Great Wall Motors, an automotive company based in Baoding, China, pulled the veil on its cheapest electric vehicle called the ORA R1, which is being marketed with a price of $8,680 according to the company, Express reported.
“As a new market entrant, ORA R1 delivers an unprecedented experience to drivers,” general manager of the Ora line and vice president of Great Wall Motors, Ning Shuyong, said in a statement.
“ORA replaces the traditional sales, service, spare parts and surveys (4S) dealership-centered model that is common in China with a network consisting of ORA Home, experience centers and smart outlets in the central business districts of Chinese cities.”
“In addition, the big data cloud that is created as the result of the information collected from the ORA app, the ORA shopping site and the Tmall e-shop opens the way to the development of multiple scenarios for offline sales and services as well as new transportation services for both drivers and passengers.”
The car is being powered by a 33 kilowatt per hour battery pack that can drive for up to 194 miles (312 kilometers) on a single charge. However, the report stated that since this uses the NEDC (New European Driving Cycle) range calculation, typically deemed not the most accurate, the ORA R1 can likely drive 150-miles on a single charge.
Waking up the vehicle is as easy as a simple greeting of “Hello, ORA” thanks to its artificial intelligence system, Mashable said. Its body is also said to be made out of 60% high-strength steel.
The car will come with a three-year or 120,000 kilometer (74,564 mile) guarantee for the entire vehicle while its components have an eight-year (93,205 miles) guarantee. So far Great Wall Motor is only selling the ORA R1 in China, but they’ve shown interest in bringing the cheapest electric car to other countries as well, Electrek reported.
Radar that can spot stealth aircraft and other quantum innovations could give their militaries a strategic edge
In the 1970s, at the height of the Cold War, American military planners began to worry about the threat to US warplanes posed by new, radar-guided missile defenses in the USSR and other nations. In response, engineers at places like US defense giant Lockheed Martin’s famous “Skunk Works” stepped up work on stealth technology that could shield aircraft from the prying eyes of enemy radar.
The innovations that resulted include unusual shapes that deflect radar waves—like the US B-2 bomber’s “flying wing” design (above)—as well as carbon-based materials and novel paints. Stealth technology isn’t yet a Harry Potter–like invisibility cloak: even today’s most advanced warplanes still reflect some radar waves. But these signals are so small and faint they get lost in background noise, allowing the aircraft to pass unnoticed.
China and Russia have since gotten stealth aircraft of their own, but America’s are still better. They have given the US the advantage in launching surprise attacks in campaigns like the war in Iraq that began in 2003.
This advantage is now under threat. In November 2018, China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC), China’s biggest defense electronics company, unveiled a prototype radar that it claims can detect stealth aircraft in flight. The radar uses some of the exotic phenomena of quantum physics to help reveal planes’ locations.
It’s just one of several quantum-inspired technologies that could change the face of warfare. As well as unstealthing aircraft, they could bolster the security of battlefield communications and affect the ability of submarines to navigate the oceans undetected. The pursuit of these technologies is triggering a new arms race between the US and China, which sees the emerging quantum era as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gain the edge over its rival in military tech.
How quickly quantum advances will influence military power will depend on the work of researchers like Jonathan Baugh. A professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada, Baugh is working on a device that’s part of a bigger project to develop quantum radar. Its intended users: stations in the Arctic run by the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, a joint US-Canadian organization.
Baugh’s machine generates pairs of photons that are “entangled”—a phenomenon that means the particles of light share a single quantum state. A change in one photon immediately influences the state of the other, even if they are separated by vast distances.
Quantum radar operates by taking one photon from every pair generated and firing it out in a microwave beam. The other photon from each pair is held back inside the radar system.
Only a few of the photons sent out will be reflected back if they hit a stealth aircraft. A conventional radar wouldn’t be able to distinguish these returning photons from the mass of other incoming ones created by natural phenomena—or by radar-jamming devices. But a quantum radar can check for evidence that incoming photons are entangled with the ones held back. Any that are must have originated at the radar station. This enables it to detect even the faintest of return signals in a mass of background noise.
Baugh cautions that there are still big engineering challenges. These include developing highly reliable streams of entangled photons and building extremely sensitive detectors. It’s hard to know if CETC, which already claimed in 2016 that its radar could detect objects up to 100 kilometers (62 miles) away, has solved these challenges; it’s keeping the technical details of its prototype a secret.
Seth Lloyd, an MIT professor who developed the theory underpinning quantum radar, says that in the absence of hard evidence, he’s skeptical of the Chinese company’s claims. But, he adds, the potential of quantum radar isn’t in doubt. When a fully functioning device is finally deployed, it will mark the beginning of the end of the stealth era.
