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Posted: December 13, 2007
Nanotechnology the new frontier for IT power India
(Nanowerk News) India is hoping nanotechnology could provide a new thrust to its booming economy and to become a world leader in this market, officials say.
Bangalore, India's science and information-technology capital, is at the forefront of a five-year initiative designed to help India become a global nanotechnology hub, using the country's vast scientific pool and low costs.
"Nano is the boom science of the 21st century," said M.N. Vidyashankar, who oversees technology industries in Karnataka, of which Bangalore is the capital.
"It will become the key emerging technology in the 21st century," he told AFP at a nanotechnology conference hosted by the state government earlier this month.
The government has said it plans to spend 10-billion rupees (254-million dollars) to engineer applications using nanotechnology, which scientists say will create lighter, stronger, cleaner and cheaper materials.
Nanotechnology stems from the Greek word nanos, meaning dwarf, and centres on control of matter on an atomic and molecular scale. It is the manipulation or use of materials and devices so minute that nothing can be built any smaller.
"The talk of the day is nanotechnology with its wide applications," T.K. Bhaumik, chief economist at India's biggest private company Reliance Industries, told AFP.
"We're looking at it," he said. "The company is interested in any upcoming opportunity and nanotech is one of them."
Scientists caution the development period could be prolonged.
"It's easy to spot the commercial potential of a research finding in nanotechnology, but the time to market is very long," said Anthony K. Cheetham, an expert at the materials science department at Britain's Cambridge University.
But angel investors -- affluent individuals who fund start-ups -- pledged capital to six promising business projects at the Bangalore conference, said Vidyashankar, declining to identify them on grounds of confidentiality.
The worldwide market for nanotech-engineered consumer goods -- from cosmetics and sporting goods to consumer electronics -- is forecast to grow to one-trillion dollars by 2015 from an annual 15-billion dollars now, he said.
Already, nanotechnology has given the world materials used to make tennis balls that last longer, rackets that are stronger, golf balls that fly straighter and car wax that gives greater shine, says the US-based National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN).
The Indian Institute of Science and the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in Bangalore are setting up the first of three national nanotechnology institutes on a sprawling campus.
And about 60 scientific institutions will help build "nano clusters" nationwide to develop applications for industrial products, agriculture, healthcare and drinking water, said Thirumalachari Ramasami, secretary in the federal department of science and technology.
"What nanotechnology has done is to create a new excitement in the scientific world," said C.N.R. Rao, India's foremost expert in the field.
"It has captured the imagination of a generation of scientists."
Nanotechnology could lead to the creation of materials with 10 times the strength of steel and only a fraction in weight, or shrink all the information available in India's libraries into a device the size of a sugar cube.
It can be used to treat diseases by sending tiny robots into human bodies, said Rao, who heads the Indian prime minister's scientific advisory panel and will guide the five-year nanotech mission.
"Nanotechnology will have as much impact on our lives as transistors and chips," said the Karnataka government's Vidyashankar.
"It's extremely important to the economy of our country and has the capacity to create new, affordable products that will dramatically improve performance."