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Aboard or over the Board?
September 20, 2006 18:11

Igor Melikhov, a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and professor of Faculty of Chemistry of Moscow State University, comments on Russia’s nanotechnology state-of-the-art.

Russia’s nanotechnology programme is currently the issue of vivid discussions. The end of the past century brought world science community to the conclusion that human civilization can become totally different with substances, made of very small particles (nanometers in diameter), finding application in medicine, science and technology. World’s interest in nanotechnology grew significantly – lots of new nanosubstances were developed, publication on nanotechnologies appeared in famous peer-reviewed journals, conferences and meetings on nanotechnologies became regular. Thus, the humanity is facing “nanotechnology boom” with over 50 developed countries participating.

Russia also shows an extreme interest in nanotechnology, though nanotechnologies have always been a hot issue here. Nineties of the previous century saw development of various nanomaterials with original properties, as well as the evolutional theory of nanodispersed substances’ formation. The turn of the millennium was marked by another wave of nanoresearch – many laboratories were redesigned for nanotechnology needs, lectures on the subject appeared in many universities and institutes. Nevertheless, Russia is still well behind the United States and Japan in the efficiency of the programme. Our country seems to be out of the “nanotechnology boom” – so should we bother to take part in this new branch of science?

Current world nanotechnology research shows results, which being made public may cause major improvement of computing or military technology – that is why countries with nanoresearch centres are not longing for cooperation with others, but instead have their own national nanotechnology programme. The major part of the results obtained immediately becomes a “commercial secret”, and only minor data and information have public access. Thus, Russia evidently has to participate in the nanotechnology research, because other countries give insufficient information on this cutting-edge scientific field. The point is that domestic research programme should consider Russia’s specific character and by no means copy American or Japanese studies.

Here we need to say a few words about nanotechnology programmes of the United States and Japan and their possible application in our country. American science programme in nanoresearch is focused on simultaneous solving of all nanotechnology tasks. Such approach won’t do in Russia, and there are two reasons for that. First, Russian science, which has recently survived a massive crisis, is unable to provide study front quickly enough. American “National Nanotechnology Initiative”, for example, has over a thousand research trends in this science field. Russia needs some time to get involved. The second reason is funding, of course. American research in nanotechnology is provided with $1 billion of budget funds per year. Though the sum isn’t very large for Russia, science fails to expect such state funding. The reasons discussed make scientists concentrate on narrower range of research tasks. Japanese nanoresearch is as narrow as developing new information technologies and nanomaterials and searching for new applications of nanodispersed substances in medicine and environmental protection. Russia’s possible scope in nanotechnology is population’s life prolongation, solving demography problems, modernization of resource production and processing technique, modernization of industry and country defense efforts. Russian nanotechnologists should pay attention to a relatively small number of materials for military and double-purpose materials and highly effective nanopharmaceuticals for treating and preventing diseases, common in our country. Russian scientists already have achieved amazing results – for example, eliminating tumors by means of some nanodispersed substances and weak ultrasonic vibrations. National industry modernization implies development of new ecologically friendly methods for production of unique nanodispersed substances. Nanosystems also play an important role in petroleum processing and solving ecological problems.

Of course, mentioned scientific tasks require finances, but the result covers all expectations and definitely deserves proper attention from Russian state authorities.


Anna Kizilova


Tags: Russian scientists Russian science Russian Academy of Sciences Moscow State University  

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