Home / Geopolitics / Global Nanotechnology race for commercial and Military innovation, China is challenging west for a leading position

Global Nanotechnology race for commercial and Military innovation, China is challenging west for a leading position

Nanotechnology deals with the understanding, control and manufacture of matter in the nanoscale regime, usually between 1 nm to 100 nm, and exploiting them for a useful application. At this length scale unique properties and phenomena arise as a result of increased surface-to-volume ratio and dominance of quantum mechanical effects. Nanotech is not merely about size, it is about the unique physical, chemical, biological and optical properties that emerge naturally at the nanoscale and the ability to manipulate and engineer such effects. It is a broad new area of science, involving physics, chemistry, biology, materials science, and engineering at the nanoscale.


Nanotechnology applications are affecting almost all aspects of human life – food, clothing, medicine, metallurgy, communication to social and human engineering. Some of them, like anti-bacterial textiles, self-cleaning coatings, bio-sensors etc, are available commercially. Nanotechnology products offers advanced solutions to a wide variety of features associated with diagnosis, prevention and treatment of COVID-19. In addition, nanoscale sensors and devices may provide cost-effective continuous monitoring of the structural integrity and performance of bridges, tunnels, rails, parking structures, and pavements over time.


The global nanotechnology market is expected to exceed  USD 290.93 Billion in 2028.   It raises the prospects of tremendous increases in wealth, productivity, quality and length of life. Nanotechnology hailed as the next technological revolution, is being pursued by countries aspiring to enhance wealth and influence in world politics.


It is one of the major areas of research that is also impacting the military capabilities and possibly even shape the future warfare by enabling high performance platforms, enhanced sensing, efficient power sources, safer operation in hazardous circumstances through remotely operated robots and so on.


Seizing the technological lead in nanotech is often viewed as an imperative for global economic competitiveness and 21st century defense.


Global Race to exploit Nanotechnology

Many governments are also developing strategies to promote the development and application of nanotechnology while taking into account the associated risks and uncertainties. Nanotechnology allows for the development and improvement of entirely new products, processes and services.


The U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative has estimated that around 20,000 researchers are working in the field of nanotechnology. For the UK, the Institute of Occupational Medicine has estimated that approximately 2,000 people are employed in new nanotechnology companies and universities where they may be potentially exposed to nanoparticles.


Furthermore, various organizations globally are investing in nanotechnology market and its emerging applications. For instance, in 2018, Osaka University-led researchers, in a joint research project with The University of Tokyo, Kyoto University, and Waseda University, constructed integrated gene logic-chips called gene nanochips. These self-contained nanochips can switch genes on and off within a single chip using integrated factors on the nanochips, preventing unintended crosstalk.


Nanoscience and nanotechnology are a priority field for today’s innovation leaders. In 2000, the American government firmly kicked off its significant and influential National Nano technology Initiative (NNI) program after integrating all resources from Federal agencies, including National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services (NIH), National Institute of Standard Technology (NIST), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Homeland Security, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Department of Justice.


The NNI established four goals: (1) to advance a worldclass nanotechnology research and development program; (2) to foster the transfer of new technologies into products for commercial and public benefit; (3) to develop and sustain educational resources, a skilled workforce, and supporting infrastructure and tools to advance nanotechnology; and (4) to support responsible development of nanotechnology.


It is generally agreed that the United States National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) has significantly influenced global nanotechnology development since its inception in 2000. The far-reaching impact of NNI and nanotechnology development, as evidenced by publications in high impact journals, has been rising rapidly over the last 10 years. Recently, the global nanotechnology community witnessed China’s ascent in nanotechnology. The latest annual report was published in August 2018. President Trump is requesting $1,395.6 million for NNI research in FY2019, $81.8 million (5.5%) less than the estimated FY2018 level. In FY2017,
NNI funding was $1,552.3 million.


According to StatNano Database, about half of nanotechnology articles have been published by China and the United States in 2016. India, South Korea, and Germany possess the next ranks in this ranking. According to statistics published on StatNano website, a number of about 137500 nanotechnology articles have been indexed in Web of Science (WoS) Database by the end of December 2016, which is 9.5% of all articles indexed in this database in 2016. China has a share of 34% while USA has a share of 16%. China keeps the ascending trend in the publication of nanotechnology articles, to the extent that the number of Chinese nanotechnology articles is 2 and 1.2 times greater than that of the United States and European Union, respectively.


India, South Korea, and Germany possess the third to fifth ranks. By having a growth rate of 0.8 % in the share of its nano-articles, Iran possesses the sixth rank higher than Japan.


In India, meanwhile, the development of nanotechnology is ‘currently oriented more towards building human capacity and physical infrastructure than the commercialization of products, which remain minimal,’ analyses the UNESCO Science Report. ‘According to the Consumer Products Inventory, only two personal care products based on nanotechnology have, so far, originated from India, compared to 59 for China. Moreover, the firm which developed these two products in India is a foreign multinational’.


