Just like other industry sectors, the furniture industry is trying to get more efficient by minimizing material use, minimizing waste, and optimizing energy consumption while improving the performance of their products. Nanotechnology and nanomaterials can play an important role in achieving these goals. A recent project mapped current uses and near future perspective on nanomaterials in the European furniture sector. It looked at innovative materials and potentials of nanotechnology that may positively affect the furniture sector; it also considered possible health risks and steps towards workplace prevention strategies following the precautionary principle.
Labelling is a central regulatory tool for risk governance. It aims at meeting a number of goals: It should enable consumers to make informed purchase decisions, avoid consumers being misled and promote innovation. Hence, consumers take part in the risk management of different product groups. Labelling of nanotechnology products has been part of the early discussion on nanotechnology regulation, both at national and EU level. Member states have refrained from independent national initiatives. However, nano-specific labelling obligations have been adopted in European law for cosmetics, food and biocidal products. In contrast, international initiatives for voluntary labelling have not succeeded on the market.
Over the past few years, touchscreens have become ubiquitous in the world of mobile electronic devices. A next generation of touch sensing devices will be vastly more advanced and lead to ultrasensitive artificial skins. Another, novel model for advanced man-machine interactive systems could be based on moisture detectors. Here, actual touch is no longer necessary for a positioning interface to react; rather, the distribution of water molecules that exists around all humid surfaces, such as a human finger, would be sufficient to trigger a response. Researchers in China have now demonstrate such a flexible touchless positioning interface based on the spatial mapping of moisture distribution.
Risks are high on the agenda in our society, to the extent that we might refer to the society as a risk society. Our society experiences emerging technologies, like nanotechnology. Different actors respond to this in a variety of ways. Among these are the consumers, an important, but neglected category of actors in this context. Arguably it is in our role as consumers we first encountered nanotechnology, in the form of nano-enabled products at the consumers market. What consumers think and do, reacting to the mixed messages about benefits and risks of nanotechnology, contributes to how the risk society (with regard to nanotechnology) is developed, and in that sense becomes operationalized. The theme of this thesis is not just the responses of consumers (and how others perceive these) to the introduction of nanotechnology, but also a case study of how the risk society can be operationalized.
The study focused on the following questions: What do consumers know about nanotechnologies? How do they rate nanotechnologies? How do they obtain information? How would they like to be informed in the future? The results show that the "Nano-Hype" appears to be fading. Surprisingly, regarding the quality of the consumers' statements, e.g. how detailed their descriptions of the individual examples are, it can be said that their knowledge about all fields of application has decreased. Even though the knowledge about all fields of application has decreased, particularly striking is the decline in the fields of surface coatings, construction materials and environmental engineering. In sum, it can be hypothesised that consumer communication on the part of product manufacturers has decreased considerably, or that the information does not reach the target group to the same extent. The public knowledge on nanotechnologies has become more abstract.
Printed electronics has its origins in conductive patterns printed as part of conventional electronics, forming flexible keyboards, antennas and so on. Then came fully printed testers on batteries, electronic skin patches and other devices made entirely by printing, including batteries and displays. A clear next step has been to modernise static print with the e-reader and the talking poster with animated, light emitting display and solar power. These are partly or almost wholly printed, with a clear roadmap to making them lower cost and more reliable and flexible by using printing more fully in their manufacture in future. However, we now see printed electronics and electrics certain to penetrate far more applications than anyone realised.
The automotive sector is a major consumer of material technologies - and nanotechnologies promise to improve the performance of existing technologies significantly. Applications range from already existing - paint quality, fuel cells, batteries, wear-resistant tires, lighter but stronger materials, ultra-thin anti-glare layers for windows and mirrors - to the futuristic - energy-harvesting bodywork, fully self-repairing paint, switchable colors, shape-shifting skin. The basic trends that nanotechnology enables for the automobile are: lighter but stronger materials; improved engine efficiency and fuel consumption for gasoline-powered cars; reduced environmental impact from hydrogen and fuel cell-powered cars; improved and miniaturized electronic systems; and better economies. This article provides an overview of a large number of efforts and applications involving nanotechnologies in the automotive industry.
Nanotechnology shows great potential for revolutionizing the textile industry across its entire range of applications with its ability to impart new functionality to textiles while at the same time maintaining their look and feel. The wool textile industry, for example, is researching the development of textiles with fast-absorbing and quick-drying properties. This has great importance for improving clothing thermophysiological comfort and wearing performance by adjusting the transport of heat and moisture through a fabric which was usually achieved using synthetic fibers. One stubborn hurdle that prevents nanotechnology-enabled 'smart' textiles from becoming more of a commercial reality is the insufficient durability of nanocoatings on textile fibers or the stability of various properties endowed by nanoparticles. Quite simply put, the 'smart' comes off during washing. Developing an effective approach to enhance the coalesce force between nanoparticles and wool fibers has great significance both in scientific and real applications of nanotechnology functionalized textiles.