Editorial Feature

Nanotechnology in China: Market Report

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China is located in Eastern Asia and covers a total area of 9,706,961 km2, making it the 4th largest country in the world. In 2019, it had a population of 1.40004 billion, making it the most populous nation in the world.

China’s imports include organic chemicals, oil and mineral fuels, medical and optical equipment, plastics, metal ores, and electrical and other machinery. The country’s exports include data processing equipment, textiles, optical and medical equipment, steel, iron, apparel, and other machinery. The key to China's economic success is the fact that the country is a low-cost producer. This is attributed to a combination of good infrastructure, cheap labor, high productivity, an undervalued exchange rate, and favorable government policies.

Nanotechnology Organizations

A brief introduction to the key nanotechnology-related organizations in China is given below:

  • Suzhou Nanotech - aims to establish industries and talents that represent China’s advancements in nanotechnology. This is achieved by providing services, infrastructure, investment environment and a suitable platform to promote nanotech industrialization and innovation in China.
  • CHINano Summit - this summit, organized by various forums and organizations, focuses on introducing cutting edge nanotechnology and its future applications. It allows entrepreneurs, scientists and business executives to discuss new technology trends and their applications, along with an emphasis on nanotech commercialization.

Nanotechnology Companies

The major nanotechnology-related companies in China are listed below, along with a brief introduction to their activities:

  • Arry - Arry Nano is a professional supplier of a wide variety of nanomaterials, ranging in quantities from grams to tons, suited to academic research purposes or industrial development. Their representative products are carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and nanoelements, as well as nanooxides (rare earth, metal and non-metal).
    They have carried out a lot of research and development work on carbon nanotubes synthesis and their applications. Furthermore, they have ten years’ experience in developing a scalable CVD method to produce high purity, single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) and multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWNTs) with various diameters, narrow-diameter distributions and very low purity.
  • Nano Powder R&D Center - involved in the frontal research and development of nanomaterials and belongs to Chengdu Alpha Nano Technology Co., Ltd. They are committed to supplying their customers with high-quality CNTs at low prices. They cater to independent researchers or large-volume users of CNTs and welcome all kinds of collaboration to develop CNT production and applications.
  • Timesnano - a professional CNT manufacturer and the exclusive CNT provider to the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). Since 1996, they have been committed to CNT synthesis and application research and began to commercialize CNTs in 2003. They can provide hundreds of different kinds of CNTs and related products. Their equipment can produce 100kg of an SWNT with a purity >90%, and 30t of an MWNT with OD 20-30nm and a purity >95%. These products have earned a good reputation worldwide. The company invented moving-bed catalysis technology for CNTs, enabling continuous production and can produce CNTs with high purity, low cost and consistent quality.
  • EPRUI Nanoparticles and Microspheres Co. Ltd - a high-tech enterprise focusing on R&D of nanomaterials and microsphere products. They have cooperated closely and steadily with well-known research universities, national laboratories, and innovative corporate giants in China. They are one of the largest high-tech factories in the field of preparing nanocomposites, metal nanoparticles, alloy nanoparticles, oxide nanoparticles, rare earth oxide nanoparticles, nanocomposites, and microspheres products. They are successful because they are committed to providing the highest quality products with the most competitive price for their customers and have formed a complete cycle of researching, manufacturing, marketing, and aftersales servicing.
  • FCC - since 1958, FCC ®INC has been a division of Sino-Holding Chemicals Co.,Ltd. located in Zhejiang, China. The company is an ISO-9001:2008 and ISO14001 registered advanced high-technology enterprise engaged in research, development, manufacture and supply specialty chemicals including organoclay, organoclay rheological additives (organic bentonite thixotropic agent ), nanoclay, nanocalcium carbonate, carbon nanofibers, nanographite, bleaching earth, oil drilling fluid viscosifier, cat litter, synthetic hectorite, synthetic hydrotalcite, polyamide wax, PE wax, modified nonionic cellulose ethers based rheological additive/rheology modifiers and environmental chemicals.
  • Haizisi Nano Technology - Suzhou Haizisi (HZS) Photoelectricity Technology CO., LTD is a high-tech company that specializes in system solutions for nano-detection, nano-fabrication, and nano-metrology. With almost 20 years of technology experience, HZS is dedicated to SPM research, manufacturing and services.
  • Hefei Kaier Nanometer Energy and Technology Ltd - Hefei Kaier Nanometer Energy & Technology Co., Ltd is a non-governmental and state-private enterprise, renamed in April 2009 from Hefei Kaier Nano-Meter Technology & Development Co., Ltd founded in 1999.  The company is engaged in the research and manufacture of nanoceramic powder and other related downstream products. Their products are exported to the U.S, the EU, Japan and Korea, amongst others.
  • Nano Medtech - their beliefs provide excellent guidance in the engineering of “complete body system” biotechnology. At Nano Med Tech they have engineered polylactic-co-glycolic acid (PLGA) immuno-nanoparticles, specifically for targeting invasive epithelial tumor cells.
  • Sun Nanotech - a leading supplier of CNTs to the world market. They provide facilities that include CVD furnaces. Their products can be used in a wide variety of application areas.
  • TiPE - the leading nano photocatalyst manufacturer in China, which owns advanced Nano-hydrosynthetic™ technology. TiPE™ is also the largest hydrosynthetic photocatalyst manufacturer in China. They are the certified nano advanced material manufacturer approved by STCSM (Science & Technology Commission of Shanghai Municipality). They hold advanced core technologies in the nano photocatalyst field and are constantly improving their overall competitive strength. Their vision is to improve human life with nanotechnology.
    The company possesses two product lines of nanoproducts - consumer nano photocatalyst products and professional nano photocatalyst products. TiPE™ has the most diversified products in the photocatalyst field. They focus on mature manufacturer technologies to contribute to high-quality products.
  • XP Nano - since 1998, XP Nano Material Co. Ltd was the earliest high-tech enterprise involved in nanomaterials development and production. Relying on independent intellectual property rights of nanotechnology, XP-Nano took the lead in realizing the industrialization of carbon nanotubes, graphene, and nanopowders.
    XP-Nano has successfully devised a process suited to the production of bulk quantities of a wide variety of different nanoscale powders of the highest quality at affordable prices. They produce mainly nano metals and related nanomaterials for electronic, chemical, clean energy, biological, and powder metallurgical applications. Currently, they supply nano metals, such as nanosilver, nanocopper, nanonickel, nanotin, and nanoindium, etc. They also produce nanooxides and other compounds such as carbides, nitrides, borides, and nano NiO, Ni(OH)2, nano Cu2O, nano CoO, nano ZnO, In2O3 and nano SnO2 using their nanotechnology.
  • Nano and Advanced Materials Institute Limited (NAMI) - hosted by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), the organization was incorporated as a not-for-profit company in Hong Kong. In partnership with local industries, NAMI conducts market-driven, demand-led development of nanotechnology and advanced materials. Such materials are relevant to the sustained economic growth of Hong Kong as a knowledge-based economy.