A study of China’s quantum strategy published in September 2018 by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a US think tank, noted that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is recruiting quantum specialists, and that big defense companies like China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) are setting up joint quantum labs at universities. Working out exactly which projects have a military element to them is hard, though. “There’s a degree of opacity and ambiguity here, and some of that may be deliberate,” says Elsa Kania, a coauthor of the CNAS study.
China’s efforts are ramping up just as fears are growing that the US military is losing its competitive edge. A commission tasked by Congress to review the Trump administration’s defense strategy issued a report in November 2018 warning that the US margin of superiority “is profoundly diminished in key areas” and called for more investment in new battlefield technologies.
One of those technologies is likely to be quantum communication networks. Chinese researchers have already built a satellite that can send quantum-encrypted messages between distant locations, as well as a terrestrial network that stretches between Beijing and Shanghai. Both projects were developed by scientific researchers, but the know-how and infrastructure could easily be adapted for military use.
The networks rely on an approach known as quantum key distribution (QKD). Messages are encoded in the form of classical bits, and the cryptographic keys needed to decode them are sent as quantum bits, or qubits. These qubits are typically photons that can travel easily across fiber-optic networks or through the atmosphere. If an enemy tries to intercept and read the qubits, this immediately destroys their delicate quantum state, wiping out the information they carry and leaving a telltale sign of an intrusion.
QKD technology isn’t totally secure yet. Long ground networks require way stations similar to the repeaters that boost signals along an ordinary data cable. At these stations, the keys are decoded into classical form before being re-encoded in a quantum form and sent to the next station. While the keys are in classical form, an enemy could hack in and copy them undetected.
To overcome this issue, a team of researchers at the US Army Research Laboratory in Adelphi, Maryland, is working on an approach called quantum teleportation. This involves using entanglement to transfer data between a qubit held by a sender and another held by a receiver, using what amounts to a kind of virtual, one-time-only quantum data cable. (There’s a more detailed description here.)
Michael Brodsky, one of the researchers, says he and his colleagues have been working on a number of technical challenges, including finding ways to ensure that the qubits’ delicate quantum state isn’t disrupted during transmission through fiber-optic networks. The technology is still confined to a lab, but the team says it’s now robust enough to be tested outside. “The racks can be put on trucks, and the trucks can be moved to the field,” explains Brodsky.
It may not be long before China is testing its own quantum teleportation system. Researchers are already building the fiber-optic network for one that will stretch from the city of Zhuhai, near Macau, to some islands in Hong Kong.
Researchers are also exploring using quantum approaches to deliver more accurate and foolproof navigation tools to the military. US aircraft and naval vessels already rely on precise atomic clocks to help keep track of where they are. But they also count on signals from the Global Positioning System (GPS), a network of satellites orbiting Earth. This poses a risk because an enemy could falsify, or “spoof,” GPS signals—or jam them altogether.
Lockheed Martin thinks American sailors could use a quantum compass based on microscopic synthetic diamonds with atomic flaws known as nitrogen-vacancy centers, or NV centers. These quantum defects in the diamond lattice can be harnessed to form an extremely accurate magnetometer. Shining a laser on diamonds with NV centers makes them emit light at an intensity that varies according to the surrounding magnetic field.
Ned Allen, Lockheed’s chief scientist, says the magnetometer is great at detecting magnetic anomalies—distinctive variations in Earth’s magnetic field caused by magnetic deposits or rock formations. There are already detailed maps of these anomalies made by satellite and terrestrial surveys. By comparing anomalies detected using the magnetometer against these maps, navigators can determine where they are. Because the magnetometer also indicates the orientation of magnetic fields, ships and submarines can use them to work out which direction they are heading.
China’s military is clearly worried about threats to its own version of GPS, known as BeiDou. Research into quantum navigation and sensing technology is under way at various institutes across the country, according to the CNAS report.
As well as being used for navigation, magnetometers can also detect and track the movement of large metallic objects, like submarines, by fluctuations they cause in local magnetic fields. Because they are very sensitive, the magnetometers are easily disrupted by background noise, so for now they are used for detection only at very short distances. But last year, the Chinese Academy of Sciences let slip that some Chinese researchers had found a way to compensate for this using quantum technology. That might mean the devices could be used in the future to spot submarines at much longer ranges.
