Public Comment Period Extended to Monday, October 18, at 8 PM EDT

Larry Bell

Nanotechnology Long-Term Impacts and Research Directions: 2000-2020 went on line yesterday for two weeks of public comment.  This is your chance to read and make suggestions concerning the next decade of nanotechnology research, including future educational efforts and engaging the public in future governance.  The text document and presentations related to them are online at

This report and vision document has been developed by a team of scientists led by NSF’s Senior Advisor for Nanotechnology, Mihail Roco, and the World Technology Evaluation Center (WTEC).  Members of the core team held workshops in the U.S., Germany, Japan, and Singapore, and so this report has an international perspective.  I participated in the U.S. workshop which was held at Northwestern University in March and just attended a workshop at NSF in which the draft report was presented.


The report includes chapters on Theory; Measurement; Manufacturing; Environmental, Health and Safety Issues; Sustainability: Environment, Water, Food, Climate, and Energy; Nanobiosystems, Medicine, and Health; Nanoelectronics; Photonics; Catalysts; High Performance Nanomaterials; Education and Infrastucture; and Innovative and Responsible Governance.

You can download each of the 13 chapters from the WTEC website and comment on any part of it at

Some of the goals for 2020 that blew my mind are:

Tracking electrons with sufficient speed to observe intermediate steps in chemical reactions. It was amazing to be able to "see" individual atoms but tracking nearly mass-less electrons seems incredible.

Develop safe-by-design approaches as an integral part of product development.  As we come to understand what aspect of a nano product causes environmental or health risks, we can design the product not only to achieve the intended benefit but also to remove or block the risk.

Evelyn Hu and Mamadou Diallo at Nano2 workshop
Membranes with multifunctional nano-cages that can capture CO2 from flue gases and convert it to usable products.  This would reduce the CO2 released into the atmosphere and recycle the carbon.

Scalable solar at one-tenth the current cost. More solar energy strikes the earth in one hour than all the energy consumed on the planet in one year

Synthetic HDL analog using nanomaterials.  HDL is the "good" cholesterol.  A synthetic nanomaterial can mimic the size, shape, and activity of the biological material.  This would have a significant impact on heart disease.

The realization of nanomaterials with biologically inspired attributes including self healing.

Nanodiagnostic tools will become the backbone of clinical medicine by 2020, making the transition from remote labs to hospitals an then eventually to the home.  Here comes the "tricorder" from Star Trek as we develop in-vivo sensors, nanoscale sensors physically inside our bodies that communicate to external hand-held devices that communicate to the doctor’s office.

These are just a few of the amazing advances envisioned for the next decade.  You can check out the draft report for many.