No sooner do I announce my “War on Nanotech-and-Energy Hype” (I’m wondering if I can have that made up into some exhilarating video graphic) then none other than the New York Times--that bastion of useful information about nanotech--informs us that the US Department of Energy has increased its funding of nanotechnology research by 40% to an estimated $337 million in 2009 from $245 million in 2008.
This latest broadside in my ongoing battle to fight the hype was really distressing. We get numbers like “40%” and “$337 million” thrown around like they actually meant something beyond bragging rights for national nanotechnology initiatives and for researchers in the energy field to rub it in the nose of say a typical biomedical researcher.So despite one researcher in the energy field remarking that this increase in funding will really “move the needle,” we are not told what this additional $92 million is going to do for nanotech/energy research other than pay for some construction to build a massive new synchotron. Just when I thought it couldn’t sink any lower, we are informed that all this nanotech research in energy could provide us with low-cost fuel cells—I started to fall into a deep depression. It seems the hard part of the government’s role in nanotech funding is not getting the money, and increasingly larger amounts of funding by the way, but someone looking at how the money can best be spent beyond building new research facilities.