Authority on Nanotechnology Speaks at U.Va.
Just how small is nanotech? According to the National Nanotechnology Initiative’s (NNI) website, a piece of paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick.
Research on this infinitesimal scale has become a top priority at the University of Virginia. The Office of the Vice President of Research and Graduate Studies supports a Nano and Quantum Science and Engineering (NanoQuEST) Institute in keeping with the growing significance of nanotechnology.
On April 18th, the Institute sponsored a talk with one of the most influential people in nanotech, Dr. Mihail C. Roco. Roco is Senior Advisor for Nanotechnology at the National Science Foundation, and the “single, key architect of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI)” according to Robert Hull, Charles Henderson Professor of Engineering at U.Va.
The NNI is a federal program seeking to promote the U.S. as a leader in nanotechnology research and development. Roco’s talk, “New Frontiers for Nanotechnology” focused on the exponential growth of nanotechnology research and the NNI’s role in this.
Nanotechnology has been used to improve every day products such as paint and sunscreen. Future applications for nanotech are virtually limitless, spanning disciplines such as medicine, electronics and energy. Roco asserted that by 2015, more than 50% of all industry will be using nanotechnology to develop products.
Roco noted “We are targeting broader social implications,” noting that nanotechnology contributes to not only knowledge and technology, but also quality of life.
Still, Roco pointed out that 80% of the public knows nothing about nanotechnology. A portion of NNI’s mission is devoted to education and training, some targeting K-12 education with exhibits and curriculum.
Roco is also a part of an international group working on ethical considerations in nanotechnology. He referred to the need for planning “to address the long-term issues of human development” and have a “big picture policy” that anticipates potential problems with the uses of nanotechnology.