Sunscreens contain nano particles, carbon and titania nanotubes show promise and nano structures are the rage in engineering schools. While the proliferation of nano research may signal a mini revolution, outside the realms of business and science, this insurgency may be no more than a whisper, according to an international team of researchers.
"In the last 15 years we have continuously been exposed to a variety of emerging technologies biotechnology, information science and technology, cognitive science and now nanotechnology," says Dr. Akhlesh Lakhtakia, the Charles Godfrey Binder Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics at Penn State. "Education is the key to understanding these areas."
However, when it comes to nanotechnology, Lakhtakia and his colleagues found that people in most segments of the economy are not paying much attention. Or, if they are aware of the field, the reactions and actions are overly enthusiastic, uninformed or alarmist.
Lakhtakia, working with Debashish Munshi, associate professor, management communications and Priya Kurian, senior lecturer, political science and public policy, University of Waikato, New Zealand, and Robert V. Bartlett, the Gund Professor of Liberal Arts, University of Vermont, looked at how technologists/scientists, business and industry leaders, government agencies, social science researchers, fiction writers, political activists, science journalists and writers and the general public view nanotechnology.
Scientists have, of course, picked up on nanotechnology. The word proliferates through the literature and is prominent in proposals for funding. In an article in the international journal Futures, published by Elsevier, tresearchers note that "entrepreneurial technoscientists have learned to align their research efforts with the latest terms in vogue." However, it is not always clear what that nanotechnology means.