Realism on the size of nanotechnology market

Michael Berger of the useful Nanowerk website has produced a clarification essay on the size of the nanotechnology market, helping to put the hype in perspective. Some excerpts:

First of all, these market size forecasts are dealing with what is called evolutionary nanotechnology. The goal of evolutionary nanotechnology is to improve existing processes, materials and applications by scaling down into the nano realm and ultimately fully exploit the unique quantum and surface phenomena that matter exhibits at the nanoscale. This trend is driven by companies’ ongoing quest to improve existing products by creating smaller components and better performance materials, all at a lower cost…

By contrast, truly revolutionary nanotechnology envisages a bottom-up approach where functional devices and entire fabrication systems are built atom by atom. There is no way today to put a market value on this visionary technology and its hypothetical products and it is therefore not covered in any of the nanotechnology market size reports…

But seriously, what is the practical value of knowing the market size for nanotechnology-enabled products if soon almost everything will be nanotechnology-enabled (at least by the definitions used in the market sizing reports)? The recent Cientifica paper states: … an enabling technology that supports other industries will not ever be considered a stand-alone industry…. Quite rightly so. So why then try constructing an artificial market for of a wide range of enabling nanotechnologies by adding up the value of all products that somehow benefit from these technologies?…

…these trillion-dollar forecasts for an artificially constructed “market” are an irritating, sensationalist and unfortunate way of saying that sooner or later nanotechnologies will have a deeply transformative impact on more or less all aspects of our lives.

You tell ’em, Michael. —Christine

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