Question 1. What Is Nanotechnology Considered To Be?
Nanotechnology is a generic term for the development of innovative materials and applications in various natural science and technical disciplines such as physics, chemistry, biology and medicine, as well as engineering and material sciences. It deals with materials with at least one dimension smaller than 100 nanometres (nm), so called nanomaterials.
With the help of nanotechnology, it is possible to develop structures, techniques and systems in which materials show completely new properties and functions. Industry, medicine, science and consumers hope that this potential will lead to beneficial applications in such areas as robotics, sensory technology, process engineering, biotechnology and medicine as well as for the further development of foods, consumer products and cosmetics.
Question 2. What Are Nanomaterials?
According to the definition of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), manufactured nanomaterials of organic or inorganic origin are differentiated on the one hand into three types of nano-objects which are smaller than 100 nanometres (nm) in at least one dimension:
- Spherical structures (e.g. nanoparticles and fullerenes),
- Fibrous structures (e.g. nanotubes)
- Extremely thin layers (e.g. nanoplatelets)
and into so-called nanostructured materials on the other (e.g. aggregates or compound materials containing or consisting of nano-objects of this kind).
The European Commission published a recommendation in October 2011 according to which a “nanomaterial” should be understood to be a natural material occurring or produced during processes containing particles in an unbound condition, as an aggregate or as an agglomerate, with which at least 50 % of the particles in the number size distribution have one or more outer dimensions in the range from 1 nm to 100 nm. In special cases, the threshold value of 50 % for the number size distribution can be replaced by a threshold value of between 1 % and 50 % if this is justified by environmental, health, safety or competition considerations. This definition is to be used in future as a basic principle in all European substance directives and regulations governing the use of nanomaterials (chemicals, cosmetics, foods and feeds, pesticides and biocides). The recommendation of the Commission also provides for the possibility of establishing amendments or deviations in certain legal areas, however. A specific definition for technically manufactured nanomaterials was determined in Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers.
On the one hand, nanoparticles can be carried into the ambient air as ultrafine dusts from natural or artificial combustion sources (e.g. volcanic ash, cigarette smoke, exhaust gases from heating systems or thermodynamic machines such as internal combustion engines) and can also be produced unintentionally in work and production processes (e.g. welding smoke).
On the other hand, nanomaterials are manufactured specifically for use in many technical areas as well as in consumer products, such as paints, cosmetics, textiles and packaging materials, as so-called engineered nanomaterials (ENM). Examples of specifically manufactured nanomaterials are nanosilver, carbon nanotubes, titanium dioxide nanoparticles or what is known as nanoclay, an aluminium silicate in nano form.
Question 3. What Are Nanocapsules?
Organic compounds such as liposomes, micelles and vesicles, are added to foods to encapsulate other substances such as vitamins or flavourings, transport them through the body and release them at exactly the right spot. As the size of these “transport containers” is often in the nanometre range, they are also referred to as nanocapsules.
Question 4. In Which Products Are Nanomaterials Already Being Used?
It has to be assumed today that consumers come into contact with a variety of products in which nanomaterials have been processed. They are used in various ways in consumer products. For instance nanomaterials are used in food packaging, textiles, kitchen devices, varnishes and paints. They are also used in products for surface sealing and cleaning as well as in polishing agents. Nanomaterials are also used in cosmetics. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are used as UV filters in sun creams, for example; nanosilver is used as an antimicrobial agent in textiles and nanoclay has various applications in the food packaging sector.
Question 5. How Are Nonomaterial’s Regulated?
There is no nano-specific regulation in the sense of a nanotechnology law. Instead, lawmakers have decided to adapt existing regulations to the new nanotechnology requirements, a process which has not yet been completed. The situation in the individual areas is currently as follows:
Nanomaterials are given explicit consideration for the first time in the new cosmetics regulation (EC) No. 1223/2009, which is to be applied in full from 11 July 2013. According to Article 16 of the EU regulation, cosmetics which contain nanomaterials must be reported to the EU Commission from 11 Jan. 2013. In addition to registration in accordance with Article 13 of the EU regulation, notification of cosmetics containing nanomaterials must also be given by electronic means six months before they are put into circulation. Comprehensive information on the nanomaterials (specification of physical and chemical properties, estimate of the quantities brought into circulation, foreseeable exposure conditions, toxicological profile and safety data) must be presented here. Cosmetics containing nanomaterials in conformance with the requirements of Appendix III, as well as nanomaterials which are authorised as colorants, UV filters or preservatives, are exempted from this.
