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Posted: March 26, 2009
China's giant step into nanotechnology
(Nanowerk News) The Guardian in the UK is carrying a piece today on the emergence as China as a nanotechnology powerhouse:
Seated inside one of China's most advanced science laboratories, two PhD students dressed from head to toe in protective white suits listen intently to Mariah Carey's pop classic Hero. It is not the song, but the millimetre-thin, transparent strip making the sound that captures their attention - a nano-speaker they hope will revolutionise where, and how, we listen to music.
"This is cutting edge," says Professor Shoushan Fan, director of the nanotechnology lab at Beijing's prestigious Tsinghua University. Without a cone, magnet or amplifier, the speaker, which looks little more than a slim film of see-through plastic, can be used to transform almost any surface into an auditorium. It is made from nanocarbon tubes which, when heated, make the air around them vibrate, producing the sound. "The speaker's bendy and flexible," says Fan. "You could stick it to the back window of your car and play music from there."
Fan's nano-speaker is just the tip of the iceberg in China's sweeping nanotech programme, which has the potential to transform its export-based economy and nearly every aspect of our lives, from food and clothes to medicine and the military.
Nanotechnology - the manipulation of matter on an atomic scale to develop new materials - is an industry predicted to be worth nearly £1.5tn pounds by 2012, and China is determined to corner the biggest chunk of the market.
Its investment has already surpassed that of any other country after the US. Since 1999, China's spending on research and development (R&D) has gone up by more than 20% each year. A further boost will come from the £400bn economic stimulus package announced by the Chinese government this year, £12bn of which has been ringfenced for R&D.