Nanoscience, nanotechnology and nanoindustry – tendencies of development

Yu.D. Tretiyakov

MSU named after M.V. Lomonosov

 

RAS Academician Yu.D. TretiyakovKey words in the title of our report, are now firmly entrenched in the scientific, near scientific and absolutely non-scientific literature. It is not surprising, given that in the future nanoproducts are capable of providing immense size savings in energy, raw materials and comfortable for a human being environment, not to mention the fantastic opportunities associated with the development of nanomedicine and nanofarmakology. And although the debate about whether large-scale spending on the development of nanotechnology is worth has not died down today, we fully share the opinion of those who believe that nanorevolution is inevitable and will develop in the world regardless of what happens to our country.

 

The evolution of activity in the nanosphere can be represented by the following sequence

nanoscience → nanomaterials → nanotechnologies – nanoindustry

In this case, nanoscience, i.e. the science of nanostructures and nanosystems is the most fundamental part of this chain, and nanomaterials in the broadest sense include any material, functional and structural properties of which are determined primarily by their nanoscale structure, i.e. its ordered fragments ranging in size from 1 to 100 nm.

 

Nanolevel exists in any material, but not always this level forms the most important properties of the material. An example is the mammalian cells or colloidal crystals, the properties of which are formed witrh the crucial role of micro-, rather than nanolevel of organization of the substance.

 

The most often characteristic of the nanoera is the term "nanotechnology", although it has a well-defined scope of use, namely "nanotechnology – a collection of processes that can create substances, materials, equipment and technical systems, the functioning of which is primarily determined by their nanostructure". The chemists traditionally considered as the objects of nanoscience, colloids, polymer molecules, multiple block copolymers, and in this sense, nanoscience is rather old. Another thing is that modern nanoscience is inextricably linked to the so-called instrumental revolution, attributes of which are high-resolution electron microscopy, scanning probe microscopy and a "soft lithography", that appeared a little over a quarter century ago, but still are available to relatively limited group of researchers, especially domestic ones.

 

With regard to nanotechnology, they have even more short history. A distinctive feature of nanotechnology is extremely high science-intensive and cost, the complexity of the path from laboratory to production of commercial products and in this respect they resemble the technology of creation of new generations of drugs. It is proposed [1] to classify nanotechnology into two groups – the evolutionary and revolutionary, the first are based on the use of existing nanoproducts (nano-powders, carbon nanotubes, fullerenes, etc.), and the latter – yet to be created as a result of fundamental research on processes of self-assembly and self-organization, following the direction of "bottom-up" proposed by R. Feynman 50 years ago, i.e. 15 years before the term "nanotechnology" appeared in the literature. Unfortunately, for a number of objective and subjective reasons, the research, aimed ultimately at creating revolutionary nanotechnology, in our country is neglected.

 

This is the more regrettable because the significant gains made abroad, are often associated with the activities of our fellow countrymen (Y.V. Vlasov, A.V. Gaponenko, V. Kitaev, V.I. Klimov, N.A. Kovtyuhova, I.A. Kotov, N. Ledentsov, Y.M. Lvov, K.S. Novoselov, I. Sokolov,
G.B. Sukhorukov, E.V. Shevchenko and many others). The Russian scientific diaspora has about 400 thousand people.

 

In this context, the attention must be payd to sounding recent proposals (Yu. Magarshak, O. Figovskiy) to make extensive use of expertise and experience in commercializing nanotechnology, gained by our compatriots living and working permanently abroad. Of course, these proposals, which seem very attractive, may run into serious difficulties associated with the peculiarities of Russian mentality, significantly different from Chinese or Hindu, as well as economic and political realities in our country. And yet, it would be prudent to analyze the possible consequences of a serious program of unification of Russian-speaking creative community, for the establishment of the Joint Institute for Nanotechnology according to the image and likeness of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, established more than 50 years ago and which is successfully functioning nowadays.

 

Ambiguosly valued by the scientific community of the Russian Federation, the project to create an innovative Silicon Valley in Skolkovo envisages the involvement of our compatriots abroad, which, as suggested by A.A. Fursenko ("The Search", No. 23, June 4, 2010), will participate in the competition of large research grants (the size of each of 150 million rubles), which will be held in nearest 2-3 months.

