nanoEHS Workshop Series Reports

Subject Area:
NNI Workshop Reports
Author: Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology (NSET) Subcommittee
Publication Date: Mar. 30 2010


These four reports are the result of a series of workshops focusing on various issues in the nanotechnology environmental, health, and safety (EHS) arena. The "nanoEHS" workshop series was a part of an ongoing strategy to coordinate nanotechnology-related EHS research by convening experts from industry, academia, and the Federal Government to share the latest information and newest developments, to discuss the current state-of-the-science, and to identify research gaps in the nanotechnology-related EHS field.

The nanoEHS workshops, along with advice from the National Academies and the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), culminated in the development of an updated EHS Research Strategy for the NNI, which will guide the responsible development of nanotechnology.

The Obama Administration is committed to supporting significant research into the potential EHS impacts of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology is an exciting field of research that has great scientific and economic potential because of its ability to create new materials with novel properties for application in such diverse fields as electronics and computing, alternative energy, and medicine.

The U.S. is a global leader in nanotechnology-related EHS R&D. Federal research dedicated to nanotechnology-related EHS grew substantially from $34.8 million in FY 2005 to a requested $123.5 million for FY 2012, totaling $575 million cumulatively.

Nanotechnology Fact

Nanotechnology is used in many commercial products and processes, for example, nanomaterials are used to manufacture lightweight, strong materials for applications such as boat hulls, sporting equipment, and automotive parts. Nanomaterials are also used in sunscreens and cosmetics.

Nanostructured products are used to produce space-saving insulators which are useful when size and weight is at a premium—for example, when insulating long pipelines in remote places, or trying to reduce heat loss from an old house. Nanostructured catalysts make chemical manufacturing processes more efficient, by saving energy and reducing waste.

In healthcare, nanoceramics are used in some dental implants or to fill holes in diseased bones, because their mechanical and chemical properties can be “tuned” to attract bone cells from the surrounding tissue to make new bone. Some pharmaceutical products have been reformulated with nanosized particles to improve their absorption and make them easier to administer. Opticians apply nanocoatings to eyeglasses to make them easier to keep clean and harder to scratch and nanoenabled coatings are used on fabrics to make clothing stain-resistant and easy to care for.

Almost all high-performance electronic devices manufactured in the past decade use some nanomaterials. Nanotechnology helps build new transistor structures and interconnects for the fastest, most advanced computing chips.

All told, nanotechnologies are estimated to have impacted $251 billion across the global economy in 2009. This is estimated to grow to $2.4 trillion by 2015 (Lux Research, 2010).

For more information, see Benefits and Applications.

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