Thursday, August 3, 2006

On Supplement to the President's FY 2007 budget - READ WHAT INTERESTS YOU

The National Nanotechnology Initiative: Research and Development Leading to a Revolution in Technology and Industry, Supplement to the President’s FY 2007 Budget, 2006.

This was a lot of work. I hope it clarifies a few things for my readers.

We’re in year 6 and 13 agencies (joining NSET this year were the USDA Forest Service, Dept. of Labor, Dept. of Education, and DOD’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency) are now involved.

Nanotechnology is a priority element of the American Competitiveness Initiative (to enhance manufacturing infrastructure as well) which calls for increased spending in the physical science, improved math and science education and training for a skilled workforce. Efforts toward technology transfer and commercialization involve SBIR and STTR funds and tables 7 and 8 (40) evidence some modest growth and the NNI is committed “to promote commercialization” (41) through these program. To bad we can’t get the ATP (Advanced Technology Program) up and running again as well.

The commercial orientation couldn’t be much clearer. Quote: “Acquiring best-in-the-world or state-of-the-art instrumentation for nanoscale imaging, measurements, and manipulation at university and Federal Government laboratories (21).”

The strategic plan in the budget request involves seven PCAs (program component areas). I want to observe that the 7th item in societal dimensions. Ordinal ranking is telling. Under PCA7 – $44m is slated for EHS and $38m for educational related activities and implications for society.

The tabular data at the end is interesting, esp. (39) the tables separating EHS from education and other societal issues. Both areas seem to be getting a modest increase.

It is heartening to see EHS and other societal interests separated so we can have a better sense of the commitments involved. It would be desirable to do the same between education and societal implications; they are not the same while there is some cross-over. If one of the goals of this request is to cultivate public trust (25) and another “acceptance of and knowledge about nanotechnology” (25), one begins to ponder how this is accomplished: education, you say?

For info on the NEHI roadmap check http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/science/hsy24464.000/hsy24464_0.HTM

Another priority includes “efforts to ensure that stakeholders who wish to participate in public debate and decision-making have access to relevant information and education” (25). First, many who wish to participate may not be able to do so and that may have nothing to do with access to information. It may have more to do with time and real opportunities (not intellectual ones). Second, who decides “relevant” information and education? The deficit model is dead, move on.

With all the programs and missions scattered across seven different areas, it is difficult to figure out what it anticipated so I reorganized it below highlighting what I thought was important.

THEMES

There is a clean interest in accelerating the transition of scientific discoveries into practical technologies (10) and research into self-assembly on many levels (18).

INTERESTS

Heavily highlighted technologies included medicine devices and systems to diagnose, prevent and treat disease, esp. cancer (11) as well as energy (see DOE).

NANO-GEEKS

Some fascinating areas FOR ME listed included: nanobarcodes (12) and personal sampling devices of airborne nanoparticles exposure (14).

I am looking forward to material coming out of the Global Issues in Nanotechnology (GIN) informal working group (31) and the National Academies’ evaluation of the NNI to be released in 2006 (iii).

BY AGENCY

DHS is primarily interested in sensor technologies (12). Other areas include: fire resistant construction materials (7) and surfaces to deactivate biological agents and decompose hazardous chemicals (7).

DOC (NIST) wants to improve information dissemination to the business community (4), advance tools, two of which are AFAM [atomic force acoustic microscopy) and variable pressure SEM (17), and new dimensional test standards (19), intrinsic calibration systems (19), and nano-manipulation of soft materials (19), and fabrication platforms for testing functionality (20). They seem intent to increase channel for public comment, etc. (30) which might mean we need a functional “public” clearinghouse. While the NSF is committed to developing an online clearinghouse (32), it needs to be a public clearinghouse and not a web-based library.

DOD has made it clean that its investment is to enhance war-fighter and battle systems capabilities (13) and wants to find ways to guide and monitor the process (20). For more, visit https://www.dodmantech.com/. They reference chemical and biological agent scavengers, taggants, and sensors (4), advance solid state power generation, cooling, and thermal management (4, 13), radiation-hard RAM (11), and the use of viruses as templates for nanowires (20).

DOE repeatedly references hydrogen production and storage (4, 7, 9, 11) and solar energy conversion (4, 9, 11) in addition to solid-state lighting (11) and low cost fuel cells (11, 12), lab on a chip systems (14), fossil fuel advances (14). In terms of technologies, the development of transmissions electron aberration-corrected microscopy (TEAM) is on their list (17).

DOS – for some classic bureaucratese, see column 2, p. 30).

EPA ”is developing a voluntary pilot program for reporting of nanomaterials manufacturing under TSCA” (30-31). It also wants to fingerprint characteristics, esp. layer, separation distance, curvature and tortuosity starting with C60 fullerenes (5). It is interested in energy-efficient recovery of biofuels (14), nanoporous filters to remove gaseous pollutants and particulates from air streams (14), reactive coating to destroy or immobilize toxic compounds (20), and all things for greener manufacturing, like solvent free production (20).

FDA
continues to approve devices (iv) and wants to maintain a viable web presence (13).

NASA seems interested in mission special remove sensing (14).

NIOSH seems seriously occupied with exposure instrumentation and methodologies (17) and working on its strategic plan (29). In addition, it is committed to releasing its Nanotechnology Field Teams to begin field studies on occupational health and safety practices (29).

NIH/NCI (DHHS) seems fixed on its Roadmap Initiative (for more see http://nihroadmap.nih.gov/) and its Development Centers (3) and to accelerate transition of basic nanoscale particles and devices to clinical applications (16). And NCI seems intent on making additional awards (29).

It intends to expand NTP (National Toxicology Program) studies on skin uptake, inhalation, and oral routes of exposure (28) esp. for multifunctional engineered nanoscale materials, like dendrimers, liposomes, quantum dots, metals, and carbon-based nanoparticles. There is also interest in immunotoxicity and phototoxicity results (28).

I was puzzled a bit by the following statement. “The time requires to characterize nanomaterials from receipt through the in vivo phase is anticipated to be one year (28).” I am trying to verify this.

Special technologies included: body-friendly implantable materials (7), smart multifunctional particles (7), and cancer therapies (15).

NSF remains committed to its centers of excellence and NSEC system (24). In terms of societal dimensions it repeats its mission of “analyzing, identifying, and quantifying” (32) though I am not sure we are ready to quantify what we have learned so far with any level of confidence.

Presumably, NISE (Nanoscale Informal Science Network) will “conduct a comprehensive review of academic studies, evaluation reports, educational research literature, and public opinion research from the past decade about public understanding of nanotechnology” (32). I guess I should have applied for a grant!

Some of the areas of pre-occupation with the NSF were: quantum computing (5), biosystem exploitation (cellular organelles and biomolecular motors (5), biocompatible structures for implantation (5), and miniature sensors for diagnostics (5),

USDA wants to advance food safety and biosecurity, esp. tracking product identity (6), and nutrition enhancement (15)

USDA – Forest Service wants to capture value in wood-based lignocellulosic materials (6) and wood-plastic composites and engineered biocomposites (10).

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