If cosmetics contain nanomaterials, these must be listed in the list of ingredients. The name of each ingredient must be followed by the word “nano” in brackets. The marking and labelling obligation applies to all nanomaterials.
Question 6. How Can I Tell If A Product Contains Nanomaterials?
Consumers cannot recognise with the naked eye whether or not a product contains nanomaterials. They have to rely on a declaration which is not yet mandatory, but this is set to change in the coming years. The marking and labelling of cosmetic products containing nanomaterials is planned from 2013 and this will also apply to foods containing nanomaterials from 2014 in line with the European food information regulation.
Although several manufacturers already claim in their advertisements that their products use nanotechnology, it cannot currently be established whether they actually contain nanoparticles or other nanomaterials. Marking and Labelling is only practicable, however, if it is also checked whether participants are complying with the marking and labelling obligation. Methods for the reliable detection of nanomaterials in various products are currently being developed and evaluated by the authorities and are already available in some sub-areas.
Question 7. Why Are Nanomaterials Used In Cosmetics?
Nanomaterials were taken into account for the first time in the new cosmetics regulation (EC) No. 1223/2009 which comes into effect in the EU on 11 July 2013. What has been the case up to now for UV filters and will continue to be so in future is that the decision on their inclusion in the positive list of the UV filters authorised in cosmetics will be made by the EU Commission after a risk assessment. It will be made on European level by the Scientific Committee of Consumer Safety (SCCS, formerly SCC, SCCNFP, SCCP) which advises the EU Commission. The basis for the risk assessment is formed by the Notes of Guidance.
Question 8. Are Nanomaterials Used In Foods?
It is being reported that nanomaterials are used as auxiliaries and additives in foods. For instance, silicic acid and other silicon-containing compounds are said to be used as anticaking agents or thickeners to prevent table salt crystals and powder-form foods from sticking together and to make ketchup pour more easily. Silicic acid is also used as a flocculant in wine and fruit juice production. It is not yet clear whether silicic acid is actually used as a nanomaterial.
Nanomaterials are also allegedly used specifically as food supplements. There are reports of the use of inorganic materials such as silicon dioxide, colloidal silver, calcium and magnesium in nanoparticle form. It is not clear whether these materials are present in foods as nanoparticles or in aggregate form. The food industry is currently developing functional foods in which vitamins, omega 3 fatty acids, phytosterols and aromas are enclosed in nanocapsules made of organic materials such as liposomes and then released at a specific spot in the body.
Question 9. Has There Ever Been A Product In Which The Nanomaterials Caused Damage To Health?
So far, the BfR has not received any reports about cases in which health damage was shown to have been caused by nanoparticles or nanomaterials. The health disorders, in some cases severe, which occurred in March 2006 after the use of so-called nano sealing sprays were not due to nanoparticles or other nanomaterials according to the BfR findings.
Question 10. What Contribution Does The Bfr Make To The Investigation Of Risks Caused By Nanomaterials?
Together with the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) and the Federal Environmental Agency (UBA), the BfR developed a research strategy to identify the potential risks of nanotechnology as far back as 2007 in order to outline the research requirements that exist for the assessment of possible risks and promote the development of suitable test methods and evaluation strategies. Numerous research projects have been initiated in all three involved institutions in the meantime with the result that a new edition of the research strategy to determine the possible risks of nanotechnology was published in 2012. It also contains a balance of the results of already completed projects and describes current activities in the areas of characterisation, exposure, toxicological and ecotoxological effects, as well as risk assessment and risk communication. The BfR not only conducts its own research projects, it also combines external expertise on methodical further development. In addition to this, the BfR scientists are involved in larger scale national and international joint projects and committees.
