From Confusion To Action
, Sep. 1, 2005, By John Teresko
Whether your company is like traditional manufacturer Air Products and
Chemicals or 20-year old Nanofilm Ltd., the first step in formulating a
strategy for capitalizing on nanotechnology is understanding parameters.
Martha Collins fights “nano confusion” by beginning discussions with a definition: “Nanotechnology is not a technology — nanotechnology is a dimension.” (a billionth of a measurement unit — as in nanometer.) As a technology manager helping to build a nano initiative at a materials company — Air Products and Chemicals Inc., Allentown, Pa. — Collins explains her habit of setting the nano record straight: “In the last decade, the explosion in nano knowledge and capability defies easy understanding and application.” Unfortunately the hype and confusion accompanying nano slows corporate decision-makers, even as their researchers start to flex newfound abilities to picture, analyze and model nano materials, Collins says.
“What’s confusing,” she says, “is that the nano knowledge explosion is a growing disruptive force through all kinds of diverse scientific disciplines. Thus while nano implications are running rampant through all the domains of science, corporate product developers are simply overwhelmed. They’re confronting an epochal technology challenge their R&D; strategies were never designed or equipped to handle.”
The solution? First, science has the conceptual challenge of organizing and compartmentalizing nano knowledge. Second, yesterday’s R&D; strategies need revisions if they are to handle the reality of the nano knowledge explosion. The rewards, says Collins, will be the emergence of products and processes that exploit the nano dimension in ways unthought of today. Every sector of the economy will be affected. For example, consider how nano scale sensors could revolutionize machine tool intelligence, says Paul Warndorf, vice president technology, the Association for Manufacturing Technology, McLean, Va. “Think of the benefits that could be derived from monitoring and reporting all aspects of a machine’s operating performance.” Nano sensors could also be applied to such things as medical diagnostics, drug screening and environmental monitoring, report researchers at George Washington University, Washington, D.C.