A tight race
It’s still early days for militaries’ use of quantum technologies. There’s no guarantee they will work well at scale, or in conflict situations where absolute reliability is essential. But if they do succeed, quantum encryption and quantum radar could make a particularly big impact. Code-breaking and radar helped change the course of World War II. Quantum communications could make stealing secret messages much harder, or impossible. Quantum radar would render stealth planes as visible as ordinary ones. Both things would be game-changing.
It’s also too early to tell whether it will be China or the US that comes out on top in the quantum arms race—or whether it will lead to a Cold War–style stalemate. But the money China is pouring into quantum research is a sign of how determined it is to take the lead.
China has also managed to cultivate close working relationships between government research institutes, universities, and companies like CSIC and CETC. The US, by comparison, has only just passed legislation to create a national plan for coordinating public and private efforts. The delay in adopting such an approach has led to a lot of siloed projects and could slow the development of useful military applications. “We’re trying to get the research community to take more of a systems approach,” says Brodsky, the US army quantum expert.
Still, the US military does have some distinct advantages over the PLA. The Department of Defense has been investing in quantum research for a very long time, as have US spy agencies. The knowledge generated helps explains why US companies lead in areas like the development of powerful quantum computers, which harness entangled qubits to generate immense amounts of processing power.
The American military can also tap into work being done by its allies and by a vibrant academic research community at home. Baugh’s radar research, for instance, is funded by the Canadian government, and the US is planning a joint research initiative with its closest military partners—Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand—in areas like quantum navigation.
All this has given the US has a head start in the quantum arms race. But China’s impressive effort to turbocharge quantum research means the gap between them is closing fast.
Electric vehicles are set to overcome historic and significant hurdles: sticker price, range anxiety and limited model options. Annual sales are forecasted to jump from 1% today to 25% in 2030 and cross 50% by 2040.
Nearly every major car maker has announced new models for EVs. By 2020, there will be 44 models of EVs available in North America.
Watch the Video Discussionwith Panelists from Daimler Benz, Chargepoint and Lucid
Please join us for a lively panel discussion with diverse electric vehicle experts as they provide their take on the future of the industry and tackle tough questions like:
What are the remaining technical, economic and political hurdles that will impact the mass adoption of EVs?
Charging infrastructure vs EVs – the chicken and the egg problem.
What’s the right amount and mix of charging infrastructure?
Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electric – How important is “electric” to this futuristic concept?
When will EVs be cheaper to own than conventional internal combustion engine vehicles?
Battery costs have fallen 74% since 2010 – what other technology opportunities exist i.e. new battery chemistry, economies of scale?
China’s EV targets outpace Europe and the US. What are the implications for traditional automakers and Silicon Valley startups?
California’s latest Executive Order targets 5 million EVs on the road by 2030. How do we get there?
Sven Beiker – Moderator & Keynote Speaker, Stanford GSB
Pat Romano – CEO Chargepoint
Fred Kim – R&D Group Manager – Daimler Benz
Albert Liu – Director of Battery Technology, Lucid Motor
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Supercapacitors are touted by many as the wave of the future when it comes to battery storage for everything from cell phones to electric cars.
Unlike batteries, supercapacitors can charge and discharge much more rapidly — a boon for impatient drivers who want to be able to charge their electric cars quickly.
The key to supercap performance is electrodes with a large surface area and high conductivity that are inexpensive to manufacture, according to Science Daily.
Carbon aerogels satisfy the first two requirements but have significant drawbacks. Some are made from phenolic precursors which are inexpensive but not environmentally friendly. Others are made from graphene and carbon nanotube precursors but are costly to manufacture.
Researchers at the University of Science and Technology of China have discovered a new process that is low cost and sustainable using nanocellulose, the primary component of wood pulp that gives strength to the cell walls of trees.
Once extracted in the lab, it forms a stable, highly porous network which when oxidized forms a micro-porous hydrogel of highly oriented cellulose nano-fibrils of uniform width and length.
Like most scientific research, there was not a straight line between the initial discovery and the final process.
A lot of tweaking went on in the lab to get things to work just right. Eventually, it was found that heating the hydrogel in the presence of para-toluenesulfonic acid, an organic acid catalyst, lowered the decomposition temperature and yielded a “mechanically stable and porous three dimensional nano-fibrous network” featuring a “large specific surface area and high electrical conductivity,” the researchers say in a report published by the journal Angewandte Chemie International.
The chemists have been able to create a low cost, environmentally friendly wood-based carbon aerogel that works well as a binder-free electrode for supercapacitor applications with electro-chemical properties comparable to commercial electrodes currently in use.