Question 11. What Is Nanotechnology?
The definition most frequently used by government and industry involves structures, devices, and systems having novel properties and functions due to the arrangement of their atoms on the 1 to 100 nanometer scale.
Many fields of endeavor contribute to nanotechnology, including molecular physics, materials science, chemistry, biology, computer science, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering.
Due to the extreme breadth and generality of this definition, many prefer to use the term “nanotechnologies.” For clarity, it is also useful to differentiate between near-term and long-term prospects, or to segment the field into first-generation through fourth-generation stages.
Question 12. Why Develop Nanotechnology?
Gaining better control over the structure of matter has been a primary project of our species since we started chipping flint. The quality of all human-made goods depends on the arrangement of their atoms. The cost of our products depends on how difficult it is for us to get the atoms and molecules to connect up the way we want them. The amount of energy used – and pollution created – depends on the methods we use to place and connect the molecules into a given product. The goal of nanotechnology is to improve our control over how we build things, so that our products can be of the highest quality and while causing the lowest environmental impact. Nanotech is even expected to help us heal the damage our past cruder and dirtier technologies have caused to the biosphere.
Nanotechnology has been identified as essential in solving many of the problems facing humanity. Specifically, it is the key to addressing the Foresight Nanotech Challenges:
- Providing Renewable Clean Energy
- Supplying Clean Water Globally
- Improving Health and Longevity
- Healing and Preserving the Environment
- Making Information Technology Available To All
- Enabling Space Development
Question 13. How Can Nanotechnology Promise To Build Products With Both Extreme Precision In Structure, And Environmental Cleanliness In The Production Process?
Traditional manufacturing builds in a “top down” fashion, taking a chunk of material and removing chunks of it – for example, by grinding, or by dissolving with acids – until the final product part is achieved. The goal of nanotechnology is to instead build in a “bottom-up” fashion, starting with individual molecules and bringing them together to form product parts in which every atom is in a precise, designed location. In comparison with the top-down approach, this method could potentially have much less material left over, greatly reducing pollution.
In practice, both top-down and bottom-up methods are useful and being actively pursued at the nanoscale. However, the ultimate goal of building products with atomic precision will require a bottom-up approach.
Question 14. How Is Nanotech Different From Biotech?
Based on the definition of nanotech given above, biotech can be thought of as a subset of nanotech – “nature’s nanotechnology.” Biotech uses the molecular structures, devices, and systems found in plants and animals to create new molecular products. Nanotech is more general, not being limited to existing natural structures, devices, and systems, and instead designing and building new, non-biological ones. These can be quite different: harder, stronger, tougher, and able to survive a dry or hot environment, unlike biology. For example, nanotech products can be used to build an automobile or spacecraft.
Question 15. Where Is Nanotechnology Being Developed?
Research and development of nanotechnology is taking place worldwide. As this is written, government spending is at approximately one billion U.S. dollars in each of four global areas: (1) the United States, (2) Europe, (3) Japan, and (4) the rest of the world, including China, Israel, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, and India. Similar amounts are said to be being spent in the private sector, with these figures being quite difficult to determine accurately due to the breadth of the nanotech definition, which includes a large number of older technologies.
Question 16. Which Country Leads In Nanotechnology?
World leadership in nanotechnology varies according to which sub-category of technology is being examined. In general, nanotechnology is unlike a number of recent major technological innovations in that the U.S. does not hold a very strong lead at the start. High quality work is taking place around the world, including countries with a higher fraction of engineering graduates, much lower R&D costs, and (unfortunately) less-stringent environmental standards.
Question 17. What Results Can Be Expected In The Near-term? The Mid-term? The Long-term?
Nanotech’s development can usefully be divided into stages, for example:
- 1st generation: Passive nanostructures
- 2nd generation: Active nanostructures
- 3rd generation: Three-dimensional nanosystems with heterogeneous nanocomponents
- 4th generation: Heterogeneous molecular nanosystems, where each molecule in the nanosystem has a specific structure and plays a different role
As this is written, 1st generation products are commercially available, 2nd generation work is taking place in the laboratory, and later generations are at the computational experiment and modeling stage.
