One of the biggest obstacles for nanotechnology has been the nearly relentless hype that surrounds it. There are things to be excited about now that we have a better idea of what happens at the nanoscale and how we can manipulate it. But that understanding and capability does not and never will constitute an industry.
After seeing this latest press release that touts a “nanotechnology industry”, my spirits sank.
I was further kicked while I was down with the list of “major trends” that would impact this so-called nanotechnology industry. It ran the range from “Where-have-you-been-the-last 10 years” trend that cited: “Nanotechnology holds the key to the ultradense digital memory” to the “What-on-earth-are-you-talking-about” trend that predicts: “Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs) ready to spread nanotechnology applications.”While this kind of nonsense may sell some reports, at this point it no longer attracts financing and really only results in giving ill-informed NGOs fodder for their tirades about an out-of-control “nanotechnology industry”. We are even given a video to go along with the press release. It contains the typical definitions of nanotech (with the awkward relating of the etymology of ‘nano’), a brief history of nanotech and its application areas.
One of the interesting bits about the video is the US-centric bent given to the history of nanotech. We get Feynman’s “Room at the Bottom” lecture and Smalley’s co-discovery of the buckyball (albeit with the omission of Kroto from mention in that discovery). But as for the rest of the nanotech pioneers they don’t quite measure up.The fascinating part though would have to be that this video could have been made in those heady days 10 years ago when the NNI was being launched when former cheerleaders for valuing companies that consisted of kids with laptops at billions of dollars decided to turn their investment expertise to nanotechnology: “The Next Big Thing.” Sigh.