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May 7th, 2007
Nanotechnology — Friend or Foe?
The science of nanotechnology is enabling a myriad of breakthroughs in lots of areas. With any relatively new technology the question of safety begs to be answered. Is nanotechnology — and everything it encompasses — safe?
Not bubbles — nanotechnology
University of Florida engineering student Maria Palazuelos is working on nanotechnology, but she's not seeking a better sunscreen, tougher golf club or other product — the focus of many engineers in the field.
Instead, Palazuelos, a doctoral student in chemical engineering, is probing the potentially harmful effects of nanotechnology by testing how ultra-small particles may adversely affect living cells, organisms and the environment. But this is no scene from Michael Crichton's novel "Prey" about nanotechnology run amok. Rather, this is a real-world endeavor grounded in solid science.
"We don't want to look back in 50 years if something bad has happened and say, ‘why didn't we ask these questions?'" Palazuelos said. Palazuelos is a member of a small interdisciplinary group of UF faculty members and students, the UF Nanotoxicology Group, whose work is rapidly becoming more timely as manufacturers increasingly turn to the super-small tubes, cylinders and other nanoparticles at the heart of nanotechnology.
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