Nanotechnology Consumer Products Inventory is Overhauled

I’m so pleased about the overhaul and relaunch of the Woodrow Wilson Center Consumer Products Database. Today, over 1600 nano-enabled products are listed, up 25% from the last update reported in my book. The collaboration with Virginia Tech means that entries in the revamped database are now evaluated, something they weren’t before, and allows user updates in a wiki-like structure. It’s been hard to judge whether the products included actually use nanomaterials, since they are listed based on company claims. In 2009, EPA found only a small overlap between the product registrations they had seen, and products in the database. The categorization (How Much We Know) is a major improvement. Only 6 products have been extensively verified, and four of these come from one manufacturer. Still, it’s fun to browse, and see which companies are using nanomaterials, and how they are using them.

In the early days of the inventory, items like the Hummer H3 (the “nano Hummer”) were listed-because it was small compared to other Hummers! It’s not as popular as it used to be to call your product “nano,” because of the uncertainties about what nanotechnology is, and whether there are health risks.  Now the Hummer S2 SUT is listed, because it uses a nanocomposite material to reduce the thickness of the body coating, incorporating clay nanomaterials that allow a thinner coating to meet the performance characteristics. “GM is now using about 660,000 pounds of nanocomposite material per year, which is the highest volume of olefin- based nanocomposite material used in the world.” Companies are using nanomaterials to enhance strength, flexibility, anti-microbial properties, electronic function (like solar cells), lightweighting, fuel efficiency, coatings, and drug delivery.

What is the most surprising thing in the database? To me, it is the steady growth of products in the consumer space. Post your favorites in the comments!

About my book, I learned yesterday that a re-seller is selling it for $600 on Amazon! Good luck to them, I guess, but I recommend buying from my publisher, Taylor and Francis/CRC Press.