The leaders of Spain and Portugal have inaugurated a joint scientific research facility they hope will become a world leader in technology on a miniscule scale. Nanotechnology deals in the ultra-tiny – manipulating and controlling materials where measurements are made in billionths of a metre.
Spain’s King Juan Carlos and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero joined Portugal’s President Cavaco Silva and premier Jose Socrates at the Iberian International Nanotechnology Laboratory in Braga, 350 kilometres north of Lisbon. Researchers work directly with the atoms and molecules of materials – a level where they behave quite differently from normal. It is a branch of science with wide-ranging potential; from medicine to mobile phones. Put simply, re-arrange the atoms in coal, and you get a diamond. Shift the atoms in sand, and it could become a computer chip. They are planning to recruit 200 of the world’s top nanotechnology scientists once the centre opens fully in the middle of next year.