Now the hard work of transitioning this discovery from the laboratory to commercial viability will begin. Contributed by Steve Hanley
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China’s electric car production grows three-fold in May
Beijing’s announcement that it is considering banning gasoline and diesel cars from its smog clogged roads promises to accelerate a push toward electric vehicles — a race in which Chinese car makers have everything to gain.
Even those who consider themselves somewhat knowledgeable about the electric vehicle (EV) industry would be hard pressed to name more than a handful of EV battery suppliers.
Most would quickly name Japan’s Panasonic and South Korea’s Samsung and LG Chem, as well as reference the Gigafactoy that Panasonic and Tesla opened this past January in Nevada. A few of the more knowledgeable would also name BYD, a leading electric vehicle manufacturer in China that is also one of the world’s largest battery suppliers.
Other than those names, however, and perhaps one or two other lesser known players, the list would end there.
Nearly everyone would be surprised to learn that there are now more than 140 EV battery manufacturers in China, busily building capacity in order to claim a share of what will become a $240 billion global industry within the next 20 years. As in all things auto, EVs and the batteries that will power them promise to be big industries in China.
A $240 billion industry
The math is simple. Respected auto analysts like those at Bernstein, a Wall Street research and securities firm, are predicting that EVs will account for as much as 40% of global vehicle purchases in 20 years. Since almost 100 million vehicles are produced and sold globally, that means that the annual market for EVs will be 40 million, even if the total global vehicle build does not increase between now and then.
Assuming that battery prices reach parity with the $6,000 cost of an internal combustion engine, a $240 billion battery industry is now in the making. Due to its well-publicized problems combatting air pollution, China will lead the way in EVs, as well as in batteries.
In order to meet projected demand, battery cell manufacturing capacity globally will need to increase dramatically, which is why China’s battery makers are aggressively expanding. When Tesla and Panasonic announced in 2014 their plans to build a “Gigafactory” capable of producing 35 Gigawatt hours (GWh) of battery cells every year, that was big news. (A GWh is equal to one million kilowatt hours.) After all, the entire battery capacity in the world at the time was less than 50 GWh.
A great deal has changed over the last three years, though. Led by China, battery cell manufacturing capacity has more than doubled to 125 GWh, and is projected to double again to over 250 GWh by 2020. Even that will not be nearly enough. Total cell production capacity will need to increase tenfold from 2020 to 2037, the equivalent of adding 60 new Gigafactories, during that period.
Shifting towards China
Battery technology originated in Japan; was then further developed by companies in Korea; and is now shifting strongly toward China. China’s cell production already has a larger share of global production than Japan’s, and China’s global market share is projected to rise to more than 70% by 2020.
This photo taken on May 22, 2017 shows a car passing new electric vehicles parked in a parking lot under a viaduct in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei province. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Rapid market growth for EVs in China, as well as the tendency for Chinese auto assemblers to use homegrown products, augurs well for China’s continued leadership in battery cell manufacturing. According to Roland Berger’s E-mobility Index Q2 2017 report, locally made lithium-ion cells are used in more than 90% of the EVs produced by Chinese manufacturers.
With so many Chinese companies hoping to enter the battery sweepstakes, China’s government is considering policies that will set minimum production capacities for battery manufacturers as a way to further strengthen its position as a global leader. Although not yet official, Beijing would like Chinese manufacturers to have a production volume of at least 3 to 5 GWh per year. Separately, Beijing released draft guidelines at the end of 2016 stipulating that battery manufacturers would need to have at least 8 GWh of production capacity in order to qualify for subsidies. As a signal to the market, the government is planning to back the development of only those battery companies with annual production capacities of 40 GWh or more.
Who the government is championing
While Panasonic is the world’s largest supplier of electric vehicle batteries globally, Chinese companies are catching up.
Based in Shenzhen, BYD — which stands for “Build Your Dream” — is a Hong Kong listed, Chinese car company that in 2016 produced almost 500,000 cars and buses, approximately 100,000 of which were EVs or plug-in hybrids. Consistent with BYD’s strategy of vertical integration, it also has 20 GWh of battery cell capacity and is China’s largest battery maker.
In 2008, a subsidiary of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway invested $230 million in BYD, which at the time represented a 10% stake in the company. BYD is now valued in the marketplace at $16.9 billion.
CATL is another leading Chinese battery company. Founded in 2011 and headquartered in Ningde, Fujian province, CATL focuses on the production of lithium-ion batteries and the development of energy storage systems. With manufacturing bases in Qinghai, Jiangsu, and Guangdong provinces, CATL has 7.7 GWh of battery capacity and plans to have battery production capacity of 50 GWh by 2020. Like BYD, CATL is the type of company that the Chinese government wants to support and promote as a national champion.
