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Russia to pour $US 1 BLN+ into nanotechnology

Russia is pushing ahead with plans to develop a knowledge and technology-based economy. The State Duma has adopted a law to establish a state nanotechnology corporation.

Nanotechnology is probably a new word for the Russian public but not for Russian scientists.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called for more funds to be allocated to the research at his annual state of the nation address. It was amongst the plans to make nanotechnology a key aspect of Russia's economic and technological development.

But as lawmakers and scientists fine-tune all the aspects of the development, the average Russian citizen still has a vague idea of what nanotechnology actually means. Part confusion, part lack of interest, but on the whole, few could imagine incorporating this into their day-to-day lives.

Until recently, most would only tell you that 'nano' means very small. How small is debatable, and for many the only item this is associated with is an MP3 player, named 'nano' for its small dimensions and big capabilities. In reality, 'nano' is an actual size – one millionth of a millimetre, or 100,000 times smaller than a human hair. And the smaller, the better, it seems.

It may be hard to imagine how anything practically invisible can cause technological revolutions. Scientists have been showing, for decades, that it can, and it does.

At the Kurchatov Research Institute, nanotechnology is not a new term. Medicine, ecology, microelectronics – all these areas benefit from the research conducted here. And while the names may sound baffling, the principle is simple.

“To see something inside, something else, there are traditional X-ray machines with which we can see through material like the human body, and that is what we're doing here: increasing the sensitivity of X-ray images,” Dr. Konstantin Podurets, scientist, explained.

With the creation of Nanotech State Corporation, scientists hope the innovations will become integrated into state standards. The new organisation will decide state policy in the innovations sector, select projects and organise their financing.

However, some are sceptical about the new corporation.

“During those 30 years that we have been functioning we haven't received a single kopeck from the state. We created everything from nothing. Of course, we would like to get some assistance or at least some orders,” Michael Ananyan, Nanoindustry Director, said.

Opinions may be divided, and the outcome yet to be seen, but the stakes are extremely high, with Russia to pour over $US 1 BLN into that invisible, but powerful trend of nanotechnology.