The goal of Thrust 3 is to serve society by raising the science literacy of the public and enhancing the responsible and efficient transfer of nanotechnology developments to industry.
We are improving science literacy for people of all ages through the development of educational programs, including the Molecularium® films, Riding Snowflakes and Molecules to the MAX®, and high school curriculum development, which provide fundamental information about the field of nanotechnology. We have reached many thousands of people to date, and are on our way to reaching ever-wider segments of society.
Our industry partners have run several pre-commercial trials of technology developed in the laboratories of our NSEC and we are continuing our strong interactions with industry. In addition, three companies have been formed to exploit nanotechnology applications developed at our NSEC. These activities provide not only a mechanism for transferring technology for products that benefit society, but also an opportunity to educate our undergraduate and graduate students with a broader view of research.
As we have transferred technology, several questions have arisen about the biological safety, health effects, and socioeconomic impacts of the materials and finished products produced by nanotechnology. Thus, we have two targeted projects to answer two basic questions: “How is technology transferred and commercialized for emerging technologies?” and “What are the potential biological hazards and benefits of nanostructured materials?” The first question is humanistic in nature, while the second question requires scientific experimentation and technological development. Insight into these questions is critical to maintaining the pace of nanotechnology advances and commercialization, while at the same time keeping the public informed about health and safety aspects of these new technologies.
To better understand how the technology is utilized by industry, and the public perception of nanotechnology, we initiated a study in socioeconomic impacts that has provided an understanding of the role of industry, and the role of public perception in the development of nanotechnology.