Companies to watch
Other companies to watch are Tianjin based Lishen Battery and Hangzhou’s Wanxiang Group.
State Grid Corp. of China (SGCC) battery packs sit on display in the showroom of Wanxiang Group Corp. in Hangzhou, China in September 2016. (Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)
Lishen has production bases in Bejing, Qingdao, Suzhou, Wuhan, Ningbo, Shenzhen and Mianyang, and plans to have 20 GWh of battery cell capacity by 2020. And Wanxiang is one of China’s largest private companies and one of the country’s leading automotive components suppliers. In 1994, Wanxiang established a U.S. company in Elgin, Illinois. Since then, Wanxiang has made over two dozen acquisitions in the United States, including A123, a battery maker that had gone into bankruptcy, in 2013, and Fisker Automotive in 2014.
The flip side to the coming Electric Revolution, of course, is that for every battery pack that is put into a vehicle, one less internal combustion engine is needed. While the growth of EVs will give rise to a large global battery industry, it will also make obsolete the substantial investments that have been made in global engine and engine component capacity.
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Scientists have shown they can teleport matter across a city, a development that has been hailed as “a technological breakthrough”.
However, do not expect to see something akin to the Star Trek crew beaming from the planet’s surface to the Starship Enterprise.
Instead, in the two studies, published today in Nature Photonics, separate research groups have used quantum teleportation to send photons to new locations using fibre-optic communications networks in the cities of Hefei in China and Calgary in Canada.
Quantum teleportation is the ability to transfer information such as the properties or the quantum state of an atom — its energy, spin, motion, magnetic field and other physical properties — to another location without travelling in the space between.
Two experiments demonstrate teleportation of particles across real optical fibre networks for first time
Chinese experiment transports two photons per hour across seven kilometres
Canadian experiment transports 17 photons per minute across 6.2 kilometres
While it was first demonstrated in 1997, today’s studies are the first to show the process is technologically possible via a mainstream communications network.
The development could lead to future city-scale quantum technologies and communications networks, such as a quantum internet and improved security of internet-based information.
Dr. Ben Buchler, Associate Professor with the Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology at the Australian National University, said the technical achievement of completing the experiments in a “non-ideal environment” was “pretty profound”.
“People have known how to do this experiment since the early 2000s, but until these papers it hasn’t been performed in fibre communication networks, in situ, in cities,” said Dr. Buchler, who was not involved in the research.
“It’s seriously difficult to do what they have done.”
Watch the YouTube Video: “The Metaphysics of Teleportation” – Dr. Michio Kaku
A cornerstone of quantum teleportation is quantum entanglement, where two particles are intimately linked to each other in such a way that a change in one will affect the other.
Dr. Buchler said quantum teleportation involved mixing a photon with one branch of the entanglement and this joint element was then measured. The other branch of the entanglement was sent to the receiving party or new location.
This original ‘joint’ measurement is sent to the receiver, who can then use that information to manipulate the other branch of the entanglement.
“The thing that pops out is the original photon, in a sense it has indistinguishable characteristics from the one you put in,” Dr Buchler said.
Overcoming technical barriers
He said both teams had successfully overcome technical barriers to ensure the precise timing of photon arrival and accurate polarisation within the fibres.
The Chinese team teleported single protons using the standard telecommunications wavelength across a distance of seven kilometres, whiled the Canadian team teleported single photons up to 6.2 kilometres.
But work remained to increase the speed of the system with the Chinese group teleporting just two photons per hour and the Canadians a faster rate of 17 photons per minute.
Dr. Buchler said the speeds meant the development had little immediate practical value, but “this kind of teleportation is part of the protocol people imagine will be able to extend the range of quantum key distribution” — a technique used to send secure encrypted messages.
In the future scientists envision the evolution of a quantum internet that would allow the communication of quantum information between quantum computers.
Quantum computers on their own would allow fast computation, but networked quantum computers would be more powerful still.
Dr. Buchler said today’s studies were a foundation stone toward that vision as it showed it was possible to move quantum information from one location to another within mainstream networks without destroying it.
Yes … a LOT more work has to be done however before we “Warp” and “Beam” … but to put it into the words of ‘The Good Doctor’ …
“Damit Jim, I’m ONLY a doctor!” (Highly Logical) “Live long and Prosper!”
WHICH is the world’s most innovative country? Answering this question is the aim of the annual Global Innovation Index and a related report, which were published this morning by Cornell University, INSEAD, a business school, and the World Intellectual Property Organisation.
