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Nanotechnology scenarios from Europe’s Nanologue

Funded by the European Commission, the Nanologue project has released its report titled The future of nanotechnology: We need to talk. It presents three scenarios:

Scenario 1: Disaster recovery
A lack of regulation resulted in a major accident. Public concern about nanotechnology is high and technology development is slow and cautious.

Scenario 2: Now we’re talking
Strong regulation and accountability systems are in place. The technology has been shaped by societal needs and strong health and safety concerns.

Scenario 3: Powering ahead
Scientific progress has been faster than expected and nanotechnology is making a real impact, particularly in energy conversion and storage.

I look forward to reading the report, which I expect includes much of value. The first thing I check in such reports is the historical timeline, which in this case includes, as the first and last entries:

1959: The word nanotechnology first appears in Richard Feynmann’s lecture ‘There’s plenty of room at the bottom’

2005: Glass-treating spray containing nanoparticles recalled in Germany

As many of you know, both of these are incorrect, so that makes me a bit nervous. But the scenario approach can be very useful, and I expect it will yield some insights here. —Christine

One Response to “Nanotechnology scenarios from Europe’s Nanologue”

  1. Brian Wang Says:

    I had read this report a few weeks ago. I found it to be mostly focused on nanoscale technology. I also believe that it does not have a correct starting point for its projections. The what is the current situation and status of development baseline is not correct. Such a projection needs to have not just a correct pulse of what is happening in nanotechnology but also the situation and scale of problems in the application areas that they are suggesting will be impacted.
    For example, if they say that nanotechnology will have a real impact on energy conversion and storage then they need to know what a real impact in that space would look like.

    Also, the scenario 2 situation needs to consider the scale of problems with existing technology. Scenario 2 indicates it is good that we are stopping problems with nanoparticles, but we may not have addressed problems like coal energy usage. Coal is spewing 20,000 tons of uranium and thorium into the air every year. It is putting over 200 thousand of pounds of mercury and arsenic into the environment. 400,000 people are dieing every year from coal pollution not including global warming impacts. Most of the premature coal deaths are in China but 27,000 per year occur in the USA.

    So scenarios where we were delaying solutions that might reduce coal usage by 50% (1 terawatt of some form of clean electricity), at the cost of a hundred lives would be a good tradeoff. Ideally you would not want to have any deaths but the pragmatic choice is to reduce the deaths that are actually occuring.

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