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Posted: November 22, 2007
China prioritizes tiny science with big future
(Nanowerk News) China is looking at the big picture with a huge injection of funds into the science of nanotechnology - or manipulating single atoms and molecules.
Xie Sishen, a chief scientist of nanotechnology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said in Shanghai yesterday that the nation has earmarked a fund of more than 620 million yuan (US$83.66 million) for research and development involving nanotechnology from 2006 to 2010.
This is 20 million yuan more than its overall investment in the area from 1991-2005.
The technology can be used in myriad ways, Xie said, from treating serious diseases, to improving air and water quality. But he added a word of warning.
"Nanotechnology is a double-edge sword," Xie said during the Third Shanghai International Nanotechnology Cooperation Symposium. While the technology has undoubted scientific clout, care should be exercised, as with any innovation.
The increased state funds will be used to research and industrialize nanotechnology for the treatment of pollution, serious and terminal illnesses and the production of renewable energy.
However, nano-level material can also challenge people's lives. For instance:
Some particles in sandstorms from northern China are at nano levels and cause extreme health problems;
Toxic emissions from many vehicles contain nano-level particles;
The fumes produced while welding include disease-causing metal particles at nano levels.
"We will use nanotechnology to fix the nano problems," said Xie. Nanotechnology refers to the manipulation of matter that is only a nanometer, or one-billionth of a meter across.
At such a small scale, the ordinary rules of physics and chemistry - including those related to strength and conductivity - no longer apply. Carbon "nanotubes," for example, are 100 times stronger than steel but six times lighter.
The purpose of the symposium, held every two years by the Shanghai Science and Technology Commission, is to collect global ideas to accelerate domestic research.
More than 350 experts, business executives and government officials from 15 countries and regions - including the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom and Germany - are attending the three-day meeting which began yesterday.