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Home > Nanotechnology Columns > Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

May 27th, 2009
The Rise of the Molecular Economy
David Rejeski
Director, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

Today's molecular economy, where info-, nano-, and bio-technology converge, has the potential to yield great advances in all sectors, including medicine and energy, through the use of a new constructivist toolkit and a new recipe book. This creative convergence sounds exciting, but scientific advance and technological innovation do not come without some risks. Our regulatory agencies need to study the recipe book that is driving change on the technological frontier and stop re-heating yesterday's meals. Read the Whole Article


April 28th, 2009
New Oversight For A New Century
David Rejeski
Director, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

Nearly 40 years ago, a monumental achievement in governance and regulation was reached with the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. But now, nearly a decade into the new century, the U.S. needs to take a bold step forward and address pollution and exposure in a more holistic and proactive manner. A new agency with a new vision and mission is needed to ensure technological innovation with minimal environmental impact, and a major new report released by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies outlines what this new agency could look like.

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March 9th, 2009
The Need for Nano in the TSCA Update
David Rejeski
Director, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

Debate began in earnest on changes to federal toxics law last month as the House consumer protection subcommittee held its first hearing of the new Congress on the need to update the law. How one defines what changes need to be made to the law can differ - whether the person represents the chemical industry, an environmental organization or a host of other interests - but there was unanimous consent among the panel testifying that the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) needs changes. This is a major step forward in efforts to provide better oversight of nanotechnology. Read the Whole Article


February 5th, 2009
What's so important about Canada?
David Rejeski
Director, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

Environment Canada, the nation's environmental protection department, is reportedly planning to soon become the first nation in the world to require companies to detail their use of engineered nanomaterials - a major policy move that may prompt other nations to take similar action. Read the Whole Article


January 5th, 2009
Guidance for getting nano right
David Rejeski
Director, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

The National Research Council (NRC), which carries out studies for the U.S. National Academies, released a report in December that highlights the significant shortfalls of the Bush administration in identifying and addressing the environment, health and safety (EHS) risks posed by engineered nanomaterials - a backbone of worldwide innovation. The NRC report, which was authored by an independent body of experts, echoes many of the findings of the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) over the past few years regarding the federal government's lack of resources and a strategy to address the risks of these materials. Read the Whole Article


December 4th, 2008
Nanosilver on the EPA Agenda
David Rejeski
Director, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

This column is by Philip Stiff, a member of the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies team and a current student at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute:

On Nov. 19 EPA opened up a docket for comment on the May 1 petition filed by a coalition of 14 consumer advocacy groups that calls for regulation of products containing nanosilver. The petition requests that EPA ban the sale of products that contain nanosilver until the agency makes a regulatory determination that nanosilver is a new pesticidal substance, requiring toxicity and risk screening. Research summarized in the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies document Silver Nanotechnologies and the Environment: Old Problems or New Challenges? shows that many nanosilver products release silver into public water treatment systems. This, in turn, presents toxicity risks to the aquatic environment. Consumer value of products containing nanosilver is great, especially in the medical field, which is all the more reason to move quickly to ensure risks are managed. Read the Whole Article


October 27th, 2008
Lithium-ion Nanomaterial Batteries: Our new hope with a dose of caution
David Rejeski
Director, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

This column is by Philip Stiff, a member of the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies team and a current student at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute:

High-capacity lithium-ion batteries are one of the core technologies of near-term clean energy solutions. These batteries have the potential to be at the heart of energy storage for transportation, episodic alternative energy and smart-grid electricity management. Many of these batteries will contain nanoscale lithium particles and other supplemental materials that will equip the electrode coatings inside the batteries for fast-charging and high-enduring voltage production. There are both foreseen and unexplored environmental, health and safety risks associated with the manufacture, use, recycling, and disposal of nanoscale lithium-ion batteries. While lithium itself is not known as a threat to the environment, there have been few studies performed to date on the risks of nanoscale-lithium particles. Members of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) have warned that current battery recycling and disposal processes may not be designed to handle this new battery technology properly. In order to provide assurances about the properties of this new material and establish processes for its end-of-life care, focused research on the environmental, health and safety aspects of lithium nanoparticles needs to be a priority.
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September 17th, 2008
The Consumer Products Safety Commission, Nanotech, and the ‘Wait and See Approach'
David Rejeski
Director, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