The ranking of 140 countries and economies around the world, which are scored using 79 indicators, is not surprising: Switzerland, Britain, Sweden, the Netherlands and America lead the pack.
But the authors also look at their data from other angles, for instance how countries do relative to their economic development and the quality of innovation (measured by indicators such as university rankings). In both cases the results are more remarkable. The chart above shows that in innovation many countries in Africa punch above their economic weight. And the chart below indicates that, even though China is now churning out a lot of patents, it is still way behind America and other rich countries when it comes to innovation quality.
Before the dawn of the new millennium, the then President of the USA Bill Clinton was invited by Science magazine to write an editorial. In the one-page piece, Science in the 21st century, he wrote: “Imagine a new century, full of promise, molded by science, shaped by technology, powered by knowledge. We are now embarking on our most daring explorations, unraveling the mysteries of our inner world and charting new routes to the conquest of disease” . In 2000, the US government firmly kicked off its significant and influential National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) program after integrating all resources from Federal agencies, including National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services (NIH), National Institute of Standard Technology (NIST), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Homeland Security, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Department of Justice.
The NNI established four goals:
(1) to advance a world-class nanotechnology research and development program;
(2) to foster the transfer of new technologies into products for commercial and public benefit;
(3) to develop and sustain educational resources, a skilled workforce, and supporting infrastructure and tools to advance nanotechnology; and
(4) to support responsible development of nanotechnology. The NNI significantly pushes nanotechnology research forward. In 2006, the prominence of nanotechnology research began to exceed medical research in terms of publication rate. That trend appears to be continuing as a result of the growth of products in commerce using nanotechnology and, for example, five-fold growth in number of countries with nanomaterials research centers.
The nanoscience and nanotechnology subject category of the Journal Citation Report (JCR) published by Thomson Reuters has increased rapidly. Correspondingly, both impact factors (published by Thomson Reuters) and SCImago Journal Rank values (SJR is published by Elsevier’s Scopus and powered by Google’s PageRank algorithms) of journals in the nanotechnology subject category have increased rapidly . The aggregate impact factor of nanoscience and nanotechnology has been rising at a breathtaking rate, compared with other subject categories, reaching the top 10 after 2011. The hype and hope of nanotechnology challenging many previously unimaginable goals are especially high now, and many believe in forthcoming breakthroughs in the areas of nanomaterial-based diagnostic imaging, complementation of diagnostic tools combined with therapeutic modalities (i.e., theranostics), or nanoencapsulation and nano-carriers of biotechnology products.
Today, it is estimated that total NNI funding, including the fiscal year 2014, is about $170 billion. Currently, there are more than 60 countries that have launched national nanotechnology programs . Governments and industry have invested millions of dollars in research funding in this rapidly growing field. By 2015, approximately one quarter trillion dollars will have been invested in nanotechnology by the American government and private sectors collectively. The continuous strategic investment in nanotechnology has made the United States a global leader in the field.
Ten years ago, when AAAS celebrated the 125th anniversary of the journal Science, it invited the President of Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) Chunli Bai to write an essay for the special section Global Voice of Science. The CAS President Chunli Bai’s essay, Ascent of Nanoscience in China described the then development of nanotechnology and nanoscience in the country and openly announced the government’s ambition to compete with other countries in the field. In 2006, the Chinese government announced its Medium and Long-term Plan for the Development of Science and Technology (2006–2020), which identified nanotechnology as “a very promising area that could give China a chance of great-leap-forward development”. The plan introduced the new Chinese Science & Technology policy guidelines, which were later implemented by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) that operates Nanoscience Research as a part of the State Key Science Research Plans. So far the Nanoscience Research program has invested about 1.0 billion RMB to support 28 nanotechnology projects. All of these endeavors led to the recent significantly rapid rise of nanotechnology in China as evidenced by its publications, industrial R&D and applications in the field.
The rapid development of nanotechnology-based science and technology in China attracted worldwide attention including from Demos, one of the UK’s most influential think tanks. Led by Wilsdon and Keeley, Demos completed an 18-month study, interviewing many leading scientists and policy makers of 71 Asian organizations, including two well-known Chinese nanotechnology academics Dr. Chen Wang (the then Director of National Center for Nanoscience and Technology) and Academician Zihe Rao (Director of CAS Institute of Biophysics).