Nanotechnology Education and Research

Some of the leading academic institutes in China offer courses and research programs in nanoscience and nanotechnology, and are listed below:

City University of Hong Kong

Promotes nanotech-based research and awareness through the research center given below:

  • Centre of Super-Diamond and Advanced Films (COSDAF) - conducts research on nanotechnology and nanomaterials. COSDAF brings together academic staff with multi-disciplinary expertise from varied departments and with research interests in nanoorganic light-emitting displays, diamond and advanced nanocoatings, and semiconductor nanomaterials.

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Promotes the significance of nanotechnology through the following research institutes and programs:

  • William Mong Institute of Nano Science and Technology - aims to pursue research in the area of nanostructured materials; generating new knowledge in the physics and chemistry of nanostructured materials and their attendant properties; educating students on the study of nanostructured materials; and enabling industries to understand the scientific importance of nanomaterials.
  • Nano Science and Technology Program - educates students with the interdisciplinary knowledge that is required for long-term nanoscale research and development that will lead to significant innovations in areas such as nanoelectronics, materials and manufacturing, environment, medicine and healthcare, biotechnology, chemicals, and energy.
  • Institute of NanoMaterials and NanoTechnology - conducts nanotech-based research on a range of project areas.

Soochow University

Promotes the significance of nanotechnology through the research laboratory mentioned below:

  • Functional Nano & Soft Materials Laboratory - concentrates on innovative research and technology development of functional nano and soft materials. Fundamental and applied research activities are carried out in an interdisciplinary manner on molecular design and synthesis of functional nano and soft materials; nano biosensing and detecting technology; organic optoelectronic materials and devices; and the physics and characteristics of soft materials.

University of Science and Technology of China

Promotes interdisciplinary research through the Deng Research Group which conducts interdisciplinary research including analytical and physical aspects of bio-nanotechnology, chemistry, and materials science. This group aims to manufacture functional nanosystems and utilize electrochemical approaches and bio-inspired processes to develop new tools for nanotechnological applications.

