRS International Joint Unit (UMI) in Asia, LIMMS,1 celebrated two decades of collaboration with Tokyo University for the development of nanosystems. CNRS officials and the ambassador of France in Japan attended the event, alongside the General Director of the IIS,2 the laboratory’s host institution. A room was dedicated to the memory of Jean-Jacques Gagnepain, who, as scientific director of the former CNRS Department of Engineering Sciences (PSI), initiated the creation of the laboratory back in 1994, together with Fumio Harashima, then director of the IIS. “The inception of the LIMMS was rooted in two forward-looking ideas,” explains Dominique Collard, co-director of the laboratory. “One was that microsystems would have increasingly broad applications, and the other was that international cooperation between scientists with different approaches would spur scientific achievement. In this case, Japanese emphasis on technology and prototype development was matched with French expertise on theoretical conception and simulation.” A recipe for success The laboratory has a strong track record, boasting more than 60 faculty and staff, 150 visiting scientists over the course of its existence, and a plethora of peer-reviewed publications and patents, in fields as varied as bioengineering and micro-optics. “Working together over time has helped build a climate of trust fostering performance,” continues Collard. “The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) provided, and continues to provide, key financial support, and the complementary nature of French and Japanese scientific skills enabled us to achieve results that would not have been possible individually.” Cutting-edge Japanese capabilities in microtechnology and precision engineering, combined with French know-how in optics, electromagnetics, or biology, helped expand the scope and impact of new technologies. Beyond the frontiers of research The laboratory focuses on three areas: Advanced-MEMS, Bio-MEMS, and nanotechnology. The first two aim to develop microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), respectively for sensors and actuators used in intelligent systems, and for biological organisms. In the field of Advanced-MEMS, researchers have fashioned composite materials, one of which consists of both crystals—for their good mirror quality—and polymers, which are highly flexible. This made it possible to develop wide-angle reflection systems for use in scanners. The scientists have also designed intelligent surfaces— equipped with microcilia actuators to transport objects, and optical sensors to detect their location and shape—that have many potential industrial uses, including for sorting systems in recycling plants. Another significant achievement in this field was the development of silicon nano- tweezers, which can characterize DNA bundles simply by gripping them. This mechanical method for cell analysis has proven to be an invaluable complement to the marking techniques currently used in genetic research. In the area of Bio-MEMS, laboratory teams developed a nanotransportation system mimicking those operating inside cells. A filament known as a microtubule acts as a kind of “rail,” which the motor protein kinesin can ride, moving cargo such as molecules through very small channels. Using the silicon nanotweezers also developed by the laboratory, researchers can lay these rails in “tracks” serving © A. BACCOUCHE, A. GENOT, T. FUJII, Y. RONDELEZ Water-in-oil emulsions used to investigate the dynamics of complex molecular programs. 1. Laboratory for Integrated Micro Mechatronic Systems (CNRS / Institute of Industrial Science of the University of Tokyo). 2. Institute of Industrial Science of the University of Tokyo. 3. Yannick Rondelez was awarded the 2014 CNRS Bronze Medal for his research summarized in “Predator–Prey Molecular Ecosystems,” ACS Nano, 2013. 7 (1): 27–34.) 4. FP7 INCOLAB: Europe-Japan Opening of LIMMS. 5. Seeding Microsystems in Medicine in Lille – European- Japanese Technologies against Cancer. 38 CNRS INTERNATIONAL MAGAZINE


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