Numbers of nanotech consumer goods soar

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nanotechnology

Consumer products that incorporate nanotechnology are being
released at the rate of three to four a week according to the
product inventory maintained by the Project on Emerging
Nanotechnologies (PEN).

The inventory has now recorded 609 products, 60 per cent of which are health and fitness items including cosmetics and sunscreens. The news about the increase in nano-based product launches come just days after a PEN investigation concluded that US funding on nanotechnology risk research is lacking, standing at just over half of the amount spent in Europe in 2006. Rapid expansion in nanotech products ​ The nanotechnology consumer product inventory maintained by the PEN was started in March 2006 with a total of 212 products. According to PEN project director David Rejeski the inventory is the tip of the iceberg and the real number of consumer goods products incorporating nanotechnology could be much higher. Lux Research estimates that by 2014 15 percent of total global output of manufactured goods will incorporate nanotechnology, $2.6 trillion worth. In 2006 this figure was estimated to be $50bn. Rejeski presented the findings to the Senate Commerce Committee marking the start of the US Senate's debate on the future of federal investment set aside for nanotechnology research and development. Federal budget for nanotechnology ​ The US government has a $1.4bn nanotechnology budget and according to the PEN a dangerously low percentage of this is spent on risk research. "Public trust is the 'dark horse' of in nanotechnology's future. If government and industry do not work to build public confidence in nanotechnology, consumers may reach for the 'No-Nano' label in the future and investors will put their money elsewhere,"​ said Rejeski. It is for this reason that Rejeski believes that public perceptions about risks - real and perceived - can have large economic consequences, now and for the future. "How consumers respond to these early products - in food, electronics, health care, clothing, and cars - is a litmus test for broader market acceptance of nanotechnologies in the future,"​ he said. Only three percent spent on risk research ​ According to a recent PEN assessment only three percent of the federal budget is spent on investigating the risks of nanotechnology. This amounts to $13m spent in 2006 on projects that were highly relevant to addressing the possible risks of nanotechnology, compared to the $24m spent by European countries in the same year. Chief science advisor for PEN Andrew Maynard accuses the federal government of 'wishful thinking'. "It is trying to substitute research that might inform science's general understanding of possible nanotechnology risks for research that is focused on getting answers to direct questions being asked today - what makes a nanomaterial potentially harmful, how can it be used safely, and what happens when it is eventually disposed​?"

Related topics: Formulation & Science

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