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Q: Despite steps taken by India for the development and adoption of nanotechnology, much more needs to be done to ensure that its huge potential is fully leveraged. Discuss. (15 Marks, 250 Words)

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Nanotechnology is the development and use of techniques to study physical phenomena and develop new devices and material structures by manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale in the physical size range of 1-100 nanometres (nm).
Nanotechnology has huge potential for various fields in India like Health and medicine (Nanoscale diagnostic devices and implants), Electronics (use of Nanotetrapods to develop low cost electrodes for fuel cells), Environment (NanoCO2 harvesters), Defence (Intelligence gathering can be done through nanosensors, nanotechnology enabled precision-guiding tools) etc.
In order to tap this potential, India has taken following steps for the development and adoption of nanotechnology.
• It began with the Nanoscience & Technology Initiative (2001 to 2006) to create the background and infrastructure for R&D in nano-science & technology.
• This was followed by the Nanotechnology Initiative Programme (2004) and Nano Scienceand Technology Mission (2006).
National Mission on Nano Science and Technology (2007) was started as an ‘umbrella capacity-building programme’ to promote basic research in nanotechnology, human resources development, infrastructure development and international collaboration. The Mission resulted in useful products like nanohydrogel based eye drops, pesticide removal technology for drinking water, nanosilver based antimicrobial textile coating, etc. and publication of over 23000 papers by Indian scientists.


However, India has been not able to leverage the full potential of nanotechnology and following steps need to be taken:

  • India needs to increase its spending on nanotechnology research which, at present, is just a fraction of the research spending of countries like Japan, USA, China etc. Long-term funding, which can accommodate coherent research programmes with high-impact outcome is needed.
    • The number of PhDs awarded in nanoscience and technology needs to be increased to meet the target set by the Ministry of Human Resource Development of producing 10,000 PhD students annually over the next decade.
    Private sector needs to be leveraged to contribute further to nanotechnology research.
    Regulatory issues arising out of the ‘boundary-crossing’ nature of nanotechnology need to be resolved. There is a need to have a collaborative framework so that various research centres throughout India work together to attain better results.
    • A streamlined ethical approach that takes into account the potential benefits and risks of nanotechnology in consultation with all the stakeholders shall unlock the potential so limited by ethical consequences of nanotechnology.
    • The linkages between the technology and commercial domains should be strengthened to reduce the gap between basic research and application in nanotechnology.
    Nano technology holds great potential for India and a multi-pronged approach will ensure that this is fully leveraged. This will help India utilize its natural and human resources optimally and also help make India self-reliant in sectors like health and medicine, electronics, environment, defence etc.