A scarcity of empirical data - especially regarding losses - hampers nanotechnology-related risk dialogue. Nanotechnology is a growing niche, so there is little litigation or loss history to analyze. Thus, much of the discussion of nanotechnology and its management flows from hypothetical examples. Less murky is the fact that nanotechnology is not a passing fad. It has innovative applications for a range of technologies and sectors, including drug delivery, medical imaging, integrated sensors, and semiconductors. The biggest areas of nanotechnology risk management concerns lies in workers' compensation and product liability. This article looks at industry responses and risk management strategies.
As a reader of Nanowerk we would like to invite you to joins us at the MicroNanoTec trade show at HANNOVER MESSE 2010 completely free of charge. HANNOVER MESSE will embrace microsystems technology and nanotechnology in a single trade fair under the new name MicroNanoTec. Microsystems technology and nanotechnologies have formed an important part of HANNOVER MESSE for many years. In the past they have mainly been presented at the leading trade fair MicroTechnology. The change of name signals a further expansion of microtechnology and nanotechnology at HANNOVER MESSE. The world's leading showcase for industrial technology is staged annually in Hannover, Germany. The next HANNOVER MESSE will be held from 19 to 23 April 2010.
OLEDs - organic light-emitting diodes - are full of promise for a range of practical applications. With more efficient and cheaper OLED technologies it becomes possible to make ultraflat, very bright and power-saving OLED televisions, windows that could be used as light source at night, and large-scale organic solar cells. One of the drawbacks of this technology, apart from its currently high manufacturing cost, are problems with the OLED fabrication process where issues such as material damage, yield, and thickness uniformity haven't been completely solved yet. Researchers in Japan have now proposed a nanoparticle-based deposition method that might be able to overcome these fabrication problems.
The physical properties of nanostructures have been investigated extensively both theoretically and experimentally. Among these properties, melting temperature, superconductive temperature, Curie temperature and Debye temperature are key physical quantities since they are the characteristic temperatures of melting, superconduction, ferromagnetism and vibration. When the size of materials approaches the nanoscale, the surface-to-volume ratio increases and matter begins to behave exotically. Considering this, scientists can predict size effects on material properties from macroscopic laws, the so-called top-down approach. They present a general equation that is based only on the surface area to volume ratio of nanostructures and statistics (Fermi-Dirac or Bose-Einstein) followed by the particles involved in the considered phenomena (melting, ferromagnetism, vibration and superconduction).
From an energy savings point of view, the use of smart windows - electrically switchable glass which controls the amount of light passing through when voltage is applied - can save costs for heating, air-conditioning and lighting and avoid the cost of installing and maintaining motorized light screens or blinds or curtains. A disadvantage is of course the fact that the smart windows themselves need to draw energy in order to do their job. Now, researchers have developed a self-powered, fast-switching smart window that doubles as a solar cell, using sun light to power its chromic behavior and making the case for energy savings even more compelling. By employing a patterned tungsten oxide/platinum electrochromic electrode and a dye-sensitized titanium dioxide nanoparticle photoanode, the self-powered photovoltachromic cell (PVCC) which exhibits distinct electrochromic characteristics of a fast switching rate and tunable transmittance under illumination. The novel device has both photoelectrochromic and photovoltaic characteristics.
A couple of years ago we reported on applications of nanotechnology-based processes to the restoration and preservation of priceless artwork. Researchers have shown that nanodispersions of solids, micelle solutions, gels and microemulsions offer new reliable ways to restore and preserve works of art by merging together the main features and properties of soft-matter and hard-matter systems, allowing the synthesis of systems specifically tailored for the works of art to fight the deterioration processes which threaten many priceless masterpieces. Researchers at the University of Florence, who have been leading efforts to apply nanoparticle-based cleaning agents for artwork, have now further developed their work by exploring the design of novel systems containing low amounts of volatile oils as low-impact cleaning tools for the removal of aged polymeric coatings from the surface of paintings.
Eric Drexler replies to yesterday's Spotlight on Feynman and nanotechnology. 'Neither Feynman nor the vision of molecular manufacturing created the fields that have joined to become 'nanotechnology', nor did they provide the concrete scientific opportunities and technological applications that drive it forward. However, what set nanotechnology on its path to prominence was not a sudden realization by the public and politicians that new molecules and nanostructures have a host of applications in materials, sensors, and so on. It was, and is, the promise of revolutionary advances in atomically precise manufacturing, advances that will build on the technology platform now emerging from nanotechnology research.'
In December 2009 we will receive a series of reminders of the fiftieth anniversary of Richard Feynman's noted talk, 'There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom'. As commentaries appear in scientific journals, the nanotechnology community will have multiple opportunities to think about the role of Feynman's talk in the history of nanotechnology. Feynman's 1959 talk has been widely hailed as the origin of nanotechnology. It is a comprehensive vision of controlling matter at the nanoscale, including controlling individual atoms. However, at this point, there are two very different views of the role of Feynman's talk in the history of nanotechnology: 1. Everybody knows that Feynman's 'Plenty of Room' is the origin of nanotech. 2. The emergence of nanotech had little to do with Feynman's talk.