National Center for Nanoscience and Technology

Promotes nanotechnology-based research through the research divisions listed below:

  • Laboratory for Nanomaterials
  • Nanofabrication Laboratory
  • Laboratory for Nanodevices
  • The Testing Laboratory for Nanostructures
  • Laboratory for Biological Effects of Nanomaterials and Nanosafety
  • Laboratory for Nanostandardization
  • Laboratory for Nanomanufacture and Applications
  • Laboratory for Nanocharacterization

Suzhou Institute of Nano-Tech and Nano-Bionics (SINANO)

Conducts research in the field of nanotechnology through the following research divisions:

  • Division of Nano-devices and Materials      
  • Division of Nanobiomedicine Research        
  • Division of System Integration & IC Design            
  • Division of Interdisciplinary Research          
  • International Laboratory for Adaptive Bio-nanotechnology
  • Printable Electronics Research Center          
  • Nanobionic Research Division

Further Developments

In February 2015, Chinese researchers achieved a major breakthrough in nanocarrier drugs for pancreatic cancer. The new multi-layer hybrid nanocarrier developed by the research team achieves the layered carrying of three active pharmaceutical agents. This bridges the technology gap for the application of a nanocarrier as part of multi-drug treatment of pancreatic cancer. The new nanocarrier also significantly improves tumor targeting and the effectiveness of the drug while reducing its toxicities. The research findings have been published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

Researchers from Fudan University invented a nanolithium titanate material with high electronic conductivity. This material is highly suited to improving the safety of lithium-ion batteries and is also suitable for usage in solar and wind energy road lights whose lithium batteries need to be replaced every 15 years, unlike the conventional lithium-ion batteries that need to be changed after every two years.

Chinese researchers from the Inner Mongolia University of Technology have analyzed ‘nano-scale deformation of a crack tip’. Through this study, researchers have analyzed nanoscale deformation fields of crack-tips and in turn, developed a new method to analyze the deformation of crack-tips at a very small scale.

Researchers present at the 6th International Conference on Nanotoxicology, held in Beijing in September 2012, emphasized the need for an increase in nanomaterials-based safety studies and improvements in regulatory oversight of synthetic nanomaterials. These implementations are expected to increase the nanotechnology sector in China, promote China’s export of nanotech products, and ensure the safe use of nanotechnology in all walks of life.

China and the US are looking to increase their bilateral R&D cooperation following a meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama. This follows on from 2012, a year in which US researchers collaborated on more research papers than the next four highest nations combined (Japan, UK, Germany, and Australia).

Chinese researchers contributed to a paper that reveals how the dynamic lithiation process of anode materials such as SnO2 nanowires takes place, using aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy. This new study provides a new level of understanding of the lithium-ion battery industry.

Chinese researchers have also collaborated with Norwegian researchers at the Centre for Integrated Petroleum Research on a project that revealed as much as 50% of the residual oil from abandoned oil wells can be retrieved using elastic nanoparticles.

Researchers at the Renmin University of China have developed a versatile and readily scalable approach to fabricate a cheap and sensitive paper gas sensor based on single-walled carbon nanotubes.

Meanwhile, another team at The University of Science and Technology of China have developed a reversible contraception method for males that uses gold nanorods in a non-surgical procedure. The technique involves injecting gold nanorods into the testes and heating with an infrared laser. Testing identified reduced fertility in mice and an expectation it may work to treat tumors.

China's science, technology, and industry system has changed from a Soviet-style science-based R&D system to a firm-centered market-based innovation system. China's gross expenditure on research and development (GERD) doubled in the period 2005-10 to 179 billion US dollars or 1.77% of GDP. In 2009, their expenditure on R&D was the second-highest in the world after the USA.

China’s open-door policy has helped attract foreign investment, including capital and technologies. This has also encouraged international collaboration which has no doubt helped accelerate technological development, providing access to foreign expertise and infrastructure.

China also has a medium and long-term plan for science and technology which provides a blueprint for their conversion to an innovation-driven economy by 2020, with expenditure on R&D to reach 2.5% of GDP.

There is no doubt that China is very active in the area of scientific development and nanotechnology. Their willingness to embrace collaboration, the large number of researchers and a commitment to a knowledge-based economy is expected to cement China as a leading country for nanotechnology research.

Sources and Further Reading

This article was updated on the 2nd September, 2019.

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