A professor of microbiology at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomosho, Lateef Agbaje PhD, has tasked governments at all level and the private sector to commit to invest in nanotechnology as it has the capacity to create millions of jobs and billions of dollars revenue.
Agbaje said this, while delivering the 38th inaugural lecture of LAUTECH, titled ‘The next big thing is very small: The paradox of diminutive microbes and nanoparticles’.
According to him, the sets of awesome properties exhibited by different nanomaterials are responsible for their wide applications in agriculture, medicine, engineering, environment, security and defence, renewable energy and consumer products. He added that in the United States (US), at least two million workers have jobs related to nanotechnology, while the estimated cost of nano-based products was put at $2.6 trillion in 2015.
He also noted that countries like US, China, Germany, Japan, South Korea, India, France, UK, Russia, Taiwan and Canada were identified as top players in nanotechnology Research and Development (R & D) in the world. He painted a gloomy look for Nigeria, as Egypt and South Africa led in investment in nanotechnology in Africa. “For instance, while South Africa has 14 nano-based products, 9 nano-based companies, 20 patents in USPTO and 11 nanotechnology standards, Nigeria does not have any of these at the moment.”
He identified dearth of experts, deficiency of curricula in covering materials science and nanotechnology, lack of dedicated funding and national policy on nanotechnology as some of the impediments against nanotechnology R & D in Nigeria.
In his presentation, he stated that although microorganisms consist of the good and the bad ones; the pathogenic microbes causing diseases in plants and animals are less than 1 per cent of the hypothetical one trillion types of microorganisms that exist on the earth.
“The contributions of microorganisms in terms of their product formation were estimated at hundreds of billions of dollars. For instance, the estimate of fermented products by microbes was put at $63.371 billion in 2020, which is about twice the Nigeria’s budget for 2021.
“Several of these beneficial microbes, particularly probiotics are responsible for the production of local fermented foods and drinks such as garri, lafun, ogi, nunu, iru, fufu, and palm wine among others.”
As an industrial microbiologist, Agbaje has employed microbes; notably bacteria and fungi to produce novel products that included biofertilizer, fructooligosaccharides, citric acid, biogas, different industrially important enzymes such as laccase, xylanase, keratinase, and fructosyltransferase.
He has also used them to produce different metal nanoparticles such as silver, gold, titanium oxide, calcium and silver-gold alloy. His works also involved the fabrication and deployment of specialized vessels called bioreactors for growing microorganisms. His research team remains atop in the fabrication of computer-controlled bioreactors in the country for several years and even won NUC award in that respect.