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
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
"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.