Nanotechnology: eleven 50-year outlooks

The Institute for the Future, in a UK-funded study published on the Stanford website, presents eleven outlooks for nanotechnology over the next 50 years:

• Better drug delivery through nanotechnology

• Carbon nanotubes and lighter vehicles

• The coming nanoshell revolution in oncology

• The dream of biochemical nanocomputing

Manufacturing with programmable materials

“Advent of a new manufacturing paradigm based on small-scale molecular assembly”

• Nanosensors for innovative sensing applications

• Nanotechnologies for water purification

• Nanowire sensors for DNA testing

• Nanowires for improved circuits and spacecraft

Smart materials that react to the environment

“The key to these future smart materials is our growing understanding of the world at the molecular level – and our ability to manipulate it at that level, too…Assembly of materials molecule-by-molecule, the key to new smart materials, introduces a new manufacturing paradigm. Just as microelectronics introduced a novel set of manufacturing challenges, from unique substrates and photolithographic techniques to clean rooms,- molecular manufacturing could change the way we organize the manufacture of special-purpose materials further. For example, instead of assembling in clean rooms, we might assemble in clean vessels. Molecular manufacturing could also feed back into the engineering and design processes, bringing about further technological developments.”

• Wide adoption of nanoscale processors

These are probably all worth a look, although I found the “Impact” assessments listed at the bottom of each page to be…odd. Of the nanotechnology developments listed above, most have “Impact” listings of Medium-Low. Perhaps they are referring to near-term impacts. (Credit: Kennita Watson)

Monday is a holiday here at Foresight, so we’ll be back on Tuesday. Meanwhile, there’s still time to get your 2006 donation in to Foresight and have it doubled by our Challenge Grant. Thanks, and I wish all readers a happy and healthy New Year! —Christine

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