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

Research Study: MetaSOLTM Shatters Solar Panel Efficiency Forecasts with Innovative New Coating: Coating Provides 1.2 Percent Absolute Enhancement to Triple Junction Solar Cells December 2nd, 2016

Deep insights from surface reactions: Researchers use Stampede supercomputer to study new chemical sensing methods, desalination and bacterial energy production December 2nd, 2016

Quantum obstacle course changes material from superconductor to insulator December 1st, 2016

Throwing new light on printed organic solar cells December 1st, 2016

Laboratories

Working under pressure: Diamond micro-anvils with huge pressures will create new materials October 19th, 2016

Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge October 15th, 2016

Scientists Find Static "Stripes" of Electrical Charge in Copper-Oxide Superconductor: Fixed arrangement of charges coexists with material's ability to conduct electricity without resistance October 14th, 2016

Tomoyasu Mani Wins 2016 Blavatnik Regional Award for Young Scientists: Award recognizes his work at Brookhaven Lab to understand the physical processes occurring in organic materials used to harness solar energy October 13th, 2016

Ethics

Iran to hold intl. school on application of nanomaterials in medicine September 20th, 2016

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

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Research Study: MetaSOLTM Shatters Solar Panel Efficiency Forecasts with Innovative New Coating: Coating Provides 1.2 Percent Absolute Enhancement to Triple Junction Solar Cells December 2nd, 2016

Deep insights from surface reactions: Researchers use Stampede supercomputer to study new chemical sensing methods, desalination and bacterial energy production December 2nd, 2016

Quantum obstacle course changes material from superconductor to insulator December 1st, 2016

Throwing new light on printed organic solar cells December 1st, 2016

Possible Futures

Deep insights from surface reactions: Researchers use Stampede supercomputer to study new chemical sensing methods, desalination and bacterial energy production December 2nd, 2016

Quantum obstacle course changes material from superconductor to insulator December 1st, 2016

Throwing new light on printed organic solar cells December 1st, 2016

New method for analyzing crystal structure: Exotic materials called photonic crystals reveal their internal characteristics with new method November 30th, 2016

Academic/Education

Oxford Nanoimaging report on how the Nanoimager, a desktop microscope delivering single molecule, super-resolution performance, is being applied at the MRC Centre for Molecular Bacteriology & Infection November 22nd, 2016

The University of Applied Sciences in Upper Austria uses Deben tensile stages as an integral part of their computed tomography research and testing facility October 18th, 2016

Enterprise In Space Partners with Sketchfab and 3D Hubs for NewSpace Education October 13th, 2016

New Agricultural Research Center Debuts at UCF October 12th, 2016

Chip Technology

Quantum obstacle course changes material from superconductor to insulator December 1st, 2016

Bumpy surfaces, graphene beat the heat in devices: Rice University theory shows way to enhance heat sinks in future microelectronics November 29th, 2016

Scientists shrink electron gun to matchbox size: Terahertz technology has the potential to enable new applications November 25th, 2016

Uncovering the secrets of friction on graphene: Sliding on flexible graphene surfaces has been uncharted territory until now November 23rd, 2016

Nanomedicine

Nanobiotix Provides Update on Global Development of Lead Product NBTXR3: Seven clinical trials across the world: More than 2/3 of STS patients recruited in the “act.in.sarc” Phase II/III trial: Phase I/II prostate cancer trial now recruiting in the U.S. November 28th, 2016

From champagne bubbles, dance parties and disease to new nanomaterials: Understanding nucleation of protein filaments might help with Alzheimer's Disease and type 2 Diabetes November 24th, 2016

Nanopolymer-modified protein array can pinpoint hard-to-find cancer biomarker November 17th, 2016

Nanotechnology Treatment Found to Inhibit Mesothelioma Tumor Growth November 16th, 2016

Nanoelectronics

Supersonic spray yields new nanomaterial for bendable, wearable electronics: Film of self-fused nanowires clear as glass, conducts like metal November 23rd, 2016

What a twist: Silicon nanoantennas turn light around: The theoretical results will allow scientists to design nanodevices with extraordinary features for use in optoelectronics November 21st, 2016

2-D material a brittle surprise: Rice University researchers finds molybdenum diselenide not as strong as they thought November 14th, 2016

UCR researchers discover new method to dissipate heat in electronic devices: By modulating the flow of phonons through semiconductor nanowires, engineers can create smaller and faster devices November 13th, 2016

Announcements

Research Study: MetaSOLTM Shatters Solar Panel Efficiency Forecasts with Innovative New Coating: Coating Provides 1.2 Percent Absolute Enhancement to Triple Junction Solar Cells December 2nd, 2016

Deep insights from surface reactions: Researchers use Stampede supercomputer to study new chemical sensing methods, desalination and bacterial energy production December 2nd, 2016

Quantum obstacle course changes material from superconductor to insulator December 1st, 2016

Throwing new light on printed organic solar cells December 1st, 2016

Environment

Semiconductor-free microelectronics are now possible, thanks to metamaterials November 9th, 2016

First time physicists observed and quantified tiny nanoparticle crossing lipid membrane November 7th, 2016

Nanosensors on the alert for terrorist threats: Scientists interested in the prospects of gas sensors based on binary metal oxide nanocomposites November 5th, 2016

Marsden minds: Amazing projects revealed November 3rd, 2016

Safety-Nanoparticles/Risk management

First time physicists observed and quantified tiny nanoparticle crossing lipid membrane November 7th, 2016

SUN shares its latest achievements during the 3rd Annual Project Meeting November 1st, 2016

The Sustainable Nanotechnologies Project’s Final Events: Bringing Nano Environmental Health and Safety Assessment to the Wider Discussion on Risk Governance of Key Enabling Technologies November 1st, 2016

Exploding smartphones: What's the silent danger lurking in our rechargeable devices? New research identifies toxic emissions released by lithium-ion batteries October 21st, 2016

Nanobiotechnology

Deep insights from surface reactions: Researchers use Stampede supercomputer to study new chemical sensing methods, desalination and bacterial energy production December 2nd, 2016

Nanobiotix Provides Update on Global Development of Lead Product NBTXR3: Seven clinical trials across the world: More than 2/3 of STS patients recruited in the “act.in.sarc” Phase II/III trial: Phase I/II prostate cancer trial now recruiting in the U.S. November 28th, 2016

From champagne bubbles, dance parties and disease to new nanomaterials: Understanding nucleation of protein filaments might help with Alzheimer's Disease and type 2 Diabetes November 24th, 2016

Making spintronic neurons sing in unison November 18th, 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