 

The specific of foreign nanoboom was analyzed by one of us in the article [2], published in 2009 in the Bulletin of the Russian Academy of Sciences. In particular, it was noted that the development of nanoscience, nanotechnology and nanoindustry in the world, quite possibly become the most serious challenge to the still dominant in Russia, system of administrative-bureaucratic relations, which have become an integral part of the corruption and bureaucracy merging with the business. There is every reason to believe that up until extraprofits will be provided through the oil and gas business, few people will decide to invest heavily in innovation and, also risky on the consequences of investments, in the nanoindustry.

Quite recently, M. Prokhorov, the head of the investment fund "Onexim" said that the desire of the president and the government to rapidly modernize the economy of the country is difficult to achieve. According to him, the main barriers to modernization are the structural features of the Russian economy, low productivity and poor training of the professionals (Polit. – Economy, 30.05.2010).

 

In this sense, the situation abroad seems to be clearly more favorable. In the U. S., Japan and South Korea only for 5 years from 1999 to 2004, the size of private investments in nanoindustry increased 10 times and had already exceeded the budget financing.

But the overseas basic research, including in the field of nanoscience, are supported by the state. Our scientific community is very unlucky. First of all, because it has lost at least a decade, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, in agonizing search for an elementary physical survival. Of course, that this applies not only to the development of nanoscience and nanotechnology, but above all it is due to the need to use extremely expensive equipment.

 

Establishment and activities of the corporation Rosnano causes mixed emotions in science circules. On one hand, the corporation has received from the state significant funds to develop national nanotechnology, on the other hand, it limited its activities with a desire to create an effective system of investment in such projects, which today are located "at the exit", and can in the coming years bring commercial benefits. In this sense, SC "Rosnano" made some progress. According to statistics from the 1211 funding requests received by the "Rosnano" during a year and a half, before the Nanoforum-2009, 446 – were rejected, 510 – were pending, 219 – were in various stages of assessment, and 36 – were approved for funding. It includes projects in the fields of energy, medicine and biotechnology, engineering and metalworking, opto-and nanoelectronics.

 

In the interview to the newspaper "Poisk" (Poisk, No. 21, May 21, 2010) the Director of the department of scientific and technical expertise ROSNANO S. Kalyuzhny noted that of 73 projects funded by the Corporation, most were directed to large-scale commercialization of nanotechnology, including those developed overseas with the participation of our compatriots.

 

The Second International nanoforum conducted by SC "Rosnano" on the 6-8 of October, 2009 showed that, despite the numerous problems caused by the global financial and economic crisis, "there is life in the old dog yet." Our colleague, RAS Academician  E.N. Kablov rightly noted (Engineering newspaper, No. 25-26, August 2009) that "today you need to think about the day when the current crisis ends. And the world, making the relevant findings, will live a new life. We can expect that this post-crisis period will be marked by a sharp aggravation of competition and struggle for new markets. As well as steep turns of the spiral of innovation development". And although the need for innovative development of the country is recognized at all levels of government, the budjet spending on science in 2010 was reduced by 10.8% compared with the previous year and that's not counting inflation. This tendency is in complete contradiction with the steps taken in the U. S., major European and Asian countries.

 

It is obvious that the business, not shown considerable interest in the development of nanoindustry, even in the so-called "fat" years, is unlikely to make it now, especially since the vast majority of international nanopatents, which determined the most promising areas of nanoindustry, do not belong to the Russians, and most sadly, have legal protection in Russia. This means that the scientific community of our country should give priority to the development of basic research, what was noted by the created just over 2 years ago, Academy of Sciences committee on nanotechnologies, headed by Nobel laureate Vice President of RAS J.I. Alferov.

 

How much effort was spent to develop a program for basic studies in the field of nanotechnology, but where is this program now? Of course, the development of nanoscience in our country, including through the efforts of the academic community, continues, although the financial support of this activity is reduced as "shagreen skin" and now is reduced to the RFBR grants, academic grants and grants of Rosnauka, the number and size of which decreased significantly in the current year. For example, the budget for Basic Research in 2010 shrank by 15% (to 6 billion rubles), and the budget of RAS – 20% (to 49.3 billion rubles).

 

Added to this is quite an ugly system of evaluation of research projects arising from the notorious Law No. 94 for the governmental purchase, which is entirely not applicable to the evaluation of scientific creativity.

In conclusion, we note that, despite all the difficulties in the past year, a lot has been done in scientific, educational and organizational areas. The Third National Conference on Nanomaterials, held in April 2009 in Ekaterinburg by the Branch of Physical Sciences and Department of Chemistry and Material Sciences in cooperation with the Scientific Council for Nanomaterials of the RAS Presidium has summed up two years of nanoactivities. The members of the OHNM RAS initiated the creation of Nanotechnology society in Russia, which since October 2010 on a rotating basis is headed by Academician E.N. Kablov.

