My friend Meg writes crime thrillers. Her plots often involve nefarious villains who get their mitts on all manner of technology gee-wizardry, then run amok. Genetic mutation from exposure to nuclear fallout … cyber-warfare… and most recently, nanotechnology. A teeny vial of nano-matter in the wrong hands is Cup-O-Armageddon, while a band of rough and ready, unsung heroes races to the edge of time to save us all.
How quickly nanotechnology gee-wizardry wends its way out of the university labs, into incubation shelters, fed by private-public ventures such as the California Institute of Nanotechnology. Unsung heroes of another sort give nanotechnology its form, tell us patiently why it’s here and what it will do, and how it will become part of the undercurrent in our daily lives.
In Nanomedicine, there’s the Center of Nanotechnology for Treatment, Understanding, and Monitoring of Cancer (NANO-TUMOR), located at University of California San Diego, whose goal is the “development of a multi-functional ‘smart mothership’ platform to seek out and destroy tumors”. Desalination and waste water re-use are common sense solutions to end shortage of potable water. NanoH2O, a Los Angeles-based company delivers nano-solutions to defray costly desalination and reclamation through the use of enhanced membranes.
Since my limited knowledge of these grand concepts and my vocab stamina are both waning, let me close with a more intuitive concept of “nanotechnology as consumer product”: Nanofabrics. The Textiles Nanotechnology Laboratory at Cornell University has taken “functional clothing” to a whole new level, designing overcoats that can prevent colds and flu, and jackets that repel smog. My, that’s a smart outfit you’re wearing.
Manufacturers in all sectors face an exciting future of smarter, lighter, cheaper products — start thinking small!