In late August, the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) released a report assessing the ability, or lack thereof, of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to ensure nanoproducts are safe. The report, written by consumer product expert E. Marla Felcher, concludes, "[t]he agency lacks the budget, the statutory authority and the scientific expertise to ensure the hundreds of nanoproducts now on the market … are safe." In 2007, millions of children's toys coated with lead paint were recalled, making it clear that government oversight had failed and that the CPSC was stretched too thin from years of neglect. It is against this background that we need to ask the question: Is the CPSC adequately prepared to deal with nanotechnology, which is now associated with more than 800 manufacturer-identified consumer products ranging from infant pacifiers to paints to appliances to clothing? Requiring industry to report on nanomaterials used and risk assessment performed, along with increasing nanotechnology expertise in the agency, would better equip the CPSC to succeed. The alternative is to wait for injury, death, or chronic effects to emerge and force further action. Read the Whole Article


May 16th, 2008
Gearing Up for the Reauthorization of the Nanotechnology R&D Act
David Rejeski
Director, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

Last month, I was invited to testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation's Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Innovation on the reauthorization of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act. A big part of this act deals with the reauthorization of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which was established in fiscal year 2001. Over the past seven years, the nanotechnology industry has grown at a rapid pace. Our Project has found that new nanotechnology consumer products are entering the market at the rate of three to four per week. The reauthorization of the Nanotechnology R&D Act provides us with a key opportunity to rethink our strategy when it comes to our investment in nanotechnology R&D, ensuring that the United States remains a world leader in nanotechnology, and also ensuring that nanotechnology is developed in a responsible way. We recently analyzed purported nanotechnology risk-relevant research published by the NNI and found that only $13 million, or about 1 percent, of the total $1.4 billion federal investment in nanotechnology R&D in 2006 went towards highly relevant EHS research. More funding for EHS research, tied to strategic priorities, is the first step towards ensuring that the risks of nanotechnology are understood and managed to avoid unnecessary harm to workers, consumers, and the environment. Read the Whole Article


March 31st, 2008
Is Nano Business Going to Clean Up its Own Act?
David Rejeski
Director, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

On March 5, 2008, the Region IX office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a landmark decision to fine the company IOGEAR $208,000 for "selling unregistered pesticides and making unproved claims about their effectiveness." The action by EPA Region IX officials could result in companies and consumers reconsidering antimicrobial claims and the use of nanoscale silver in products. A lesser known, but equally intriguing aspect to this story, is that the enforcement action came as the result of a tip from an IOGEAR competitor. Nobody in the nano industry benefits from companies making hyped-up and unsubstantiated claims about nanotechnology's benefits and in the absence of more formal government regulation, self-regulation by industry could be a step in the right direction. Read the Whole Article


February 25th, 2008
The Tower of Nano Babel or How High-Tech Hucksterism Can Hurt Nanotechnology's Future
David Rejeski
Director, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

Over the past few years, there has been a lot of discussion about the possible risks associated with nanotechnology, but nobody seems to be doing a reality check on the claims companies are making about nanotechnology's benefits. With close to 600 manufacturer-identified, nano-enabled products on the market, the average consumer has to deal with a growing "Tower of Nano Babel." We desperately need a reality check on...nanotech products flooding the global marketplace to ensure that the next generation of nanotechnology applications builds on a solid foundation of consumer confidence. Read the Whole Article


January 23rd, 2008
The Strategic Risk of Nanotechnology
David Rejeski
Director, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

There has been much talk and hand-wringing about health and environmental risks associated with nanotechnology, but fewer discussions focus on what is termed "strategic risk." To begin to sort out strategic risks across sectors in which nanotechnology is being used, we developed a simple algorithm that takes into account some basic parameters, such as market penetration, exposure route (as a surrogate indicator of health risk), government oversight (or lack thereof), industry stewardship (or lack thereof), and the level of public scrutiny by media and/or NGOs. When we ran numbers through the formula, two sectors came out with a high value for strategic risk: cosmetics/sunscreens and dietary supplements. The food sector is saved (temporarily) by the lack of any real nano-engineered products on the market, but that could change very quickly and radically, given the long history of intense concern over genetic engineering in the food sector. In dealing with the strategic risk assessment of nanotechnologies, we need to be thinking more about combining narrative and computational approaches. Read the Whole Article


December 20th, 2007
What Do Small Nano Businesses Want for Christmas? Santa Says: Information, Resources, and Guidance
David Rejeski
Director, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

