week 9/Nano/Akhil Rangaraj

Nanotechnology is a very wide term. It covers many fields, such as material science, physics, and computing.  Reflecting this companies and researchers use the nano prefix in many fields. However, this use is sometimes incorrect, as there really arent any nano-technology enabled components to the product. AS the field is only in its infancy, many things remain to be sorted out regarding this new technology.

One part of this, that doesnt necessarily concern the technolgy directly, is the regulation of these products. One common hollywood concept is that of nano somethings gone wrong. While swarms of nano robots devouring all life in its path is indeed far in the future, regulations in the governmental sphere is already in place.  Usually this regulation is merely added to the end of existing laws, and then enforced by angencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, or the Consumer Saftey Commission. However, this is not a clear and coordinated effort, and several states (including California) have called for studies to determine how best to classify nanomaterials. It was assumed that nanoparticles behaved similarly to their larger counterparts, but this is not the case. Even if the compound is inert at macroscopic scales, it can still be harmful at atomic levels. For example, scientists have found that diesel nanoparticles damage cardiovascular systems in mice.

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=washingtonstory&sid=aBt.yLf.YfOo

For this reason, it is important that research is done to verify that these nanoparticles are safe. It is imperative that these studies are done *before* the particles go into wide distribution. This is not to say that progress should be limited, only progress should be carefully undertaken. The wild rush to fossil fuels caused innumerable environmental and social problems; this should not be repeated. Currently, the EPA does not monitor true nanoparticles, because the particles are too small to currently filter. One specific example that was brought up in class was that of carbon nano-tubes. These microscopic tubes are incredibly strong, if propgated to large sizes. However, preliminary research finds that inhaling these tubes could cause effects similar to inhaling asbestos (e.g cause cancer).

http://www.nature.com/nnano/journal/v3/n7/abs/nnano.2008.111.html

The days of killer nanobot swarms is far off in the future, but the health risks from these nanoparticles are very real today. Current research shows that at least some nano-compounds cause damage to our very DNA. Therefore, much research needs to be done before we end up poisoning ourselves.

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