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Nanoscience: a major revolution

Currently one of the most exciting themes in world-wide science is Nanoscience. On the nano scale, researchers work with particles in the proportion of a millionth part of a millimeter, which means the manipulation atoms individually. For this to occur, there is the need for a sophisticated laboratory infrastructure. “Brazil is already part of the select group of countries with leading technology”, says José Roberto Leite, head of the New Semiconductor Materials Laboratory of the Physics Institute of the University of São Paulo (USP).

In the 80s, Brazil set up a research structure for investigating Nanoscience, when investments were made in the purchase of research equipment. Currently there are 49 Brazilian institutions researching themes related to Nanoscience, 75% of them in the South East. Some of these laboratories have sophisticated machines of the latest generation – high resolution X-ray machines, electronic microscopes, lasers, superconductor coils, optical and mass spectrometers for secondary ions, etc. “In the state of São Paulo, FAPESP's Infrastructure Program was fundamental in creating the ideal conditions for the functioning of these machines”, says Leite.

Nanoscience, it is believed, will be the agent of a revolution with effects comparable to those of the popularization of the transistor in the decade of the 40s and 50s. Currently, it is estimated that the annual market of products originating from Nanoscience will turnover $ 250 billion a year, among them transistors of high velocity used in cellular telephones, anti-collision radars, high resolution digital televisions and communication satellites, as well as semiconductor lasers used in CDs and DVDs, etc. “Certainly Nanoscience is going to bring us the quantum computer of the future”, forecast the researcher.