Nano Looms as the Next Pervasive Technology

FAIRFAX, VA. - Scientists working on a nanotechnology initiative that involves more than two dozen government agencies say that tiny is poised to be the titan of future technologies. The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), which also is engaging industry, academic partners and international participants, aims at moving discoveries from the laboratory into products that benefit both the military and public.

Several NNI leaders spoke with Rita Boland, senior news editor, SIGNAL Magazine, about the potential that nanotechnology will also offer health care and commercial sectors. "It's hard for me to imagine an area that won't be impacted by nanotechnology," says Dr. Lisa Friedersdorf, senior scientist, National Nanotechnology Coordination Office. "If we manipulate matter at these size scales, it's going to be part of everything we do."

Because of the broad reach promised by nanotechnology, partnerships will be important to ensure that fundamental research matches key needs. In addition, ensuring that the next-generation work force is well trained will result in commercialization of what nanotechnology enables and help overall economic health, Friedersdorf adds.

Dr. Lew Sloter, associate director, materials and structures, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, says he could see a period in which the military will intensively exploit the understanding of nanoscale phenomena, nanoprocesses and nanomaterials for more specific defense applications, such as flexible display devices. Nanotechnology also could serve as a catalyst in energetic materials, an area in which the military has highly unusual needs, he points out. Safer explosives, which release energy rather than a kinetic force, could be better controlled if using nanoparticulate powers, for example.

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