Nanotechnology is dealing with research and the construction in the sphere of very small structures: one nanometre is one millionth of a millimetre. Nano (Greek: dwarf) includes research areas in animate and inanimate nature. Applications emerge in energy technology (fuel cells and solar cells), in environmental technology (materials cycles and disposal) or in information technology (new memories and processors) but also in the healthcare area. Nanotechnology is the umbrella term for the most different types of analysis and processing of materials which have one thing in common: Their size is one to one hundred nanometres (one nanometre is one millionth of a millimetre). Nanotechnology makes use of the special characteristics of many nanostructures. The mechanical, optical, magnetic, electrical and chemical characteristics of these very small structures do not only depend on their original material but very much also on their size and shape. A precondition for nanotechnology is the discovery of the possibilities of working with individual components of matter as well as the related growing understanding of the self-organization of these components.
Nanotechnology develops the basis for increasingly smaller data memories with increasingly larger storage capacity, for highly efficient filters for sewage treatment, for photovoltaic windows, for materials which can be used to build ultra-light engines and body parts in the automobile industry or for artificial joints which are better tolerated by the human body due to organic nano-surfaces.
The industrial conquest of the nanometre dimension has already started. Similar to information technology, the study of the basic physics goes hand in hand with the development and the introduction on the market of first products. Nano-scale structuring in chip production or the development of new hard drives for computers has already become a standard procedure in electronics. However, the future competitiveness of the products of many other important industries in Germany, such as the chemical, pharmaceutical, automobile, information technology or optical industries, also depends on the development of the nanocosmos. Future progress in nanotechnology is decisive for the further development of these industries.
Due to the research policy of the EU and the BMBF, not only research in the nanosciences has reached a top position internationally. Companies oriented to nanotechnology products also have clearly increased in number and improved their reputation. The USA and Europe have roughly the same number of nanotechnology-related companies. About half of the nanotech firms in Europe are German firms.
Germany is therefore the number one in Europe in the field of nanotechnology.
A consistent funding policy has made an important contribution to this. The EU is currently spending about 740 million euro in public funds for nanotechnology. That is almost as much as in the USA. With about 290 million euro in public funds, Germany is the number one in Europe. The BMBF has funded nanotechnology projects since the beginning of the 1990s. Since 1998, funds made available for nanotechnology within the framework of BMBF project funding have increased by a factor of four. Competence centres were established simultaneously as supporting infrastructure. The BMBF efforts for nanotechnology will be greatly increased once more so that we can make faster and more sustainable use of our opportunities than our competitors.
On the basis of this good position, we must set the course for future developments and must, above all, develop the application potential for industry in Germany. The innovation initiative "Nanotechnology Conquers Markets" aims at pooling the aspects of nanotechnology which are funded in the individual fields within an overall national strategy.
In many areas of nanotechnology, Germany still has a knowledge edge, which must be used consistently, together with the production and marketing structures required for application and Germany's internationally recognized systems integration capability, in order to achieve market success. After a strategic reorientation in 2002 with the objective of further increasing Germany's cutting edge in nanotechnology and to secure Germany's position as a "world champion in exports" in the future by means of promoting the development, production and application of nanoproducts, the Federal Government has published an extended Action Plan, bundling research in nanotechnology and its dissemination.
The "Nano Initiative - Action Plan 2010" for the first time gives a unified framework across all departments. The seven Federal Ministries for Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS), Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV), Defense (BMVg), Health (BMG) and Commerce and Technology (BMWi) together with the BMBF have laid the foundations to
Four lead innovations with great economic potential to provide special leverage for growth and employment in order to develop the application potential of nanotechnology for the important industries in Germany have been funded so far. These industries are the automobile industry, the optical industry, the pharmaceuticals industry as well as medical technology and electronics. These are: NanoMobil / automobile industry, NanoLux / optical industry, NanoFab/ electronics and Nano for Life / life sciences.
Further lead innovation have been named in the "Nano Initiative - Action Plan 2010":
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State Secretary opens biggest European conference in this field (URL: http://www.bmbf.de/pubRD/pm0619-131euronanoforum_eng.pdf)
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