I’m in Pune, India this week enjoying subjee in the sun while lecturing on entrepreneurship with a team put together by the British Council. Coincidentally, Tata Motors chose today to unveil their new car, and the world’s cheapest, the Tata Nano which although not containing much nanotechnology provides a metaphor of sorts for what we are attempting to do in nanoscience.
Rather than taking a normal car and throwing bits away to get to the 1 lakh rupee price point (Rs10,000 0r $2,500), the Tata engineers had to design the car from the bottom up in order to come up with something that was fit for purpose, while being energy efficient and robust.That’s pretty much what Nature has been doing for four billion years, and what nanotechnology is attempting to replicate.
The Tata Nano also sparked an environmental outcry, with fears that it would increase pollution, which seems to be a rather dim and short sighted view. Anyone who has been to India will be aware that the dominant form of transport and major source of pollution in many areas is the three wheeler auto rickshaw, a dirty, noisy, slow and dangerous form of transport belching out black fumes from its ancient two stroke diesel engine and holding up all the traffic. The Tata Nano is not only more comfortable but also cheaper than auto rickshaws, and while India’s roads may remain clogged, it will be at least with small, clean fuel efficient vehicles.