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Highlight from the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI)
NSF Nanoscale Science and Engineering (NSE) Grantees Meeting:The National Science Foundation (NSF) held its annual NSE Grantees Meeting last month. The event featured keynotes, panel discussions, posters, and opportunities for networking. Overarching themes included nanotechnology for food-energy-water, bio-nanomanufacturing, nanotechnology in neuroscience, and low-energy computing. The conference concluded with a panel featuring perspectives from educators (from high school, 2-year, and 4-year programs) on how best to engage, teach, train, and retain students. Presentations are available on the conference website.
Top NNI Stories
PCAST Review of the NNI: The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released its most recent review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative in a letter report, stating “The NNI has created a foundation for researchers to unearth the scientific secrets of the smallest scale and begin to amplify them into reimagined devices, systems, and new ways of engineering that will address some of the Nation’s greatest challenges.” The document is available on Nano.gov.
National Academies Releases Triennial Review of the NNI: The National Academies of Science (NAS) released the final version of their latest review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, stating “Thanks in large part to the NNI, fundamental science and engineering related to nanotechnology has advanced rapidly.” The document is available for download on the NAS website.
NSF’s National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI) Launches Website: NSF’s NNCI encompasses 16 user facility sites across the country and provides researchers from academia, industry, and government access to tools and expertise. Additionally, the NNCI conducts education and outreach for all ages through programs like Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) and Research Experiences for Teachers (RETs), and through exploring the societal and ethical implications of nanotechnology. NNCI recently launched a website that enables users to easily find the resources they need.
Two external reviews of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, as required by the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, were recently released. Both teams of experts recognized the expansion of scientific knowledge; formation of a strong nanoscale science, engineering, and technology ecosystem; and the entrance of nano-enabled products into the marketplace across many application areas. In light of the immense potential of nanotechnology, the NNI was encouraged to build upon this strong foundation to accelerate commercialization. Suggested areas of focus include increased emphasis on nanomanufacturing, continued support for research infrastructure, and the establishment of additional Grand Challenges.
The reviewers recommended exploring areas where nanotechnology will impact advanced manufacturing and strengthening ties to other existing efforts. They also noted the critical need for continued support of a strong research and development infrastructure to facilitate the transition of existing ideas into products and to ensure the creation of new innovations to maintain a strong pipeline of emerging technologies. This infrastructure includes physical equipment to fabricate and characterize nanomaterials, computational resources, and education and training programs. The importance of the nanotechnology environmental, health, and safety (nanoEHS) ecosystem was recognized, and the NNI was encouraged to support characterization facilities for nanosafety research, potentially in collaboration with other nanobiotechnology efforts.
The thoughtful work that went into conducting these evaluations of the NNI is greatly appreciated. There are a variety of current activities that support the recommendationsfrom these reports. For example, in its coordination role, NNCO is bringing together representatives from across the development spectrum to explore key areas and mechanisms, such as public-private partnerships, to facilitate commercialization. The National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (see left) has recently developed a web-based interface to make it easier to find specific resources. (More information about the NNI user facilities can be found on Nano.gov.) NNCO has significantly expanded its education efforts, targeting both instructors and students, and is promoting access to resources to support future workforce needs. The NNI continues to support the nanoEHS community to investigate the potential implications of nanotechnology and leverage international activities to ensure the responsible development of nanotechnology.
The promise of nanotechnology will be more quickly realized by working together. We at the NNCO look forward to working with you toward a future in which the ability to understand and control matter at the nanoscale leads to a revolution in technology and industry that benefits society.