Question 18. Are There Any Safety Or Environmental Issues With The Nanotechnologies In Use Today?
Concerns have been raised regarding potential health and environmental effects of the passive nanostructures termed “nanoparticles.” Regulatory agencies and standards bodies are beginning to look at these issues, though significantly more funding for these efforts is required. Foresight is working with the International Council on Nanotechnology to address these concerns.
Question 19. What Is Foresight’s Role In Nanotechnology?
As the leading public interest organization in nanotechnology since its founding in 1986, Foresight seeks to promote beneficial nanotechnology.
Foresight concerns itself with policy development and education on societal and ethical implications of nanotechnology, including both advancing positive applications and attempting to minimize potential downsides to the technology.
Question 20. What Is Nanometer?
A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. (A meter is 39.37 inches, or slightly longer than one yard.) The prefix “nano” means “one billionth”, or 10-9, in the international system for units of weights and measures. The abbreviation for nanometer is “nm.”
Question 21. Is Nanotechnology New? Where Did It Come Form?
Nanoscale materials have been used for over a thousand years. For example, nanoscale gold was used in stained glass in Medieval Europe and nanotubes were found in blades of swords made in Damascus. However, ten centuries passed before high-powered microscopes were invented, allowing us to see things at the nanoscale and begin working with these materials.
Nanotechnology as we now know it began more than 30 years ago, when tools to image and measure at the nanoscale became available. Around the turn of the century, government research managers in the United States and other countries observed that physicists, biologists, chemists, electrical engineers, optical engineers, and materials scientists were working on interconnected, multidisciplinary issues emerging at the nanoscale. In 2000, the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) was created to help these researchers benefit from each other’s insights, accelerate technology development, and foster commercialization across disciplines.
Question 22. What Are Nonmaterial’s? Do They Exit In Nature?
The term “nanomaterial” refers to nanoscale materials, or materials that contain nanoscale structures internally or on their surfaces. These can include engineered (or man-made) nanometer-scale objects such as nanoparticles, nanotubes, and nanofilms, as well as naturally occurring nanoparticles such as volcanic ash, sea spray, and smoke.
Question 23. What Are Nanoparticles, Nanotubes, And Nanofilms?
Depending on the shape, the application, or the components, nanomaterials may be called by a variety of different names, including nanoparticles, nanotubes, nanofilms, nanoshells, nanospheres, nanowires, nanoclays, nanoconcrete, nanopolymers, and much more. Other nanomaterials have distinct qualities that have led researchers to call them by other non-nano prefix names, such as quantum dots or graphene. Generally speaking, nanomaterials are objects with one or more dimension at the nanoscale. Efforts to standardize these words are currently underway, for example, by the International Organization for Standardization. For more information, visit the Standards page.
Question 24. Are Nanotechnology Products Available Today?
Yes, nanotechnology is becoming ubiquitous in our daily lives and has found its way into many commercial products, for example, strong, lightweight materials for better fuel economy; targeted drug delivery for safer and more effective cancer treatments; clean, accessible drinking water around the world; superfast computers with vast amounts of storage; self-cleaning surfaces; wearable health monitors; more efficient solar panels; safer food through packaging and monitoring; regrowth of skin, bone, and nerve cells for better medical outcomes; smart windows that lighten or darken to conserve energy; and nanotechnology-enabled concrete that dries more quickly and has sensors to detect stress or corrosion at the nanoscale in roads, bridges, and buildings. By some estimates, revenue from the sale of nanotechnology-enabled products made in the United States has grown more than six-fold from 2009 through 2016 and is projected to exceed $500 billion in 2016.
Question 25. What Is The National Nanotechnology Initiative?
