Nanotech's Need to Strike a Balance in Risk Management

Noted thought leaders on nanotech's risk remain balanced and scientific in their approach

2 min read

I am encouraged that in the debates surrounding the Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) concerns over nanoparticles that two of the most noted thought leaders in the US (and by extension, internationally) on the subject, Andrew Maynard and Kristen Kulinowski, have consistently remained scientific in their approach to the risks of nanoparticles while the media, NGOs and nanotech proponents have often behaved otherwise.

As recent evidence of this, I have already cited Andrew Maynard’s balanced discussion of the recent research indicating that nanoparticles can inflict harm across biological barriers. And I was also pleased to read Kristen Kulinowski’s recent guest editorial at entitled “Temptation, Temptation, Temptation: Why Easy Answers About Nanomaterial Risk are Probably Wrong”

Kulinowski itemizes three temptations in the editorial:

Temptation #1: Generalizing Results from One Study to All of "Nanotechnology"

Temptation #2: Mischaracterizing the Impacts Research as Either Non-Existent or Conclusive

Temptation #3: Basing Risk Management Decisions on Non-Nanoscale Materials

The first two temptations I wholeheartedly agree with Kulinowski on. However, on the third temptation I have to hedge somewhat. I am in part influenced by the argument of Professor Simon Brown at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand that we may not get every piece of data we want to make risk management decisions on nanoparticles, but we may need to make our decisions with a certain degree of uncertainty about the risks.

The risks that emanate from a lack of risk management in nanoparticles are two nearly opposing scenarios. In one scenario, workers developing products using nanoparticles could be risking their health and there may even be risk for consumers that products containing nanoparticles could be hazardous during their entire life cycle. And in the other scenario, we are deprived of the benefits that nanoparticles could impart because of some knee-jerk reaction that bans there use entirely due to our inability to develop a reasonable risk management framework that quieted the screams of the fear mongers. 

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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.


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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