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India in danger of missing 'nano bus': PM's scientific advisor

Wednesday July 06, 2011 04:02:22 PM, Fakir Balaji, IANS

Bangalore: India could miss the "nano bus" it it did not catch up soon with China, Japan or the US that were making rapid strides in the field of nanotechnology, the next frontier of science, says top scientist C.N.R. Rao.

India, which had made rapid strides in IT and space technology, was not doing enough in the nanotechnology sector, compared to China, Japan or the US, said the chairman of the scientific advisory committee to the prime minister.

"This is the only field in which we can do something. And if we don't catch up with others in the next 10 years, we may miss the 'nano' bus too," Rao told IANS in an interview here.

Rao lamented that India was languishing at the 10th or 12th position in the world in conducting research in nano-science and contributing papers in the field.

"In terms of publication of papers, research wise, we are way behind others, in the 10th or 12th in the world, while China is at the top, followed by the US and Japan," Rao said in an interview on the margins of a nanotech event Tuesday.

Nanotechnology, a sun rise industry worldwide, manipulates matter on an atomic and molecular scale. It deals with structures between 1-100 nanometre and its materials like nanotubes are measured in one billionth of a metre. Nanotech has a vast range of applications in medicine, electronics, biomaterials and energy production.

Though the nanotech industry worldwide is still nascent, the global market for its products and applications is estimated to be about $1.6 trillion by 2015, with a 50 percent CGPA (cumulative growth point average) over the next five years.

Noting that China, Japan, Korea and even Taiwan had invested heavily in nanoscience, Rao said China had already overtaken the US in using nanotechnology and its applications in diverse areas.

"The amount of research being done in China in nanotech is more than any other country. Though collaboration with China may not be possible because they (its scientists) think we are competitors, we can collaborate with other countries as the field is capital intensive and requires more scientists and technologists to join the stream," Rao pointed out.

Terming nanotechnology as the next frontier of science to be pursued aggressively as it changes the world in a big way, the eminent scientist said not many people, including scientists, understood the magnitude of what it could do for humankind, environment and climate.

"In India, the understanding of this fascinating field is very poor. Many people still think it is a science fiction and a fantasy. But if we can catch on, it can change the way we live, we develop and improve the quality of life," Rao asserted.

Referring to the critical problems of energy, drinking water and environment/climate faced by India and many countries in the world, the Linus Pauling research professor said the prime minister had set an ambitious target of producing about 800,000 MW of power by 2020. But there was no way of reaching even half the target with the available resources, including fossil fuels.

"Even with the use of nuclear energy and renewable energy like solar and wind, we may touch 400,000 MW as other sources of energy such as coal, thermal and natural gas is limited. If we have to achieve the national mission target, set by the prime minister, we have to split water to produce hydrogen energy using silicon-based nano particles," Rao noted.

In this context, he mentioned that US President Barack Obama had recently granted $120 million to the US department of energy for undertaking research projects to produce hydrogen energy from water.

"This is the kind of work we should be doing in India because hydrogen energy is going to be the future energy the world over. Artificial photosynthesis is another area in which we can take out hydrogen as soon as it comes out by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using solar energy and nano materials," Rao added.

The state-run Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) on the outskirts of the city, headed by Rao, has initiated several research projects to develop applications like carbon nanotubes for water purification, cosmetics, computer discs, textiles and bleach-making.










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