NEW DELHI: Self-reliance in nanotechnology can help India become self-reliant in sectors like defence and in combating terrorism, according to researchers at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.
From water purification to manufacturing to wrinkle-free fabrics to curing cancer, nano technology holds great potential for India and a multi-pronged approach will ensure that this is fully leveraged, they said.
One possible means of bridging the gap between India's abundant, varied natural resources and her ever-increasing requirements like clean water, food and rapid, low-cost diagnostic machinery is the use of nanotechnology, say Arindam Ghosh and Yamuna Krishnan in the international journal Nature Nanotechnology.
Nanotechnology is manipulation of matter on a scale of nanometre or 0.000000001 m. Since the dimensions of atoms and molecule are in nanometres, this technology is called nanotechnology and the resulting materials nanomaterials.
Although India promoted research in nanotechnology through the "NanoScience and Technology Initiative", started with a funding of Rs 60 crore, the country launched a five-year programme 'Nano Mission' with wider objectives and larger funding of USD 250 million spanning multiple areas like basic research in nanotechnology, human resources development, infrastructure development and international collaboration, there is lot of room for improvement, the researchers quoted by Gubbi Labs say.
But, the research says that the amount India spends on nanotechnology research is still just a fraction of the research spending of countries like Japan, the US, France and China.
Only 16 papers from India appeared in the top 1 per cent of the publications in 2011. Also, the number of patents applied from India to the US patent office contributes to only 0.2 per cent of the total applications, they say.
The researchers say that "though people look at nanoscience and technology very positively, the number of students following undergraduate and graduate degrees in the area is low and career prospects still extremely limited."
The number of PhDs awarded in nanoscience and technology is about 150 per year; a "very small number" compared to the target of producing 10,000 PhD students annually over the next decade articulated by the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
Research from academic institutions has indicated how much impact nanotechnology can have on needs of Indian market, they said.
A team from IIT Madras has used nanotechnology for arsenic decontamination of water. Another team from IIT Delhi has come up with a water-based self-cleaning technology for use in textile industry.
However, the efforts in the direction have paid off well, they said.
India published over 23,000 papers in nanoscience in the past 5 years. In 2013, India ranked third in the number of papers published, behind only China and the US.
There have been 300 patent applications in the Indian Patent Office in 2013, 10 times that of 2006.