Nanotechnology Spotlight – Latest Articles

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Stakeholder preferences in regulating nanotechnology

law_booksHow to regulate nanotechnology and the application of nanomaterials has been quite a controversial issue in recent years. While for instance non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth consider the existing regulatory situation to be inadequate and are urging a strictly precautionary approach, industry representatives are instead seeking the development of specific guidance and standards to support implementation of existing regulations, which are generally seen as adequate. Researchers have used Multicriteria Mapping (MCM) to study why some regulatory options - bans, moratoriums, voluntary measures, etc. - are deemed to be acceptable/unacceptable by various stakeholders in the U.S. and the criteria they use to evaluate the different regulatory options. Not surprisingly, the largest difference in ranking of the policy options can be observed between environmental NGOs and the representatives from the industrial companies and the trade association.

Jul 26th, 2010

Communicating nanotechnology in Europe

communicating_nanotechnology'You cannot have an appropriate social dialogue on nanotechnology without an open-minded, consistent and even audacious communication roadmap aiming to bring everyone in.' So begins the foreword to a new Communication Roadmap by the European Commission on communicating nanotechnology in Europe. The EC has now compiled a roadmap for communicating nanotechnology across Europe. It presents the focus, objectives, methodology and actions already in place and to be developed over the next few years. The 188-page document is structured into three main parts: Where are we now? Where do we want to be? and How do we get there? and provides a detailed overview of all relevant activities and initiatives existing or planned across Europe.

Jun 14th, 2010

Nanotechnologies to mitigate global warming

global_warmingOne of the greatest current environmental concerns both for the near term as well as for the future is global warming caused by man-made carbon emissions and its well-recognized impact on climate change. The various strategies which can be adopted to combat global warming are classified under the following three categories: 1) Reducing energy consumption by employing more efficient technologies that minimize use of fossil fuels; 2) Adopting technologies that utilize renewable energy and energy storage technologies; 3) Addressing carbon management issues that involve separation, capture, sequestration and conversion to useful products. The present article will specifically address the first two topics.

May 4th, 2010

How to study for a career in nanotechnology

studentsEric Drexler attempts to answer the question on how students should prepare for a career in nanotechnology. His advice centers on fundamentals, outlining areas of knowledge are are universally important, and offering suggestions for how to approach both specialized choices and learning in general. It includes observations about the future of nanotechnology, the context for future careers. However, as you might imagine, providing a good answer is challenging. 'Nanotechnology' refers to a notoriously broad range of areas of science and technology, and progress during a student's career will open new areas, and some are yet to be imagined. Choices within this complex and changing field should reflect a student's areas of interest and ability, current background, level of ambition, and willingness to to accept risk - there is a trade-off between pioneering new directions and seeking a secure career path.

Feb 26th, 2010

Communicating nanotechnology

microphoneExperts and the public generally differ in their perceptions of technology risk. While this might be due to social and demographic factors, it is generally assumed by scientists who conduct risk research that experts' risk assessments are based more strongly on actual or perceived knowledge about a technology than lay people's risk assessments. Nevertheless, whether the risks are real or not, the public perception of an emerging technology will have a major influence on the acceptance of this technology and its commercial success. If the public perception turns negative, potentially beneficial technologies will be severely constrained as is the case for instance with gene technology. It is not surprising that a new study found that, in general, nanoscientists are more optimistic than the public about the potential benefits of nanotechnology. What is surprising though, is that, for some issues related to the environmental and long-term health impacts of nanotechnology, nanoscientists seem to be significantly more concerned than the public. Arguing that risk communication on nanotechnologies requires target-specific approaches, a group of researchers in Germany advocate the development of communication strategies that help people to comprehend nanotechnology, to differentiate between the fields of application and to gain an understanding of the cause and effect chains.

Jan 14th, 2010

Dude, nobody told me I was a nanotechnology consumer!

consumerMost products today are defined as 'nanotechnology product' because they contain nanoparticles in some form or other. For instance, many antimicrobial coatings contain silver in nanoscale form; food products and cosmetics contain nanoparticles; drug formulations are made with nanoscale ingredients; and some products are partially made with composite materials containing nanomaterials (e.g. carbon nanotubes or carbon nanofibers) to mechanically strengthen the material. Two researchers from the Norwegian National Institute for Consumer Research (SIFO), Harald Throne-Holst and Pal Strandbakken, argue that consumer rights in the nanotechnology age are not self-evident but rather have to be strengthened, partly redefined and certainly revived in order to empower and protect consumers.

Nov 17th, 2009

Nanotechnology's role in the ethics debate on human enhancement

human_enhancementHumans have always tried to improve themselves through 'natural methods' such as physical exercise, diet, meditation, education and training. However, as a new report on human enhancement points out, with ongoing work to unravel the mysteries of our minds and bodies, coupled with the art and science of emerging technologies, we are near the start of the Human Enhancement Revolution. Technology will be a big game changer. While previously technological progress has improved the tools we work with, from the printing press to the steam engine to computers, in the future, technology will change ourselves, our bodies and, possibly, even our minds. A new addresses questions and issues surrounding human enhancement, an area that will become more prominent as advances in nanotechnology, nanomedicine, bionics, synthetic biology and related fields move from the lab to real-world applications.

Sep 2nd, 2009

European debate on human enhancement technologies

human_enhancementNanotechnology plays, or rather: will play, a major role in technical and biological human enhancement. A recently released study commissioned by the European Parliament attempts to bridge the gap between visions on human enhancement and the relevant technoscientific developments. It outlines possible strategies of how to deal with human enhancement in a European context, identifying a reasoned pro-enhancement approach, a reasoned restrictive approach and a case-by-case approach as viable options for the EU. The authors propose setting up a European body for the development of a normative framework that guides the formulation of EU policies on human enhancement.

Jul 16th, 2009