The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) is a U.S. Government research and development (R&D) initiative involving the nanotechnology-related activities of 20 departments and independent agencies. Since 2001, Federal agencies and Cabinet-level departments have invested more than $23 billion in nanotechnology research, development, and commercialization. These investments, made under the auspices of the NNI, have enabled groundbreaking discoveries that have revolutionized science; established world-class facilities for the characterization of nanoscale materials and their fabrication into nanoscale devices; educated tens of thousands of individuals from undergraduate students to postdoctoral researchers; and fostered the responsible incorporation of nanotechnology into commercial products.
Question 26. Who Participates In The Nni?
The NNI community extends beyond the Federal Government and includes grantees, students, companies, technical and professional societies, foundations, and others engaged in nanotechnology research and development. This vibrant community exists in large part as a result of the efforts of the NNI agencies over the past two decades. With the expansion of scientific knowledge in nanotechnology, formal and informal collaborations have developed among researchers across a diverse range of fields and countries. These interactions and collaborations have been and continue to be facilitated by agency activities including public–private partnerships, research centers, and networks. In addition to providing fabrication, characterization, and testing capabilities, the NNI’s physical infrastructure also provides a place for researchers, industry, and ideas to mix, further expanding the community. This community has broken down the traditional disciplinary boundaries and laid the foundation for interdisciplinary discovery, which is increasingly vital to research as fields converge.
Question 27. What Is The National Nanotechnology Coordination Office(nnco)?
The National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) helps to coordinate the U.S. Government’s R&D efforts in nanotechnology, serves as the central point of contact for Federal nanotechnology R&D activities, helps to foster the commercialization of nanotechnology, and provides public outreach on behalf of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The NNCO also provides technical and administrative support to the Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology (NSET) Subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council, which coordinates the NNI. For more information, see the NNCO section of this website.
Question 28. How Much Money Does The U.s Government Spend On Nanotechnology?
The cumulative NNI investment since fiscal year 2001, including the 2017 request, now totals more than $23 billion. In addition, more than $1 billion has been invested cumulatively since 2004 in funding for nanotechnology-based small businesses through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs of the participating Federal agencies. Nanotechnology-related environmental, health, and safety (EHS, or nanoEHS) activities have become a hallmark of the NNI, with R&D, policy, and regulation in this area extensively coordinated among Federal agencies. NanoEHS activities, including relevant topics incorporated into the Nanotechnology Signature Initiatives (NSIs), account for approximately 10% of the NNI budget request from 2015-2017. Cumulative NNI EHS investments from 2006 through 2015 have now reached more than $1 billion.
Question 29. How Does Money U.s. Spending Compare To Other Countries?
The United States is not the only country to recognize the tremendous economic potential of nanotechnology. The U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative’s member agencies have cumulatively spent more than $23 billion since the inception of the NNI in 2001. According to a Lux Research estimate released in December 2015, “The U.S. leads in government (state and Federal) nanotechnology funding with $1.72 billion spent in 2013 and $1.67 billion spent in 2014. Europe’s collective spending (European Commission and individual country programs) was $2.45 billion in 2014, an increase of 9.8% from 2012. While some countries, such as the U.S., continue to have centralized government programs to coordinate nanotechnology activities, most countries no longer do. In fact, many countries no longer explicitly fund nanotechnology, although it may be a part of initiatives that are funded under different technology support programs. Because of this change, it is difficult to determine with certainty the level of nanotechnology funding by country or region.”
Question 30. How Can I Get Funding For My Research In Nanotechnology?
The National Nanotechnology Initiative itself is not a funding program; funding is provided through the NNI member agencies. There are various mechanisms for funding research through these agencies. For detailed information on Federal funding programs, see Funding Opportunities. For grant information, see Current Solicitations. See also the list of Federal agency representatives to the NSET Subcommittee, who can help members of the research community find the appropriate mechanisms to apply for competitive funding programs.
Question 31. What Are Future Workforce Needs?
Nanotechnology has the potential to create many new jobs across a variety of sectors. While some jobs, will require an advanced degree, a 2014 study funded by the National Science Foundation points out that 2-yr and 4-yr training with access to continuing and technical education will be sufficient for many of the future positions in nanotechnology, nonmanufacturing, and beyond.
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