While nanotechnology has not been a gold mine for creating new fortunes, it’s certainly been one for “nano” being used as a prefix in quasi-portmanteaus, as evidenced by the name of this blog and nearly every nano-related start-up company for the last decade.
However, an editor for Nature’s Nanotechnology expected, when the new journal launched five years ago, that by now the term "nanolargesse" would have come into common usage to describe the huge amount of amount of money that is poured into nanotech research from governments around the world. It hasn’t.
In a new editorial that marks the fifth anniversary of the journal, we get a pretty honest and critical assessment of the state of nanotechnology’s development in the period since the publication's launch. It's somewhat surprising in its harshness, given that the fate of the publication depends somewhat on the hype within the field.
Ironically, for all the honest criticism contained within in the piece, the author apparently failed to recognize that the huge amount of government funding that is continually poured into nanotech would never be referred to as largesse.
Of course, it has been exactly that for the construction industries of countries desperate to appear like a growing economy or for marginalized material scientists who discovered by plugging in the term “nanotechnology” in the place of “surface reconstructions” they could achieve with relative ease research grants that had escaped them in the past.
But with so much riding on the “nanotechnology gravy train”—even for the governments that were serving it out and trying to exploit it as some sort of metric of their leadership—it would seem clear that nobody was going to denigrate the process with a term like largesse.
Despite my issue with the author’s seeming naiveté, commentary is not the main point of the piece. It primarily serves as an introduction to “a series of Web pages that bring together all the papers we have published in four particularly active areas—DNA nanotechnology, graphene, nanopores, and nanotoxicology.”
It is an intriguing way to organize the past five years of research. But what really caught my eye were the author’s reminiscences from the publication's launch, and how at that time papers on graphene were few and far between but those for carbon nanotubes were a regular occurrence. How that relationship has changed in five years.