EPA Will Investigate Nanoparticles' Toxicity

Does the EPA, or anyone else, have the tools to measure the toxicity of nanoparticles outside a vacuum?

1 min read

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been under pretty steady pressure over the last five years to look at nanoparticles in terms of their size rather than their chemistry. It appears they have finally succumbed.

I suppose this is a positive move, but when one considers that the microscopy tools that are needed to investigate these nanoparticles outside of a vacuum hardly exist and that some kind of universal standards of measurement have still to be arrived at I remain somewhat conflicted.

Just from a social science point of view, I am not sure that nanotech’s critics will ever be satisfied with the results, especially if they prove that the risks of nanoparticles are negligible. The raison d’etre of your typical anti-nanotech NGO has always come across as being less about the dangers of nanotechnology and more about fears of globalization and big business.

If anyone wants really satisfactory answers to the impact of nanoparticles in the environment or on the human body, they should be prepared to wait a long time because they will have to develop, and even invent, the tools necessary to measure them in these situations. Honestly, I don’t think anyone on either side of this debate has the patience to wait for that.

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Two Startups Are Bringing Fiber to the Processor

Avicena’s blue microLEDs are the dark horse in a race with Ayar Labs’ laser-based system

5 min read
Diffuse blue light shines from a patterned surface through a ring. A blue cable leads away from it.

Avicena’s microLED chiplets could one day link all the CPUs in a computer cluster together.

Avicena

If a CPU in Seoul sends a byte of data to a processor in Prague, the information covers most of the distance as light, zipping along with no resistance. But put both those processors on the same motherboard, and they’ll need to communicate over energy-sapping copper, which slow the communication speeds possible within computers. Two Silicon Valley startups, Avicena and Ayar Labs, are doing something about that longstanding limit. If they succeed in their attempts to finally bring optical fiber all the way to the processor, it might not just accelerate computing—it might also remake it.

Both companies are developing fiber-connected chiplets, small chips meant to share a high-bandwidth connection with CPUs and other data-hungry silicon in a shared package. They are each ramping up production in 2023, though it may be a couple of years before we see a computer on the market with either product.

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