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NENS 2010: Nanomanufacturing Stakeholders Provide Insights into Challenges, Benefits, and Societal Impact

Written by: 
Jeff Morse, PhD

The New England Nanomanufacturing Summit 2010 (NENS 2010) held June 22-24 in Lowell, MA included technical discussions by scientists and experts in the field of nanomanufacturing by stakeholders from academic institutions, government, and industries in the Northeast, along with national and international participants. The event, sponsored by the National Nanomanufacturing Network and organized by the NSF Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing (CHN) at Northeastern University, with partners University of Massachusetts Lowell and University of New Hampshire, along with the NSF Center for Hierarchical Manufacturing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, provided topical presentations on emerging technologies, applications, and high impact, fundamental research.

View program and presentations.

Nanomanufacturing remains the essential bridge between the discoveries of the nanosciences and real-world nanotechnology products. While the event highlighted the societal and economic benefits of nanoscience-enabled technologies, further discussions involved the potential environmental impact and related issues. The challenges facing nanomanufacturing stakeholders represent an inherently multi-disciplinary set of problems addressing issues ranging from regulation, materials science, and advanced processes to scaled manufacturing and commercialization. The first day of the event focused on Nano Environmental Health and Safety (NanoEHS) topics including regulation of nanomaterials and consumer/worker protection challenges presented by the EPA and CDC/NIOSH respectively. Additional topics the first day included nanomaterials toxicity characterization, risk assessment, worker exposure, policy challenges and approaches, and life cycle/risk analysis (LCRA) frameworks to understand the risks at much earlier stages. Overviews of efforts by the other NSF centers addressing the environmental and societal impact of nanotechnology were also presented.

The last 2 days focused on advanced process development, scaled production of nanomaterials, and applications such as energy and power, nanoelectronics, functional coatings, multiscale and ultra-high density nanopatterning, biosensors, and data storage. Additional discussions on emerging production capabilities for nano-enabled products included large area printing via roll-to-roll platforms, advanced lithography tools, directed self-assembly, custom coating tools, and emerging chemical methods.

Industry participation included Konarka and General Electric Global Research Center describing efforts in solar photovoltaic’s with nanomaterials, Nanocomp Technologies describing thermoelectric power generation using woven carbon nanotubes, Cambridge NanoTech describing their atomic layer deposition tool, LumArray’s zone plate lithography tool, Southwest Nanotechnologies’ (SWeNT) scaled production of carbon nanotube (CNT) products, and Chasm Technology’s CNT ink products and large area print process.

The event provided key insights into challenges and potential benefits of nanotechnology and nanomanufacturing, and further engaged stakeholders and attendees in networking discussions and opportunities, including a poster session on the first day. Fostering such interactions enables broader understanding by all stakeholders and participants on the challenges associated with transitioning nanoscience research to commercially viable consumer products. Presentations from the event will be made available through InterNano.

View program and presentations.