Introduction to Federal Nanoscience: Smoke and Mirrors

Hello concerned reader.

This topic is an introduction to the United States National Nanotechnology Initiative, while also raising questions about Nanotechnology’s history.

To start with, let us have a look at the NNI’s goals that it wishes to achieve.

NNI Vision, Goals, and Objectives

“The vision of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) is a future in which the ability to understand and control matter at the nanoscale leads to a revolution in technology and industry that benefits society.

The NNI expedites the discovery, development, and deployment of nanoscale science, engineering, and technology to serve the public good through a program of coordinated research and development aligned with the missions of the participating agencies. In order to realize the NNI vision, the NNI agencies are working collectively toward four primary goals; please note that each of the following goals is linked to a page detailing each goal’s objectives:

  1. Advance a world-class nanotechnology research and development program;
  2. Foster the transfer of new technologies into products for commercial and public benefit;
  3. Develop and sustain educational resources, a skilled workforce, and a dynamic infrastructure and toolset to advance nanotechnology; and
  4. Support responsible development of nanotechnology.

    “The list of Federal partners is quite extensive, ranging from NASA, the DoD, to the Agricultural Research Service.Most of us familiar with researching Nanotechnology know the basic gist, manipulating and controlling atoms and molecules.  However, Nanotechnology itself is a misnomer. It originally got its start as Ultra-precision Machining. Here is an excerpt from the NNI:

    in his explorations of ultraprecision machining, Professor Norio Taniguchi coined the term nanotechnology

    Materials that are designed in the nano scale by ultraprecision machining, henceforth, Nanotechnology.  Where the misnomer truly fits in (and my questions start to arise), is when these meta materials are no longer made in the nanoscale, but smaller, like Pico scale or Femto scale. Electron microscopes allow one to see in the nanoscale, as well as beyond the nanometer.

    Here is another excerpt from the NNI about seeing in the nanoscale:

    Beginning as early at the 1930s, scientists were able to see at the nanoscale using instruments such as the scanning electron microscope, the transmission electron microscope, and the field ion microscope.

    Upon reading that, just how much has been produced using Nanoscience since the Thirties? Possibilities could be ranging from synthetic fibers to the powders used in the pharmaceutical industry.

    Another interesting excerpt:

    It wasn’t until 1981, with the development of the scanning tunneling microscope that could “see” individual atoms, that modern nanotechnology began.

    See the discrepancy? Scientists were able to see in the nano scale in the 1930’s, but not until 1981.

    Let’s take another look at the name “Nanotechnology” and its definition, the manipulation and control of atoms.  The size of atoms and most molecules are not nano sized, but Angstrom sized (10−10 m), smaller than nanoscale (10-9 m).

    What was just said? Atoms. When was the Atom Bomb invented, in 1933 with the first successful test in 1945. What is the size of an atom again? Angstrom. In order for the scientists to see the atoms (isotopes) they were working on, they would need the very same microscopes used to see in the nanoscale and smaller.

    This shroud has extended into “modern Nanotechnology”. The FDA, EPA, and CDC claim not to have the mechanisms to detect nanomaterials in the environment. But what are the mechanisms mentioned? High powered microscopes. They will state in published research that nanomaterial ill-effects are not well understood, but then proceed to describe in full detail, the effects of engineered nanomaterials on biological systems.

    Now we do a 360 back to the goals of the NNI. From foods, beverages, to cosmetic products. Because there are no regulations, commercial companies involved with Nanotechnology research and development are left to their own recognizance to report any negative effects of their designer nanomaterials.

    Monsanto and RAND Corporation once said that Agent Orange was harmless. Ask a Vietnam veteran that has come into contact with Agent Orange how they feel about that statement.


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