Monday, December 15, 2008

Nanotube fireball

Found this image last week but cannot locate the site where it originated. If you know who made it please contact me.

NanoArt 2008

I have been chosen as one of two judges for NanoArt 2008.

Here is the announcement:

The worldwide competition NanoArt 2008 is open to all artists 18 years and older. The online exhibition will open for public on January 20, 2009. Judges: Jeanne Brasile, artist, director and primary curator of the Walsh Gallery at the Seton Hall University; Rocky Rawstern, artist and consultant, former editor of Nanotechnology Now, awarded with the 2005 Foresight Institute Prize in Communication. Winners will be notified and published online on March 31, 2009. The competition will be promoted on different venues online, contacts, word-of-mouth. The artists could also promote the competition on their websites and other venues.
The following is an email “conversation” I had with one of my Access Nanotechnology team members, Patti Hill . The Questions and Statements are her’s; the Answers are mine.

Q: Are there advantages to products with “nano inside”?

A: The short answer to this seemingly simple Q is “yes.” A better answer is “Caveat emptor.”

Statement: The consumer marketplace has become rich with nanotechnology-based or enhanced products from sunscreens to water repellant and stain-resistant clothing, gum, car wax, sporting equipment, heat-resistant windshields, consumer electronics, and nanoparticle-laden cosmetics.

Q: They all suggest significant strides from the scientific perspective - but from your point of view, does it matter?

A: Yes, as long as the “nano inside” the product has A) made it cheaper to the consumer, while making it no more harmful to the environment or the consumer, B) made the product more effective or better able to meet a need (with the same caveat as above), or C) created an altogether new product that serves a new market (again, with the caveat as above).

Additionally, the fact that we are making real strides in our understanding of nanoscale properties means that we have a whole new set of tools that will also enable the creation of products that are less harmful to the environment, as well as those that help remediate environmental damage. Those two categories alone make the effort and investment worthwhile.

Q: Are these products simply new or different versions of products in an already crowded marketplace, or would you purchase a product that claims to have “nanotechnology inside”?

A: “Claims to have,” no. Does have, and meets the criteria as above, then yes. Addressing “simply new or different versions” my answer would be “what have product promoters done in the past?” Have they always been truthful? Do the products always do what they say they will do? You get my drift.

Q: Do you believe the integration of nanotechnology boosts a product’s strength, durability or performance?

A: It certainly can, but may not always. In the “certainly can” area, take a look at products that contain sunlight-activated (photocatalytic) nanoscale titanium dioxide (Tio2).

There are several Tio2-enable surface coatings products on the market that have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-mold properties. In addition, some of these coatings reduce pollution and improve air quality, while protecting from environmental contamination. Such coatings are, or will soon be, economical for building owners (for reducing maintenance costs) and anyone who simply wants to coat a surface to take advantage of one or more of those properties.

Having said that, as always with new products, there is a need to more fully understand the long-term effects of the nanoscale particles that may come in contact with you and I; products used in items such as cosmetics and skin treatments. Due to their size, these particles have the ability, under certain conditions, to penetrate well past the outer skin layers and possibly into the circulatory system (with unknown effects). Consideration must be given to the fact that nanoscale particles, by their very nature, can and do follow their own set of rules; rules different from their larger cousins (whose properties we pretty much understand and account for).

We also need to fully understand the ways in which nanoscale particles may harm those who handle them during production. And further, we need to understand the long-term waste stream potential of these products. I believe that both these issues can, are now, and will be dealt with easily and will be accounted for during development (at least by companies that understand the downside of not applying “an ounce of prevention”).

Getting back to “but not always,” there have been notable exceptions to the claim of “nano inside,” such as the now infamous “Magic Nano.” Magic Nano was billed as a “a protective glass and bathroom sealant” which in fact did not contain nanoscale particles. It did, however, cause breathing difficulties in several users, prompting a public outcry over “harmful nanotechnology.” The product was recalled. Face was lost, as were dollars, or Euros in this case.

I believe that our immediate investment of dollars and time should be focused on nanoscale particles that can be used for screening, diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of disease (where great strides are already being made). With subsequent technologies we will be able to rid ourselves of many age-old scourges, such as cancer. After that, I think the bulk of our efforts should go towards creating nanoscale-enhanced products that exhibit astonishing strength, flexibility, conductivity, and/or reactivity (other areas where we are making huge strides, a few of which are enabling changes in how we generate clean energy). With these, we will be able to reach for the stars and go to them, too, as well as power our future. Our third focus should be on products that help remediate environmental damage (and yes, this too is an area where we’re seeing massive leaps in understanding). Any one of those three areas, by themselves, have the potential to create huge numbers of new, high-paying jobs. Together, it is believed by many learned individuals, governments and corporations that these technologies will make those nations that invest in them quite wealthy, more secure, and more productive.

To sum up: No informed person doubts that developments at the nanoscale will be significant. We debate the time-frame, the magnitude and the possibilities, but not the likelihood for large-scale change. The least-speculative views suggest that we're in for changes of an order that justifies--if not demands--our undivided attention. Will we be ready?