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China this week created a body that will draw up standards for nanotechnology, an emerging field of research that seeks to create materials and devices on the scale of atoms and molecules.

Bai Chunli, vice president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and China's National Centre for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology will head the National Nanotechnology Standardisation Committee.

"The country which completes the standardisation work first might greatly influence the future international standards in nanotechnology," said Bai in an interview with the Xinhua news agency.

"Most developed nations are ready to announce their own standards in this field, but we still have no international standards," he said.

China is vying for a leading position in the global nanotechnology research industry. Earlier this year, SciDev.Net reported on a study that showed that China was second only to the United States in terms of the number of science publications it contributed to the nanotechnology field (see China 'encroaches on US nanotech lead').

And last week, the Chinese government announced that it would give the nanotechnology sector a significant funding boost (see China backs future nanotech research).

The products of nanotechnology research could lead to better and cheaper disease diagnosis tools, water purification devices and solar panels, among others.

In 2001, the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology made drafting standards for nanotechnology research part of its national basic research plan.

According to Xinhua, a ministry official has said that basic standards have already been drafted, and that 15 new standards will be published soon.

Read more about nanotechnology in SciDev.Net's nanotechnology quick guide.