Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Nanotechnology under the microscope

Christopher Bosso is the director and principal investigator for Northeastern's Nanotechnology and Society Research Group. Photo by Lauren McFalls.
Christopher Bosso is the director and principal investigator for Northeastern's Nanotechnology and Society Research Group. Photo by Lauren McFalls.

Abstract:
Nanotechnology is a continually developing branch of science, one with political, environmental and ethical implications that are not yet fully understood. Among those taking the lead to clarify those issues is Christopher J. Bosso, associate dean of Northeastern's School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and director and principal investigator for the University's Nanotechnology and Society Research Group. Bosso is also author of a new book "Governing Uncertainty: Environmental Regulation in the Age of Nanotechnology." Here, he discusses public policy related to nanotechnology and the potential impact of the fast-growing science, for good and ill.

Nanotechnology under the microscope

Boston, MA | Posted on March 29th, 2010

Can you explain how you became involved in thinking about nanotechnology?

Every new technology has direct and indirect consequences for human health, the natural environment and the society at large. I have had a long interest in the public policy dimensions of such consequences going back to my doctoral work on chemical pesticides. So it did not take much convincing when faculty colleagues Jackie Isaacs (mechanical and industrial engineering), Ron Sandler (philosophy and religion) and Woody Kay (political science) asked me to join them in ongoing policy and ethics work connected to Northeastern's Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing (CHN).

We quickly realized that we were confronting a set of issues beyond CHN's immediate domain, so with CHN director Ahmed Busnaina's help, we put together our own National Science Foundation proposal to look at the broader environmental and health challenges posed by nanomaterials. We had the right proposal at the right time, giving us a rare opportunity to do organized and sustained interdisciplinary thinking about policy and ethical issues related to nanotechnology and other emerging technologies.

Is it common for a university with so much science and engineering research in nanotechnology to also study its possible societal impacts? What are the benefits?

It is not uncommon. The difference lays in organization, breadth and sustained effort, and the degree to which such research is connected to and informed by basic and applied research and development.

The benefits are two-fold. First, having ready access to colleagues in science and engineering informs our thinking about policy and ethical issues, which in turn enables us to advise them on how policy and ethical concerns affect basic research, product development and technology adoption. All of this makes for a lively and truly interdisciplinary discourse. Equally important, these collaborations benefit students across the disciplines. They show our students that the greatest insights about any problem are derived from spanning disciplinary boundaries.

Nanotechnology is a vast area. From your perspective, what is the greatest potential for developments in the field?

It is hard to imagine any sector that won't be reshaped. Perhaps the most exciting breakthroughs are in areas like electronics and medicine.

The work at CHN and other research laboratories here and elsewhere point to revolutionary breakthroughs in the continued miniaturization and speed of computing in the near future, making your iPhone a clunky monster by comparison. It borders on the stuff of science fiction.

Breakthroughs in nanomedical applications — including a lot of work at Northeastern — portends fundamental shifts in how we detect and treat cancer, devise therapies for neurological diseases like Parkinson's or enhance the body's capacity to heal itself when damaged. The prospects for a future where we are able to effectively deal with cancer, Alzheimer's or diabetes is a startling one and merits our close attention along all kinds of policy and ethical dimensions.

What are the near- and long-term environmental and health concerns about nanotechnology, and how do we address them?

Short term concerns are rather prosaic and largely focused on ensuring that those working in laboratories and production facilities aren't exposed to potentially harmful engineered nanoparticles, and that they practice proper disposal procedures in dealing with nanomaterial waste.

Longer-term concerns include the extent to which nanoparticles are toxic to human and animal health — for example, whether cosmetics containing engineered nanoparticles have harmful long-term effects — and the possibly harmful side effects of nanomaterials introduced into the environment for otherwise beneficial reasons, such as injecting iron nanoparticles into the soil to remediate chemical-saturated "brownfields."

What is the appropriate role for government in all of this?

It is not always obvious. As citizens, regardless of overall ideology or partisan views, at minimum we expect government to address those risks that we as individuals can neither understand nor personally control. And we expect government to do so in some reasonably responsive and transparent way. And we also want government to promote economic growth, technological innovation and human health.

These are all balancing acts —and often, difficult ones — so the "appropriate" role for government will depend on our own priorities. And that requires citizens to be more aware of and critical about the benefits and possible costs of revolutionary technologies.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Samantha Fodrowski
617-373-5427

Copyright © Northeastern University

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

A nanoscale wireless communication system via plasmonic antennas: Greater control affords 'in-plane' transmission of waves at or near visible light August 27th, 2016

Forces of nature: Interview with microscopy innovators Gerd Binnig and Christoph Gerber August 26th, 2016

A promising route to the scalable production of highly crystalline graphene films August 26th, 2016

Graphene under pressure August 26th, 2016

Laboratories

A new way to display the 3-D structure of molecules: Metal-organic frameworks provide a new platform for solving the structure of hard-to-study samples August 21st, 2016

Scientists uncover origin of high-temperature superconductivity in copper-oxide compound: Analysis of thousands of samples reveals that the compound becomes superconducting at an unusually high temperature because local electron pairs form a 'superfluid' that flows without resist August 19th, 2016

Let's roll: Material for polymer solar cells may lend itself to large-area processing: 'Sweet spot' for mass-producing polymer solar cells may be far larger than dictated by the conventional wisdom August 12th, 2016

