New report explores nanotechnology's future

ily merges and converges with other technologies and could change how we do just about everything." The report singles out advances in three underpinning technical areasresearch tools, information management, and assembly and manufacturingas fundamental to progress across the entire spectrum of nanotechnology research and development needs.

"Nanotechnology is in an early phase of development and, as of now, only relatively rudimentary nanostructures are being used to make improvements in existing materials and systems," noted Mihail Roco, NSF senior advisor for nanotechnology. "We are aiming at the systematic control of matter at the nanoscale to create revolutionary new generations of products and nanosystems as the primary foundation for converging and emerging technologies. For this reason, we need a transformative, responsible and anticipatory global governance approach for nanotechnology that involves both researchers and the public across many countries, scientific and engineering domains."

In the area of tools, workshop participants called for better devices for imaging, measuring, manipulating, and modeling at the nanoscale, or between 1 nanometer and 100 nanometers. As impressive as microscopes that "see" single atoms and as the other tools in the current generation of research instruments may seem, "these kinds of innovative nanotools are just the beginning," the report says. "The Nano Toolshed is still relatively empty." Filling it with more powerful instruments would translate into gains in scientifically useful knowledge, the starting point for next-generation nanotechnologies.

Researchers also expressed a need for integrated sets of probes and other tools capable of yielding the combined data necessary to gain a "fuller picture of the nanoworld in 3-D and in real time." However, gathering enormous volumes of information also presents practical challenges. Participants advised that scientists and policy planners should foc

Contact: Sharon McCarter
Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

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