When Professor Chunli Bai (currently the President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences) visited Zhong Nan Hai (the seat of central government of China) and gave a nanoscience lecture to Chinese leaders in 2000, the nanoscience research in China was not as thriving as at present. More than ten years ago, the pioneer Chinese scientists realized that intense research efforts on nanoscience and nanotechnology were less collaborative and systemic research activities. A top-down framework and a strategic approach at the national level with a long-term vision was hence urgently needed. To advance the development of this enthralling field, the central government made the decision to establish a new research organization focusing on the development of nanoscience and related technology. Meanwhile, a bilateral agreement on nanoscience and technology between the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the Ministry of Education was achieved. All parties involved then established in 2003 a national level research center – the National Center for Nanosciences and Technology (NCNST), China – of which Prof. Chunli Bai served as the Founding Director. The NCNST serves as a public technology platform and its functions and missions include: providing services for materials characterization to academia and industry; providing information to the public on nanotechnology through websites and databases, organizing international/national conferences; promoting government–academia–industry partnerships and nanotechnology transfer; offering education and training for young scientists; serving as China's window for international collaboration; and assisting in the establishment of standards and accreditation for nanomaterials in China.
The past ten-year was a time in which we have witnessed a globally fast evolving progress in nanotechnology, and advances in the nanosciences have spawned more advances in research of almost all other disciplines of science, giving rise to a revolution with an extraordinary impact on fundamental and engineering science. It has also been a golden era for nanoscience and nanotechnology research in China, moving the Chinese research outcome and the capacity of nanosciences to the forefront worldwide. In terms of research outcome in basic research, China has become one of the international leaders in nanoresearch if judged by the numbers of scientific publications, total citations, and patents applied and authorized. During this period, NCNST, together with other research institutions, has also grown quickly and established itself a reputation and became a fully operational and internationally renowned research hub in nanoscience and technology. Today, NCNST already has eight major research themes that cover nanofabrication, nanocharacterization and measurement, nanodevices, nanomaterials and nanostructures, nanostandardization, nanomanufacturing and applications, nanobiomedical sciences and nanosafety, among others. NCNST was also endowed with some other functions such as serving as a central platform that coordinates with collaborative laboratories. Besides promoting new frontiers in nanoscience research in China and serving as the public nanotechnology platform, NCNST's other missions include serving as a window for international collaboration and industries, and becoming a inspiring place for youth to nurture their interest in nanoscience. To accomplish the 2020 national roadmap mission on nanoresearch, NCNST plays an important role in the national strategic development plan for nanoscience and technology, with the main focus on the construction of functional nanomaterials, fabrication of nanodevices, further development for biomedical applications, and invention or improvement of instrumentation for nanocharacterization.
In spite of all the progress made in the last decade, we realize that we still have a long way to go to be a world-class and leading institution in nanoscience and nanotechnology. Due to the relative short period of time for development, we are still lacking in key technological innovations, because of the underdeveloped infrastructure needed to support world class research and innovation. We will continue our efforts on using nanoscience and nanotechnology to solve grand challenges that China will face in the future, such as new functional materials, new clean energy alternatives, a clean environment and environmental protection, the next generation of biomedicines, etc.
This year is the 10th anniversary. After its first decade NCNST will now become a fully operational and well-established international institution for nanoscience research with about 200 staff members, 300 students including graduate students, postdocs and exchange researchers, and annually about 40 international researchers including overseas scientists and PhD students. This accelerated development of NCNST is a miniature of the rapid development in nanoscience and technology worldwide. Nanomaterials, one of most fundamental themes along with powerful nanotechnology for visualization, manipulation and manufacture at a nanoscale, are one of our most important research directions at NCNST. Accordingly, to celebrate our 10th anniversary, it is a wise choice to edit and publish this NCNST special issue in Advanced Materials to highlight recent progress in nanoscience research and nanotechnology developments achieved by the NCNST.
In the future we will continue our efforts on the main research directions of nanotechnology, such as novel nanomaterial structures, functional nanomaterials and their applications, controllable fabrication, nanocatalysis for chemical industry, novel nanomedicine, energy nanotechnology, environmental nanotechnology, nanotechnology for analytical sciences, nano EHS, nanostandardization, etc. Moreover, we will also strive to be one of the most desirable places for talented young researchers for fulfilling their dream career in nanoscience and nanotechnology which, we believe, will play a significant role in improving the quality of our lives.