The American engineer Eric Drexler, who coined the term nanotechnology in the 1980s, is not afraid of ambitious thinking. In his 2013 book Radical Abundance: How a Revolution in Nanotechnology Will Change Civilization, Drexler imagines a 3D printer-like “factory in a box,” which could manipulate atoms precisely enough to manufacture almost anything.
We may still be far from realizing Drexler’s vision, but the field which he named is maturing quickly. Only a few years ago, nanotech was still caricatured as the preserve of crazy scientists. According to Aymeric Sallin, chief executive officer of venture capital firm NanoDimension, that has all changed and “it is now getting traction from large corporates and institutional investors. CEOs are moving from big, established companies to nanotech enterprises.”
Nanotech is everywhere – from the needle-less Nanopatch vaccine delivery system of Vaxxas, one of the World Economic Forum’s new crop of Technology Pioneers, to the work of the Forum’s Young Scientist community member Hele Savin on making solar panels more efficient by removing impurities in silicon. So, how big is the nanotech industry really?
Nanotechnology seems to lend itself to conceiving of ambitious goalsAndrew Wright