NREL technique leads to improved perovskite solar cells August 11th, 2016

Ethics

Synthetic biology needs robust safety mechanisms before real world application: Ethics and technology hold the key to the success of synthetic biology September 17th, 2015

March 2016; 6th Int'l Conference on Nanostructures in Iran July 29th, 2015

PETA science consortium to present at Society for Risk Analysis meeting December 10th, 2014

PETA science consortium experts to present at international nanotechology workshop: PETA International Science Consortium, Ltd., Is a Sponsor of Nano Risk Analysis II September 12th, 2014

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Analog DNA circuit does math in a test tube: DNA computers could one day be programmed to diagnose and treat disease August 25th, 2016

New approach to determining how atoms are arranged in materials August 25th, 2016

Johns Hopkins scientists track metabolic pathways to find drug combination for pancreatic cancer August 25th, 2016

New electrical energy storage material shows its power: Nanomaterial combines attributes of both batteries and supercapacitors August 25th, 2016

Possible Futures

A nanoscale wireless communication system via plasmonic antennas: Greater control affords 'in-plane' transmission of waves at or near visible light August 27th, 2016

A promising route to the scalable production of highly crystalline graphene films August 26th, 2016

Graphene under pressure August 26th, 2016

New electrical energy storage material shows its power: Nanomaterial combines attributes of both batteries and supercapacitors August 25th, 2016

Academic/Education

AIM Photonics Announces Release of Process Design Kit (PDK) for Integrated Silicon Photonics Design August 25th, 2016

Nanotech Security Featured by Simon Fraser University: Company's Anti-Counterfeiting Technology Developed With the Help of University's 4D LABS Materials Research Institute August 21st, 2016

W.M. Keck Foundation awards Cal State LA a $375,000 research and education grant August 4th, 2016

Thomas Swan and NGI announce unique partnership July 28th, 2016

Chip Technology

A nanoscale wireless communication system via plasmonic antennas: Greater control affords 'in-plane' transmission of waves at or near visible light August 27th, 2016

A promising route to the scalable production of highly crystalline graphene films August 26th, 2016

Analog DNA circuit does math in a test tube: DNA computers could one day be programmed to diagnose and treat disease August 25th, 2016

Silicon nanoparticles trained to juggle light: Research findings prove the capabilities of silicon nanoparticles for flexible data processing in optical communication systems August 25th, 2016

Nanomedicine

Nanofiber scaffolds demonstrate new features in the behavior of stem and cancer cells August 25th, 2016

Johns Hopkins scientists track metabolic pathways to find drug combination for pancreatic cancer August 25th, 2016

50 years after the release of the film 'Fantastic Voyage,' science upstages fiction: Science upstages fiction with nanorobotic agents designed to travel in the human body to treat cancer August 25th, 2016

Tunneling nanotubes between neurons enable the spread of Parkinson's disease via lysosomes August 24th, 2016

Nanoelectronics

Light and matter merge in quantum coupling: Rice University physicists probe photon-electron interactions in vacuum cavity experiments August 24th, 2016

New microchip demonstrates efficiency and scalable design: Increased power and slashed energy consumption for data centers August 24th, 2016

Down to the wire: ONR researchers and new bacteria August 18th, 2016

Smarter self-assembly opens new pathways for nanotechnology: Brookhaven Lab scientists discover a way to create billionth-of-a-meter structures that snap together in complex patterns with unprecedented efficiency August 9th, 2016

Announcements

A nanoscale wireless communication system via plasmonic antennas: Greater control affords 'in-plane' transmission of waves at or near visible light August 27th, 2016

Forces of nature: Interview with microscopy innovators Gerd Binnig and Christoph Gerber August 26th, 2016

A promising route to the scalable production of highly crystalline graphene films August 26th, 2016

Graphene under pressure August 26th, 2016

Environment

Nanofur for oil spill cleanup: Materials researchers learn from aquatic ferns: Hairy plant leaves are highly oil-absorbing / publication in bioinspiration & biomimetics / video on absorption capacity August 25th, 2016

Researchers watch catalysts at work August 19th, 2016

Down to the wire: ONR researchers and new bacteria August 18th, 2016

SLAC, Stanford gadget grabs more solar energy to disinfect water faster: Plopped into water, a tiny device triggers the formation of chemicals that kill microbes in minutes August 15th, 2016

Safety-Nanoparticles/Risk management

UK NANOSAFETY GROUP publishes 2nd Edition of guidance to support safe working with nanomaterials May 30th, 2016

PETA science group publishes a review on pulmonary effects of nanomaterials: Archives of Toxicology publishes a review of scientific studies on fibrotic potential of nanomaterials May 26th, 2016

Common nanoparticle has subtle effects on oxidative stress genes May 11th, 2016

Non-animal approach to predict impact of nanomaterials on human lung published Archives of Toxicology publishes workshop recommendations May 2nd, 2016

Nanobiotechnology

Analog DNA circuit does math in a test tube: DNA computers could one day be programmed to diagnose and treat disease August 25th, 2016

Nanofiber scaffolds demonstrate new features in the behavior of stem and cancer cells August 25th, 2016

Johns Hopkins scientists track metabolic pathways to find drug combination for pancreatic cancer August 25th, 2016

50 years after the release of the film 'Fantastic Voyage,' science upstages fiction: Science upstages fiction with nanorobotic agents designed to travel in the human body to treat cancer August 25th, 2016

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







Car Brands
Buy website traffic