Nanotech Will Heat Up
Top 10 Predictions for 2007:
And just possibly spur the next Industrial Revolution.
January 11, 2007
By Marisa Taylor
It’s already in beauty products, the finish on cars, and in Eddie Bauer khakis. Scientists now know that when materials like metals are broken down into particles the size of a few atoms-called nanoparticles-their properties change, enabling a host of innovations like stronger, lighter tennis rackets, better flash drives, and stain-resistant fabrics. Some day, it might provide cheap solar energy in homes across the world.
Former White House Science Advisor Neal Lane says nanotechnology could be “as important as the steam engine, the transistor, and the Internet.” Already, some $10 billion was spent worldwide on nanotechnology research and development in 2005, the latest year for which figures are available.
The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Washington, D.C.-based Woodrow Wilson Center keeps an online inventory of consumer products that utilize nanotechnology, recording more than 380 to date. The new year will see more, but it will take a few more years for nano developments to become truly revolutionary, says Dr. Andrew Maynard, the Project’s chief scientist.
“The science behind nanotechnology has been increasing at an incredible rate,” he says.
Among the most exciting prospects are nanotech cancer drugs that would target and kill cancerous cells and leave healthy cells alone-bringing a whole new meaning to the concept of personalized medicine.
Dr. Maynard also says nanotechnology will be integral in water filtration. A nanotech filter with holes the size of unwanted particles could make it infinitely easier and consume much less energy.
Nanotech research will almost certainly be subject to more regulation, at least in the United States. “If we’re going to see successful nanotech businesses, they’ve got to be certain what the risks are and how they remove or reduce those risks,” Dr. Maynard says. “And that’s only going to happen if we carry out the right research.”
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