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Environmental Studies

Directing the Invisible: Citizen Involvement in Nanotechnology


An Introduction to the Science

Discussing the Issue:

-With the Government

-With Business

-With the Military

A Specific Example: NanoFET

References & Links

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Directing the Invisible: Citizen Involvement in Nanotechnology

Welcome to the future...are you ready to have a say?

Nanotechnology. Referring to the manipulation and study of impossibly small things, and as a field that has almost no publicity in the mainstream social conscience, nanotechnology seems to hold the essence of invisibilty.

Yet, nanotechnology is a field of research that has been developing since the 1960’s and continues to expand at a rapid rate. It has already delivered a wide array of products into the field of commerce ranging from golf-clubs to suntan lotion (Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies). Billions of dollars from various private and governmental sources are placed into nanotechnology research in the United States every year – clearly, it is a quickly evolving field of technology. I feel this evolution begs a number of questions.

Labs for nanotechnology research are appearing in universities across the United States, but who is paying for this research? The results of nanotechnology research will likely provide countless medical and engineering developments, but what kinds of social and economic problems may result from a rapid introduction of these technologies to the market? Nanotechnology could reinvent espionage or the entirety of war as we know it, but do we want to research such a potentially dangerous weapon? In the United States, limitations might be posed on the research and distribution of nanotechnology, but how then do we maintain international competitiveness when many other industrialized nations are heavily researching this new science?

The discussion surrounding these and the myriad other questions about nanotechnology could easily go on for hundreds, maybe even thousands of pages. Because the results of the discussions of these concerns will matter to everyone, what is really important is that United Statescitizens be prepared to make a decision about them, and know how to voice their opinions. I hope that the information on this website will provide you with the basic knowledge required to have a hand in the outcomes of nanotechnology.

Fig. 1: An artist's rendering of a nanoscale machine

(© Institute for Molecular Manufacturing)

Fig. 1: An artist's rendering of a hypothetical nanoscale machine - each little ball represents a single atom, arranged into a working mechanical device. 

Last updated: 5/02/2007


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