At the end of 2011, Japan possessed the fourth rank in the world in the publication of nanotechnology articles, but now it possesses the seventh rank due to the decrease in the number of its nanotechnology articles. In addition to Japan, other countries such as USA, South Korea, France, and Russia experienced a decrease in the share of nanotechnology articles in 2016 in comparison with the previous year.


An international science ranking website in its newest ranking, based on scientific articles published in 2017, has announced that Iran is the first country in the field of nanotechnology in the field of nanotechnology in West Asia. Iran ranks first with 735 articles and Saudi Arabia ranks second with 631 papers. Egypt, the Zionist regime, Turkey, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan, Oman, Lebanon, Kuwait, the occupied territories, Yemen, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are respectively positioned after Iran and Saudi Arabia.


In a more general survey of 155 countries, Chinese scholars are the world’s leading scientists with 13,555 papers on nano, out of which 13,317 are citable. The United States has the second position with 6,000 articles less than China. American scientists have produced 7,791 papers on nanoscience, of which 7,640 were cited.


USPTO and EPO Published Patents vs WoS Indexed Articles (2021 Oct) reported  US has registered one patent in the field of nano for every three nano articles in 2021, and therefore enjoys the best performance in this field. South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Germany are also among the countries that have witnessed a considerable growth in nanotechnology innovation and patents in parallel with the production of nano-publications.


Admittedly, it should be noted that many countries, including China, prefer to register the majority of their inventions and innovations primarily within their own geographical boundaries. Nevertheless, patents in Europe and the United States, as the most important technology markets in the world, can be considered a measure of global commercialization and competitiveness for other countries’ scientific and technological achievements.


China has become a nanotechnology powerhouse

The Nanotechnology industry in China is moving forward, with substantially high levels of funding, a growing talent pool, and robust international collaborations. The strong state commitment to support this field of science and technology is a key advantage for China to compete with leading forces like US, EU, Japan, and Russia.


China has become a nanotechnology powerhouse, according to a report released at the 7th International Conference on Nanoscience and Technology (ChinaNANO 2017). China’s applied nanoscience research and the industrialization of nanotechnology have been developing steadily, with the number of nano-related patent applications ranking among the top in the world, said the report.


The return of foreign-trained Chinese origin researchers and scientists, lured by the promise of competitive salary, readily available research funding, home grown production of cutting-edge research tools and techniques are playing the vital role of China’s steady progress.


In 1997, around 13,000 nanoscience-related papers were published worldwide. By 2016, the number had risen to more than 154,000, the report said. Over the same period, the number of papers related to nanoscience from China grew from 820 in 1997 to over 52,000 in 2016. Since 2007, the average compound annual growth rate of China’s most cited nanoscience papers was 22 percent — three times the global rate, the report stated.


In terms of the number of nano-related patent applications, China has reached 209,344 over the past 20 years, accounting for 45 percent of the world’s total. In 2003, CAS and the Ministry of Education co-established the NCNST. Key to the NCNST’s success has been the involvement of three of China’s top research institutions — Tsinghua University, Peking University and CAS, said Liu Minghua, director of the NCNST.


Liu said that thanks to robust funding, a growing number of Chinese scientists have been attracted to research of nanomaterials. Additionally, more foreign-trained Chinese researchers have returned to China under favorable policies. Energy nanotechnology and catalytic nanomaterials are the top two fields in which China has made remarkable achievements.


Faced with mounting public pressure to tackle deteriorating environmental problems, China is putting great effort into the research and development of new energy, as well as efficient energy and environmental protection technology. This has made energy nanotechnology a promising area, leading Chinese researchers to research batteries and energy storage and conversion, Liu said. Catalytic nanomaterials research is considered China’s most promising area of nanoscience. Nanostructure-based catalysts can speed up chemical reactions and could be useful in chemical industries and oil refining, experts said.


Bai said both challenges and opportunities await China. More breakthroughs in basic nanoscience research need to be made, and the gap between basic research and application should be closed. CAS will foster more young scientists who can innovate, accelerate the building of value chains, and foster broad and efficient international collaboration, Bai said. “Through our joint efforts, we expect to apply nanotechnology to various sectors that will benefit the people and help China to be a global leader in science and technology,” Bai said.


Here are some of the notable achievements in this sector by China. In June 2020, an international team of researchers led by Chinese scientists developed a new form of synthetic and biodegradable nanoparticle. This modifiable lipid nanoparticle is capable of targeting, penetrating, and altering cells by delivering the CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing tool into a cell. This novel nanoparticle can be used in the treatment of some gene related disorders, as well as other diseases including some forms of cancer in the brain, liver, and lungs. At the State Key Laboratory of Robotics in the northeast city of Shenyang, researchers have developed a laser that produces a tiny gas bubble. This bubble can be used as a tiny “robot” to manipulate and move materials on a nanoscale with microscopic precision. The technology termed as “Bubble bot” promises new possibilities in the field of artificial tissue creation and cloning


A new nanomaterial invented by researchers from the Institute of Chemistry under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) has demonstrated the potential to effectively eliminate millions of metric tons of liquid pollution and emissions from organic chemicals used in printing plates and ink, which are quite dangerous to human health. One of the major breakthroughs in Chinese nanotech research, this invention is expected to lead a green revolution in the printing industry.


