Several nanotechnology-related items have popped up on my radar in the last few days. Here are some highlights:
Nanotechnology, the Environment and Brazil
Next week, October 18 and 19, the University of São Paulo will be hosting the First International Seminar on Nanotechnology, Society and the Environment. Reading the description gave me chills: this is exactly the right conversation to be having now, and in exactly the right place. WorldChanging Ally Mike Treder, executive director of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology, will be speaking at the seminar both days. We'll definitely link to his report about the proceedings.
Computerworld reports about "nanograss" -- a "bed of upright silicon posts a thousand times thinner than a human hair." Developed at Bell Labs, with a variety of fascinating (and somewhat bizarre) properties. It could be used to create tiny "smart" heat sinks, liquid lenses, nearly frictionless boat hulls, and allow batteries to remain fresh on the shelf almost indefinitely. Such batteries would also have three to four times the power-to-weight ratio of ordinary power cells.
Nanotechnology and Global Poverty
The 1st Conference on Advanced Nanotechnology: Research, Applications, and Policy runs October 21-24, in Washington DC (October must be nanomonth). Among the technical and speculative seminars is "Applying Nanotechnology to the Challenges of Global Poverty," a presentation given by Bryan Bruns of the Foresight Institute. The abstract reads like a checklist of what I want to see more discussion about when thinking about nanotechnology. I won't be able to attend, but I will keep my eyes open for any details about this presentation.
Finally, Wired reports about the increasing application of nanotechnology to water filtration.
The NanoWater congress [last week in Amsterdam], which kicked off the Aquatech 2004 water-technology trade show, outlined how nanotechnology can create drinking water from contaminated water, salt water and all forms of waste water, including bong water (it is Amsterdam, after all).
The promise of nanofiltration devices that "clean" polluted water, sifting out bacteria, viruses, heavy metals and organic material, is driving companies like Argonide and KX Industries, which developed technology used in Brita filters, to make nanotechnology-based filters for consumers. Two products incorporating nanotechnology are going to hit the market within the next year and are already being tested in developing nations.
One wonders how well high-tech nanomaterial filters stack up against ceramic water filters made by Potters for Peace. Of course, it appears that the nanofilters may be able to handle the dirtiest of water, and even help with desalination, so they will certainly be an important addition to the worldchanger's toolkit.