Its potential is unknown, and so is its danger. Nanotechnology, once a futuristic idea, is entering commerce through products like sunscreens, food packaging, cosmetics, fabrics and nanomedicine, to name a few.
Nanotechnology explores and exploits the characteristics of conventional materials at a much smaller scale. At the level of a nanometer, a normally inert material like gold becomes combustible. Some of the current fields exploring nanotechnology include:
The commercial, biological and industrial potential for nanotechnology is sweeping. Nanoparticles already occur naturally in soot and volcanic ash. Sounds great — but what are the risks?
Ideas for uses of nanotechnology have potentially outstripped research to determine its danger to workers and consumers, including:
In October, a North Carolina State University research study found Americans want labels on food products containing nanotechnology and are willing to pay more for the product to get it.
Intriguing, tiny and promising, nanotechnology may still pose significant personal and societal risk in years to come.
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