With the holiday season already in full swing, you are probably going down your shopping list to figure out what to buy your favorite uncle or best friend this year. If your family or friend runs a small nanotechnology business, they are probably looking for something much more important and much more valuable, something that cannot be purchased in any store or on any website. They need information and guidance on how to address nanotechnology's potential environmental, health and safety (EHS) risks. To better understand how nanotechnology firms (especially small- and medium-size firms) are dealing with environmental, health and safety (EHS) management and what information they need to address risks proactively, the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies helped to support a study, undertaken by University of Massachusetts Lowell researchers John Lindberg and Margaret Quinn, of New England-based nanotechnology firms. Read the Whole Article


November 14th, 2007
How About an X Prize for Green Nanotechnology? Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies Seeks Partners
David Rejeski
Director, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

More and more chemists, engineers, researchers, and developers are engaging in the area of "green nanotechnology". Unfortunately, the "greening" of nanotechnology has received very little attention from policymakers, and it receives only a small fraction of the total nanotechnology research and development investment. "Green nano" should become the rallying cry for the socially responsible investment (SRI) community and a logical target for the growing number of investors in "clean tech." One way to capitalize on the promise of green nano and catalyze this advancement is through a prize that recognizes achievements and stimulates innovation in green nanotechnology. We hope that others will join us in this important endeavor as we begin the stakeholder process to develop, launch, and sustain a green nano award. Read the Whole Article


October 17th, 2007
Who Put the Nano in My Teddy Bear?
David Rejeski
Director, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

When we recently updated our inventory of manufacturer-identified, nanotech-enabled consumer products, there were a few surprises: the product landscape was now dotted with some new entries targeted clearly at children (and, by default, their parents). It is probably worth asking some questions about their safety or asking, more broadly, "Who is in charge of testing these products and making sure that they do not present risks to children, especially products that go directly into the mouth?" Read the Whole Article


September 27th, 2007
Nanotechnology: Waiting for the Killer App
David Rejeski
Director, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

Waiting. That feeling is creeping over the nanotechnology community: waiting for the "killer app" to burst into the commercial marketplace, into full public view before the glaring stage lights of the media. Read the Whole Article


September 17th, 2007
Hey, Have You Heard About Nanotechnology? Improve Nanotech Awareness through A Word-of-Mouth Campaign
David Rejeski
Director, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

Increasingly, we are (re)learning something our great-grandparents knew well: it is all about the conversation. Word-of-mouth (WOM) communication delivers a powerful two-dimensional message, containing the message itself and a credibility factor based on our trust in the other person. If WOM works well in diffusing knowledge about new ideas, it might be perfectly suited to diffusing knowledge about the emerging area of nanotechnology. An innovative word-of-mouth campaign could place nanotechnology into the world of everyday conversation, where messages are built on trust and understanding rather than hype and jargon. Read the Whole Article


April 20th, 2008
Nanotechnology and the Trust Gap
David Rejeski
Director, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

Over the past decade, a number of high profile business scandals—from Enron to WorldCom to Tyco—have raised eyebrows, and raised the bar, in terms of public expectations regarding business ethics. The erosion of trust was the focus of a recent issue of the McKinsey Quarterly (2007, Number 2), which contains a number of articles that explore the trust gap between industry and consumers. When industry is trying to introduce a new technology, like nanotechnology, this trust gap has large strategic implications. It would be great if nanotechnology could ride a growing wave of consumer confidence, to profitable Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) and expanding market share. But, right now a trust deficit could undermine billions of dollars of corporate and government investment in nanotechnology both here and abroad. Read the Whole Article


August 6th, 2007
Nanotechnology for Wizards
Andrew D. Maynard
Chief Science Advisor, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

Famous futurist Arthur C. Clarke once wrote that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Who would have thought ten years ago that that this statement would resonate through the truly magical world of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter?

While we are awed by the magic of Harry Potter, his fellow wizards and witches marvel at the apparent magic of our most mundane technologies. What then would they make of our more advanced technologies—like nanotechnology? Perhaps it is time to find out. And where better to start, than by writing to the greatest fan of unfathomable Muggle technologies: Arthur Weasley, of the Ministry of Magic.
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July 14th, 2007
"Nano Emerging": An Introduction to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies Column
David Rejeski
Director, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

Hello and welcome to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) column at Nanotechnology Now! PEN is a joint initiative between the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC, and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The goal of this column, "Nano Emerging," is to present commentary on the nanotechnology policymaking process and offer some new ideas about ways to engage the public, policymakers, and industry around the long-term social, economic, and political implications of nanotechnology. The hope is that these columns can help ignite an interesting and useful dialogue around nanotechnology that gets us "out-of-the-box" to think creatively about where this technology is headed and how it might be successfully managed. Read the Whole Article

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