INDIATIMES NEWS NETWORK[ WEDNESDAY, JUNE 15, 2005 01:58:40 AM]                                                                                            

At Velbionantech, a little-known Bangalore-based company, researchers are working on path breaking projects that - if successful - might dramatically reduce the need for heart surgery or for kidney stone operations.

The company is working on designing nano-chips, which will deliver a drug exactly to the affected area in the body.

So, one project aims to develop a chip which when injected into the body will head towards the kidney and remove stones. Another - even more ambitious project is developing a nano-chip that will move into the heart and reduce the fatty tissues that cause arteriosclerosis.

Though this dream is still a long way from reality, nanotechnology is creating waves in different sectors. It is being used in many consumer products.

For example, today's clothes are offering intelligent services like Grasim’s and Van Heusen’s "Icetouch" that keeps the body five degrees cooler; Van Heusen also has "Oxyrich" shirts that release “power-packed oxygen ions" and Arrow shirts are promoted as "unstainable" clothes.

What's nanotechnology? Your ticket to big bucks

For that matter, even LG and Samsung are selling nanotech-based refrigerators and air-conditioners. There are even more exotic products being lined up.

Nanotechnology is the new cutting edge tool that is helping scientists work at the molecular level. Nano-materials are a thousand times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. The building blocks of all products are atoms. If we rearrange the atoms then we get different products.

Say for example rearranging the atoms of coal will give us diamonds. Nanotechnology will help scientists work on atoms at a finer level, helping us get more advanced products.

This technology has the potential to change the world around us in unimaginable ways. Soon, it will impact every aspect of our lives from medicine to computers to the energy we require to the cars we drive and so on.

Are there enough nanotech professionals in India? "Not many," says RP Singh, director, Amity Institute of Nanotechnology, which has been offering a full-fledged nanotechnology course since 2003.

Apart from the two-year M Tech programme, it is also planning to introduce two more courses in July: Integrated M Tech in nanotechnology (five and half years) for those science students leaving school and an M Sc in nanoscience (two years) for  B Sc students.

The minimum qualification to get admission in the two-year M Tech programme is an engineering degree or a post=graduate degree in either physics or chemistry or biotechnology.

Besides Amity there are a few research centres and labs working on nanotechnology in India.

Countries like the US, UK, Japan, China, Germany and France have invested a lot of money in nanotechnology and have a focused programme at the national level. The Indian government has also launched a scheme - 'S&T Initiatives in Nanotechnology' with a capital fund of Rs 100 crore for five years.

Many scientific institutions in the country have already begun R&D in this field. However there is a great demand for skilled manpower all over the world including India.

According to a Forbes nanotech report the top 10 nanotech products of 2004 included foot wears, washable bed mattresses, golf balls, skin care cream and sprays.

"This is an emerging area with a vast scope and job potential in the near future. In countries like Japan and the US, it has already crossed new frontiers", says Singh.

"In the next two to five years many teaching institutions, research institutions and industries are likely to impart nanotech education. There will be challenging jobs for young scientists after completing these courses."

He says that there is a growing demand for nanotechnologists, especially in foreign countries. A person with an M Tech in nanotechnology can start with a monthly package of Rs 20,000-Rs 30,000 and thereafter the rise is manifold. MNCs obviously pay more.

With the rapid strides being made in nanotechnology research it is emerging as an area of fast growth and potential employment. This technology holds the promise of exciting applications in bioscience, medicine, environment, cosmetics, electronics, security and a host of other fields.

Nanotech products are likely to touch Rs 43 trillion market by 2015. The US leads the nanotech race with funding from the government to the tune of $850 mn.

There are about 150 institutions working on research while about 500 companies out in the market. Having such a huge market, obviously there is a great career for Indians in the global market.