How Many Things Should You Know About Nanotechnology?

Last year I commented on’s  decision to address the pressing concern on the mind of the publication’s readership: “5 things You Didn’t Know about Nanotechnology”.

It seems the readers of AskMen know twice as much about nanotechnology as your typical Nanowerk reader because this nanotechnology portal felt compelled to address 10 things people should know about nanotechnology after receiving questions such as “Where can I buy nanobots?”

For Nanowerk it’s not so much 10 things you should know about nanotech but 10 fields of interest for nanotech, i.e. how much governments invest, what does the term nanotechnology mean. I am not really sure that’s in keeping with the spirit of this type of list for “things you should know”, but I guess when you get right down to the real number of things you should know about any topic the figures can range between zero and... well, quite a lot.

So, what is the number of things you should know about nanotechnology? As long as we’re going to be completely arbitrary, let’s say 1 trillion. No, that’s not right. That’s the dollar figure that the National Nanotechnology Initiative estimated back in 2000 the nanotechnology market would be worth by 2015.

As long as I deftly raised the issue of market estimates, Nanowerk, of course, takes its regular swipe at assigning market figures to nanotechnology and dismisses the idea that a few pennies worth of nanoparticles used in a drug formulation should take on the value of the entire drug.

While the argument that just because some nanoparticles are in the paint coating of a Mercedes Benz doesn’t mean you can attach the entire value of that car to nanotech is appealing, it doesn’t quite hold up when a few pennies of a nanoparticle are used in a drug formulation.

I have tried to explain this seemingly simple economic concept before, but it apparently bears repeating. If the drug cannot be formulated so it possesses a new and improved delivery system and efficacy without the nanoparticle, then the new drug does not come into being. Therefore there is no value without the nanoparticle but with it there is. Sine qua non. Maybe a little Latin will clear that up.

Anyway, I went through all the 10 sections of Nanowerk’s new section and I still don’t know where I can buy a nanobot.



IEEE Spectrum’s nanotechnology blog, featuring news and analysis about the development, applications, and future of science and technology at the nanoscale.

Dexter Johnson
Madrid, Spain
Rachel Courtland
Associate Editor, IEEE Spectrum
New York, NY