Nanotechnology? Nanofabrication? Is it all just so much nanohype?
Mark Ratner, a chemistry professor who has written two books about nanotechnology, used some humor during his plenary speech May 17 at SPE-Antec in Chicago. He showed a slide with words written so small that 10,000 sets of the EncyclopÃ¦dia Britannica could fit on an 81/2-by-11 inch piece of paper.
``Of course, do you really want 10,000 sets of the EncyclopÃ¦dia Brittanica?'' Ratner quipped.
Ratner, who won the Feynman Award in Nanotechnology, is the Morrison Professor of Chemistry at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
He is a member of the National Academy of Science and American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Nanotechnology is a hot topic - though few people even know what it means. Skeptics compare nanotechnology to the heavy breathing that surrounded Internet stocks.
``There's so much hype in this business that you could certainly keep yourself amused forever in nanohype,'' Ratner said.
Ratner said the concept of nanofabrication began in the early 1980s, but has evolved into some commercial applications. Using a spinneret to apply nanofibers to a substrate, scientists have created simple sensors that are very inexpensive.
He also talked about products that can be found in stores today - stain-resistant ``nanopants'' embedded with fluorinated hydrocarbons, a $400 tennis racket that contains carbon nanotubes for increased torque and flex resistance, and long-lasting tennis balls impregnated with exfoliated clay so air does not leak out.
``A lot of modern technology arises from sports, because people who play sports are willing to spend lots of money on their equipment,'' Ratner said.
Ratner is the co-author of Nanotechnology: a Gentle Introduction to the Next Big Idea, and Nanotechnology and Homeland Security: New Weapons for New Wars.