The importance of nanotechnology to future industry and national economic well-being is no longer a matter of debate. The number of first-generation (material) nanotechnology-dependent and nanotechnology-enabled products is exploding.
Not surprisingly, early products are seen in markets with high profit margins, such as sports equipment, apparel and cosmetics where consumers are willing to spend a premium amount for new capability. As the price of material nanotechnologies continues to decline, broad expansion into other sectors will be seen. The vastly superior properties of some nanomaterials are already producing business solutions in typical low-margin, late-adopting industries, such as automobiles and food.
As nanotechnology development begins to move toward second-generation (component) and third-generation (device) technologies, the value-add that will be incorporated in industrial products will transform the competitive landscape in multiple industrial sectors:
- Specialty chemicals
- Medical devices
- Food processing
- National defense
- Homeland security
The high information-content-to-size ratio of nanotechnology-based devices—sensors, identification and security tags, integrated computers in flexible packaging, and so on—will deliver efficiencies and control throughout the industrial pipeline for supply chain management, inventory control, intellectual property protection, security, point-of-sale efficiencies and post-sale service and customer management.
A 2006 study by the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice commissioned by the Mid-Atlantic Nanotechnology Alliance (MANA®) showed nanotechnology will potentially affect 7,500 companies in 11 industries, and directly impact over 100,000 jobs in the Mid-Atlantic region alone.
“By 2015, industry analysts estimate that consumer spending on nanotech-enabled products could reach $12.5 trillion annually on upgraded, everyday products, super-electronic communications, and life-saving medical devices,” said Mitch Horowitz, Director of Strategy at the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice.
Why Is Small So Big?
Nanotechnology deals with products and processes that are measured in almost unbelievably small increments called “nanometers”—one billionth of a meter.
At the nanoscale, materials differ from larger objects in their physical, chemical and biological properties; therefore, they lend themselves to new and improved materials, systems and devices. Nanotechnology is behind the development of such diverse advancements as:
- Drug Delivery
- Biofiltration and Separation sciences
- Improved coatings for medical devices
Thanks to rapid advances in this exciting new field, we now have the tools and talents to manipulate materials on the molecular scale—a technology literally changing the world as we know it.