After completion of the project, Wilsdon and Keeley published their findings in the book, China: The next science superpower?” . The authors wrote, “China in 2007 is the world’s largest technocracy: a country ruled by scientists and engineers who believe in the power of technology to deliver social and economic progress. Right now, the country is at an early stage in the most ambitious program of research investment since John F Kennedy embarked on the race to the moon. But statistics fail to capture the raw power of the changes that are under way, and the potential for Chinese science and innovation to head in new and surprising directions. Is China on track to become the world’s next science superpower?” Indeed, in recent years, China has emerged not only as a mass manufacturer, but also as one of the world’s leading nanotechnology nations. Many nanomaterial-based semiconductor products come from China and the country dominates in the nanotechnology area of most-cited academic articles: the top eighteen out of the twenty scholars are of Chinese origin .
Changes in nanotechnology-related geopolitical landscape
With strong governmental and private sector supports, nanotechnology and nanoscience R&D has developed rapidly in both the USA and China. As shown in Fig. 1A, from 2003 to 2013, the USA led in the area of global nanotechnology publications in terms of the numbers of papers and their quality determined by the number of citations and H-index. China followed USA in the field. For instance, the total nanotechnology publications from USA were 160,870 with total citations of 4056,278, whereas, China published 154,946 papers with total citations of 2049,072. The quality of an article is usually judged by the number of citations it receives, although other measures such as the number of downloads are becoming more accepted and used .
Based on the total number of publications and related citations, we have used weighted statistics to calculate the top countries actively involved in nanotechnology research (see original publication for full details). The statistics show that USA ranks number one, followed by China, Germany, Japan, Korea, France, UK, India, Italy, Spain, Taiwan (China), and others (Fig. 1A). EU countries are not too far behind in the field. Further analysis indicates that the number of nanotechnology-related publications increased from 23,957 in 2003 to 107,371 in 2013 world-wide (an increase of 4.48-folds). Among them, 3592 and 30.479 papers were contributed by China in 2003 and in 2013, respectively, that is an increase of 8.49 folds, which is about 2-fold higher than the global publication increase rate.
Bibliometric data of twenty leading nanotechnology journals shows that the USA is leading in nanotechnology research by far (see original publication for full details). The USA contributed 22,067 papers to the twenty journals from 2003 to 2013, whereas, China only published 3421 papers in these journals. If the analysis is limited to papers published in journals with an impact factor >20, the USA originated 1068 papers, followed by EU countries Germany (221), UK (193), France (149), and finally Japan (121). China only produced 76 papers with an impact factor >20, demonstrating that China has some significant hurdles to overcome to join the world’s top countries in nanotechnology development.
Interestingly, China is not lagging behind world leaders in all areas, for example, the gap between the USA and China is narrower in the field of nanomaterial research. Publications from China in Advanced Materials, Advanced Functional Materials, and Angew. Chem. Int. Edit. are not much less than those from the USA. In fact, China is leading in nanocomposites, chemical synthesis, and photocatalysis research (Fig. 1B and C). Chinese scientists published 1712 and 1580 papers in chemical synthesis and photocatalysis (from 2003 to 2013), respectively. The numbers exceed those from India, South Korea, Japan, USA, France, Germany, UK and Italy combined, suggesting that Chinese researchers have evolved their own research focuses and strengths over the years. On the other hand, this fact may also indicate an over-investment of resources in this area.
A list of the top ten universities and institutes world-wide (see original paper for full details), Top 10 Universities for Nanotechnology and Materials Science (U.S. has 5 in the Top 10) as well as those located within USA or China who contribute the most nanotechnology publications, reveals that the authorship of China’s nanotechnology publications is mostly concentrated in a small group of prestigious institutes and universities, reflecting the more centralized governance of China science, while authorship in the USA is more widely distributed. Indeed, the CAS possesses more resources than other competitors in China.
The geopolitical differences between the USA and China are also reflected in nanotechnology-related patent applications and industrialization. The numbers of nanotechnology-related patent applications to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), or the State Intellectual Property Office of China (SIPO) have increased from 405 in 2000 to 3729 in 2008 in USA, or from 105 in 2000 to 5030 in 2008 in China .
According to the China Patent Abstract Database managed by the SIPO, there were 30,863 nanotechnology patent applications from 1985 to 2009, and most of them were published after 2003. The central government has already built several state-level nanotechnology R&D incubators or bases, including the National Center for Nanoscience and Technology of China in Beijing, The State Engineering Research Center for Nanotechnology and Applications in Shanghai, National Institute of Nanotechnology and Engineering in Tianjin, Zhejiang–California International NanoSystems Institute, International Innovation Incubator of Nanotechnology, in Suzhou. In general, Beijing and Shanghai remain the two dominant nanotechnology centers, followed by Jiangsu and Zhejiang, reflecting the regional divergence of Chinese nanotechnology development .
