Asian nations will come to dominate the global nanotechnology business, while Europe risks losing its early research advantage, a research report has predicted.
During the next seven years, Taiwan and China look likely to join Korea, Japan, the US and Germany among the global leaders in nanotech, according to nanotech specialist, Lux Research.
Nanotechnology is a catch-all term for a broad range of technologies that work with materials on a scale of billionths of a metre. Potential applications include electronics, manufacturing and pharmaceuticals.
Nanotechnology is already being used in products as diverse as flat-panel displays, computer chips, sunblock and stain-proof textiles.
While the nanoscale properties of materials have already been harnessed, it is only during the past decade that attention has focused on nanotechnology as a distinct field with potentially lucrative industrial applications.
But the uncertain toxicity of very small particles has given rise to safety concerns.
While basic research is important, a strong manufacturing base with close links to research is key to the rise of the emerging Asian nanotech giants.
"Many countries are investing millions or billions in primary research," said David Lackner, a senior analyst Lux Research.
"But the true winners will be those that discover how to incorporate nanotechnology breakthroughs into new manufacturing techniques, medical treatments and finished products".
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