 

Extremely much effort has been expended on the organization of the Fourth All-Russian Internet – competition in nanotechnology, which was attended by more than 6 thousand pupils, students and young scientists and which culminated with the awards ceremony held by the Vice President of RAS, rector of Moscow State University, V.A. Sadovnichy, Rosnano CEO A.B. Chubais, Deputy Speaker of Russian State Duma, S.S. Zhurova and other prominent representatives of the Russian elite, including prominent scientists, professors, managers and journalists.

 

The Russian Federation Government Resolution of April 23, 2010 gave an impetus to the formation of a national nanotechnology network. This network should facilitate the development of high-tech enterprises of the nanoindustry, and in the future – to support their entry into the world market. Recently a cooperation agreement between ROSNANO and the Nanotechnology society of Russia was signed. For many centers of collective use there was purchased modern analytical and process equipment, although there is still a shortage of modern and therefore expensive analytical and diagnostic equipment, including high-resolution electron microscopes and pure synthetic compound of high class.

 

Thus, one could state that in our country there are changes associated with the development of nanoscience, nanotechnology, and nanoindustry, however, the main result of all domestic public nanotechnology program is only timid realization of the fact that nanotechnology has come and will stay, and it's not couture, but high technology, without which modernization of the economy and social sphere in our country is impossible.

 

And one of the highlights, which is noted by all, without exception, real participants of the national nanotechnology network, university community, prominent public figures, it clearly felt staff shortage. After passing "the peak of unreasonable expectations" disappointment of non professionals will necessarily come bexause of the lack of immediate results, and experts at this time should systematically and consistently work to reach a "plateau of productivity" and to ensure at medium-term a part of those achievements which society, as always, expected immediately, that is, immediately after the planting of nanotechnology into the public consciousness several years ago. And, perhaps, to achieve a successful outcome of this now, there is a single recipe – the further development of the educational system. It is felt by all, starting with the president, who said that "staff shortages remain a significant barrier for Russia to be seriously engaged­in nanotechnology. It is clear that we need modern, thinking, normal specialists in this area,­ prepared by new programs. And if the current nomenclature of specialties do not give us such opportunities, that means that it must be changed and train the professionals which are needed".

 

The labor market in the field of national nanoscience, nanotechnology and the nanoindustry is currently estimated at 100-150 thousand people who should receive multidisciplinary training that includes some knowledge of chemistry, physics, mechanics, biology, engineering sciences and humanitary sciences. Of course, for the development of nanoindustry there are needed specialists and researchers from different levels of education, ranging from highly skilled researchers and ending with the operators of nanotechnological processes of mass production.

 

At leading universities in Russia in the   nearest future there are to be set 32 scientific and educational centers in the direction of "Nanotechnology". Their main task – the integration of scientific and educational activities for the preparation of specialists with higher education at all levels and implementation of research and development of world-class, and creation of training programs and promotion of knowledge in the field of nanotechnology. In this sense the international experienceis remarkable, in particular the U. S. development of distance education. The University of Maryland over the past 5 years has managed to increase the number of students from 60 to 360 thousand due to massive use of information technology. Something similar could be implemented in our country, especially considering the fact that in the Russian Academy of Sciences nanotechnology and information technology are integrated within the same academic department. As for the training of young researchers who are able, eventually, become a generator of a completely original scientific and technological development, and lead, ultimately, to nanotechnology breakthrough, then their number in all circumstances will be limited, primarily because of the number of secondary school graduates and undergraduate only a very small fraction is able to cope with high demands of interdisciplinary educational programs in leading Russian and foreign universities. As an example one can refer to the experience of the Moscow State University of Lomonosov, where slightly less than 20 years ago the Faculty of Materials Science was created, aimed at training of elite professionals, undergraduates, postgraduates and doctoral students in "Engineering of functional nano-and biomaterials".

The main areas of fundamental and targeted to applied research areas in the field of nanomaterials were analyzed by the authors in the review [3].

 

Literuture

1. G.M.Whitesides, Small, 1, 172 (2005).

2. Yu.D. Tretiakov Vestn. RAS, 79, 3 (2009).

3. Yu.D. Tretiakov, E.A. Gudilin Success of chemistry, 78, 867 (2009).

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