The China–USA relationship is as compelling as it is complex. Approximately, one out of ten professionals in Silicon Valley’s high-tech workforce is from mainland China . In today’s global economy, the two great countries compete with each other in nanotechnology in a parallel and compatible manner. Historically, the United States has led the global high-tech and nanotechnology fields. However, the gap between USA and China in nanotechnology has narrowed significantly in recent years and American nanotechnology leadership faces challenges from all over the world.
With improved investment in research infrastructure and funding, China is sustaining the fastest economic growth in the world. Citizens’ participation in nanoscience and nanotechnology-related consensus conferences or stakeholder dialogues has become normal. This has not only had a significant impact on nanotechnology development in China, but also is democratically legitimate. Interest-based civil society interventions play an important role in the polycentric governance of nanoscience and nanotechnology to ensure that the related policies and regulations are made prudently after open argument and discussions . It would be interesting to watch, debate and decide which type of governmental system, the centralized one-party or the almost equally-divided two-party system, can more efficiently and effectively utilize public resources to produce nanotechnology products that better serve their own taxpayers, and the worldwide community as well.
Recently, researchers at Tsinghua University, China have proposed a graphene-based nanostructured lithium metal anode for lithium metal batteries to inhibit dendrite growth and improve electrochemistry performance. They report their findings in Advanced Materials, published on March 16, 2016.
“Widely used lithium-ion batteries cannot satisfy the increasing requirement of energy storage systems in portable electronics and electric vehicles. New lithium metal anode batteries, like Li-S and Li-air batteries, are highly sought. Lithium metal provides an extremely high theoretical specific capacity, which is almost 10 times more energy than graphite,” said Prof. Qiang Zhang, at the Department of Chemical Engineering, Tsinghua University. “However, the practical applications of lithium metals are strongly hindered by lithium dendrite growth in continuous cycles. This induces safety concerns. The lithium dendrites may cause internal short circuits resulting in fire. Furthermore, the formation of lithium dendrites induces very low cycling efficiency.” The dendrite growth and unstable solid electrolyte interphase consume large amount of lithium and electrolyte, and therefore leading to irreversible battery capacity losses. Consequently, inhibiting the dendrites growth is highly expected.
Many approaches have been proposed to retard the growth of dendrites through electrolyte modification, artificial solid electrolyte interphase layers, electrode construction, and others. “We noticed that by decreasing the local current density heavily, lithium dendrite growth could be efficiently inhibited. Based on this concept, we employed unstacked graphene with an ultrahigh specific surface area to build a nanostructured anode. And it turned out to be a very efficient idea,” said Rui Zhang, a Ph.D. student and the first author. “Additionally, we have employed the dual-salt electrolyte to acquire more stable and more flexible solid electrolyte interphase, which can protect the lithium metal from further reactions with electrolyte.”
This graphene-based anode offered great improvement, including (1) ultralow local current density on the surface of graphene anode (a ten-thousandth of that on routine Cu foil-based anodes) induced by the large specific surface area of 1666 m2 g-1, which inhibited dendrite growth and brought uniform lithium deposition morphology; (2) high stable cycling capacity of 4.0 mAh mg-1 induced by the high pore volume (1.65 cm3 g-1) of unstacked graphene, over 10 times of the graphite anode in lithium-ion batteries (0.372 mAh mg-1); (3) high electrical conductivity (435 S cm-1), leading to low interface impedance, stable charging/discharging performance, and high cycling efficiencies.
“We hope that our research can point out a new strategy to deal with the dendrite challenge in lithium metal anodes. The ultralow local current density induced by conductive nanostructured anodes with high specific surface area can help improve the stability and electrochemistry performance of lithium metal anodes,” said Xin-Bing Cheng, a co-author of the work. Future investigation is required to design preferable anode structures and to produce more protective solid electrolyte interphase layers. The researchers also call for additional study of the diffusion behavior of Li ions and electrons in the process of lithium depositing and stripping to advance the commercial applications of lithium metal anodes.
More information: R. Zhang, X.-B. Cheng, C.-Z. Zhao, H.-J. Peng, J.-L. Shi, J.-Q. Huang, J. Wang, F. Wei, Q. Zhang. Conductive Nanostructured Scaffolds Render Low Local Current Density to Inhibit Lithium Dendrite Growth. Adv. Mater. 2016, 28, 2155-2162. DOI: 10.1002/adma.201504117.