Science and Technology Innovation Program

Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies was established in April 2005 as a partnership between the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Pew Charitable Trusts. The Project is dedicated to helping ensure that as nanotechnologies advance, possible risks are minimized, public and consumer engagement remains strong, and the potential benefits of these new technologies are realized. Nanotechnologies are hailed by many as the next industrial revolution. They promise to change everything from the cars we drive to the clothes we wear, from the medical treatments our doctors can offer to our energy sources and workplaces. For more information, please see: http://www.nanotechproject.org.

Issues in this Series

PEN 19 - Voluntary Initiatives, Regulation, and Nanotechnology Oversight

Dr. Daniel J. Fiorino
Enough voluntary initiatives for nanotechnology have been implemented so they can be looked at together, in a comparative sense, and historically, in terms of their relationship to programs that have preceded them. This report provides that analysis for the first time. In Voluntary Initiatives, Regulation, and Nanotechnology Oversight: Charting a Path, Dr. Daniel Fiorino provides a taxonomy of the various types of voluntary initiatives (past and present) and the partnerships that underlie them, as well as an assessment of the factors that are most likely to contribute to program success. As nanotechnologies advance, along with other emerging technologies, voluntary programs will continue to play an important role in the governance portfolio. For this reason, evaluating and learning from these endeavors will remain critical to better oversight. This report is an important contribution to that learning process.

PEN 18 - Oversight of Next Generation Nanotechnology

Clarence Davies
View Existing health and safety agencies are unable to cope with the risk assessment, standard setting and oversight challenges of advancing nanotechnology. The nation needs a new agency to address current forms of pollution and to deal with the health and environmental impacts of the technically complex products promised by rapid 21st century scientific advances. In this landmark report, Oversight of Next Generation Nanotechnology, J. Clarence (Terry) Davies calls for a new Department of Environmental and Consumer Protection to oversee product regulation, pollution control and monitoring, and technology assessment.

PEN 17 - A Hard Pill to Swallow

William B. Schultz and Lisa Barclay
View WASHINGTON - Historically, the regulation of dietary supplements has been a significant challenge for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the fact that some of these products are now being manufactured using nanotechnology creates an additional layer of complexity. This new report asks the question: Is FDA equipped to meet the emerging regulatory challenge of dietary supplements that use engineered nanomaterials? The short answer is no.

PEN 16 - Nanotechnology: The Social and Ethical Issues

Ronald Sandler
View Recent action in Congress to reauthorize the U.S. federal nanotechnology research program offers the chance to address the social and ethical issues concerning the emerging scientific field, experts say. “It is crucial to address social and ethical issues now as we consider both the substantial potential risks of nanotechnology and its possible significant contributions to our well-being and environmental sustainability,” says Ronald Sandler, Northeastern University philosophy professor and author of a new report funded by the Project and the National Science Foundation. The report emphasizes ways in which such topics intersect with governmental functions and responsibilities, including science and technology policy, as well as research funding, regulation and work on public engagement.

PEN 15 - Silver Nanotechnologies and the Environment

Samuel N. Luoma
View • Official Report Release Page Widespread use of nanoscale silver will challenge regulatory agencies to balance important potential benefits against the possibility of significant environmental risk, highlighting the need to identify research priorities concerning this emerging technology, according to a new report released today by the Project.

PEN 14 - The Consumer Products Safety Commission and Nanotechnology

E. Marla Felcher
View Official Report Release Page The inability of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to carry out its mandate with respect to simple, low-tech products such as children’s jewelry and toy trains bodes poorly for its ability to oversee the safety of complex, high-tech products made using nanotechnology, according to E. Marla Felcher.

PEN 13 - Nanotechnology Oversight

J. Clarence (Terry) Davies
View • Official Report Release Page including webcast. WASHINGTON – Few domestic policy areas that the new administration must address will have greater long-range consequences than nanotechnology — a new technology that has been compared with the industrial revolution in terms of its impact on society. If the right decisions are made, nanotechnology will bring vast improvements to almost every area of daily living. If the wrong decisions are made, the American economy, human health and the environment will suffer. In Nanotechnology Oversight: An Agenda for the Next Administration former Environmental Protection Agency official J. Clarence Davies - one of the nation’s foremost authorities on environmental regulation and policy - identifies the steps the incoming president must take to deal with the potential risks posed by nanotechnology.

PEN 11 - Room at the Bottom?

Suellen Keiner
View State and local governments often have adopted trailblazing initiatives to address environmental, health and safety concerns in advance or in lieu of federal action. With nanotechnology, an emerging field of science with unknown risks, this practice is continuing, a landmark study has found. “In the absence of action at the federal level, local and state governments may begin to explore their options for oversight of nanotechnology,” says author Suellen Keiner. The report discusses possible options for state and local governments to follow that would allow for oversight of the potential negative impacts of nanotechnology – including local air, waste and water regulations, as well as labeling and worker safety requirements.

PEN 10 - Where Does the Nano Go? End-of-Life Regulation of Nanotechnologies

Linda K. Breggin and John Pendergrass
View All materials and products eventually come to the end of their useful life, and those made with nanotechnology are no different. This means that engineered nanomaterials will ultimately enter the waste stream and find their way into landfills or incinerators—and eventually into the air, soil and water. As a result, it is important to consider how various forms of nanomaterials will be disposed of and treated at the end of their use, and how the regulatory system will treat such materials at the various stages of their lifecycle.

PEN 9 - EPA and Nanotechnology: Oversight for the 21st Century

J. Clarence Davies
View As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently stated, nanotechnology has evolved from a futuristic idea to watch to a current issue to address. A new report by J. Clarence (Terry) Davies considers various oversight tools for dealing with nanotechnology and proposes a number of action steps for government, industry, and other stakeholders.

PEN 8 - Green Nanotechnology: It’s Easier Than You Think (Report)

Karen F. Schmidt
View The ability to eliminate waste and toxins from production processes early on, to create more efficient and flexible solar panels, and to remove contaminants from water is becoming an exciting reality with nanotechnology. This “green nanotechnology” involves designing nanoproducts for the environment and with the environment in mind. Last spring, stakeholders came together to participate in a series of dialogues on the topic, hosted by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies. This report highlights the research breakthroughs, industry perspectives, and policy options discussed at those meetings.

PEN 6 - NanoFrontiers: Visions for the Future of Nanotechnology (Report)

Karen Schmidt
View Controlling the properties and behavior of matter at the smallest scale—in effect, “domesticating atoms”—can help to overcome some of the world’s biggest challenges, concludes a new report on how diverse experts view the future of nanotechnology. This publication highlights the findings of a Washington, DC meeting organized by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

PEN 4 - Nanotechnology in Agriculture and Food Production: Anticipated Applications

Jennifer Kuzma
View Thanks to nanotechnology, tomorrow’s food will be designed by shaping molecules and atoms.

PEN 3 - Nanotechnology: A Research Strategy for Addressing Risk

Andrew D. Maynard
View This report by Dr. Andrew Maynard proposes a comprehensive framework for systematically exploring possible risks.

PEN 1 - Informed Public Perceptions of Nanotechnology and Trust in Government

Jane Macoubrie
View A new study reveals that while Americans welcome new potential life-saving and -enhancing applications promised by nanotechnology, they voice concern over its potential long-term human health and environmental effects and the ability of government and the private sectors to manage such risks.

Experts & Staff