Defense and Security

Advances in nanotechnology are deeply intertwined with other technologies, many of which have received far greater attention. Nanotechnology will have applications for other technologies like gene-editing, additive manufacturing (3-D printing), artificial intelligence, spacecraft, and quantum computing.


The nanotechnology will not only accelerate existing threats, it will create novel and more complex threats. However, technological change can restructure warfare and defense, empower non-state actors as well as states, and wreak destruction on human life and the environment.


Because most important biological processes occur at the nanoscale, nanotechnology will improve – and perhaps revolutionize – chemical/biological (CB) weapons capabilities. Nanotechnology will make CB agents easier to produce and transport. Far smaller amounts of the agents would need to be made, and this would require only small, low-level facilities, making detection more difficult. Nanotechnology will make it easier for state actors to develop or use advanced CB weapons. Nanotech will make these weapons cheaper to produce and easier to conceal and transport, which will facilitate their proliferation to rogue states.


Several countries including the U.S., Russia and China are believed to be investing billions on nanoweapons research that could unleash attacks using mini-nuclear bombs and insect-like lethal robots. “Nanobots are the real concern about wiping out humanity because they can be weapons of mass destruction,” said Louis Del Monte, a Minnesota-based physicist and futurist. He’s the author of a just released book entitled “Nanoweapons: A Growing Threat To Humanity.” One unsettling prediction Del Monte’s made is that terrorists could get their hands on nanoweapons as early as the late 2020s through black market sources.


The convergence of nanotechnology, synthetic biology (i.e gene-editing), and chemistry will allow the creation of novel agents and enhance the resilience and lethality of existing agents. It will be possible to edit bacterial DNA to create entirely new organisms, or to build new chemicals from the ground up. NT could also enhance the toxicity of inorganic chemicals, because the large surface area of nanoparticles makes them especially toxic.




Nanotechnology Market

The nanotechnology Market Size was USD 75.80 Billion in 2020 and is expected to reach USD 290.93 Billion in 2028 and register a revenue CAGR of 18.3% during the forecast period, 2021-2028.


Factors such as surge in adoption of nanotechnology in medical diagnosis & imaging, and technological advancements in nanotech devices drive the growth of the global nanotechnology market. However, issues arising in the deployment of nanodevices in extreme conditions and high cost of the technology act as the major barriers, thereby hampering the market growth. On the contrary, increase in support and R&D funding from government organizations and emergence of self-powered nanotech devices are anticipated to offer lucrative opportunities for the nanotechnology market forecast.


Market Segments

The nanotechnology market can be segmented based on type, application, and region. By type, the market is bifurcated into nanosensor and nanodevice. Nanosensor segment is further categorized into optical nanosensor, biological nanosensor, chemical nanosensor, physical nanosensor, and others. Nanodevice segment is further divided into nanomanipulators, nanomechanical test instruments, nanoscale infrared spectrometers, and others. By application, the nanotechnology market is analyzed across electronics, energy, chemical manufacturing, aerospace & defense, healthcare, and others. The geographical analysis is given for North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and LAMEA along with their prominent countries.


Nanomaterials Segment Revenue to Expand at a Rapid CAGR:

Nanomaterials segment is expected to expand at a rapid CAGR over the forecast period due to increasing application of nanomaterials in construction and automotive industry due to its strength and lightweight properties. Globally, nanomaterials are being explored for their potential use on spacecraft, in consumer electronics, artificial intelligence, and in nanomedicine and tissue engineering.


Healthcare Segment to Register Significant Revenue Growth:

Healthcare segment is expected to register significant revenue growth over the forecast period due to increasing applications of nanotechnology in drug development process and rising government and private investments in the healthcare sector. Nanoparticles are being used by scientists and healthcare professionals to develop medication delivery systems, target cancers, and improve medical imaging



The North American market for nanotechnology should grow from $1.6 billion in 2021 to $7.2 billion by 2026, at a CAGR of 34.5% for the period of 2021-2026.

The Asia-Pacific market for nanotechnology should grow from $1.2 billion in 2021 to $6.0 billion by 2026, at a CAGR of 37.6% for the period of 2021-2026.

Asia Pacific is expected to account for largest revenue share in the global market during the forecast period due to increasing application and investments on nanotechnology, especially in China. Catalytic nanomaterials research is considered as most promising area of nanoscience in China.


Major Companies in the Market Include: Fujitsu laboratories, Ltd., Bayer Material Science, Ademtech, GE Healthcare, IBM research, Hewlett-Packard Co., Intel, Altair Nanotechnologies Inc., Cypress Semiconductor, Cortex Biochem.



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