China is attempting to “leapfrog” the United States in nanotechnology research, according to two UCSB researchers.

Dr. Richard Applebaum and Rachel Parker, from the UCSB Center for Nanotechnology in Society, have been researching China’s growing investment in nanotechnology. Applebaum, a sociology and global & international studies professor, said China plans to use existing nanotechnology studies as a starting point and then “leapfrog” the West by further developing the current research.

Parker, a UCSB graduate and a graduate fellow at CNS, said the analysis of the effects of China’s nanotechnology research came about during a larger study.

“We were looking into globalization and global diffusion [in nanotechnology],” Parker said. “We decided to start with China.”

According to Applebaum, the current perception of China as a country of mass production rather than a center of research is incorrect.

“China is the coming superpower,” he said. “They decided to invest a lot of public money into development of technology. We think of China as a producer of low-end economic goods, but now China is making a way to ‘leapfrog’ development.”

According to Applebaum and Parker’s 2007 presentation at the Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Growth Conference, China is second to the United States in government spending on nanotechnology and invests approximately $249 million American for nano research.

However, China’s focus is not solely on research. Applebaum said that their studies will move toward examining China’s manufacturing of nanotechnology.

“Most of our research has been on the research side,” Applebaum said. “But we are going to study productions.”

Applebaum said he believes a lot of collaboration occurs between UCSB and universities in China, which is important to scientific progression, since nanotechnology is a global research effort.

Nanotechnology is the study of molecules on a very small scale – one nanometer equals .000000001 meters. Current uses of nanoparticles outside the lab include special materials that will not stain, new adhesives and tiny, 10 nm transistors for use in laptops and cell phones.

CNS looks at the societal impact of nanotechnology, Applebaum said. The potential and profitability of nanotechnology has made it a clear governmental interest, he said.

“The U.S. government is spending one and a half billion dollars on Nanotech,” Applebaum said. “[The nanotechnology industry] is projected to be a $2.6 trillion industry by 2014.”

According to Applebaum, the funding of nanotechnology, globally, has increased due to a perception that the future lies in nanotechnology, because products are expected to be lighter, stronger and cleaner.

“Everyone’s jumping on the nanotrain,” Applebaum said.

Applebaum and Parker reviewed reports from the Chinese government and previous studies and interviewed various Chinese scientists, engineers and policymakers to conduct their study. Their publications can be found on the CNS Web site at