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Dr. Clayton Teague Addresses Senate Committee on U.S. Leadership in Nanotechnology


New York, Feb 22, 2006

“With a total federal investment of more than $1 billion per year, the U.S. is the acknowledged world leader in nanotechnology research and development.”

So said Dr. Clayton Teague, director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office, in a testimony last week to the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. Dr. Teague detailed developments in nanotechnology, highlighting the activities of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI)—collaborative program involving twenty-five federal agencies—in driving the United States to a position of leadership in nanotechnology research and development (R&D).

“The NNI leadership sees tremendous opportunity ahead,” said Dr. Teague. “We have a vigorous program underway to launch a new era in science and technology in the U.S., thanks to the support of the Administration and Congress. With continued support, the NNI will advance discoveries in medicine, energy, security, and other areas that will bring us closer to achieving some of our greatest national and societal goals.”

Nanotechnology, which refers to research and development at the atomic, molecular, and macromolecular levels, is expected to revolutionize all industry sectors. Control over a material at the nanoscale level allows scientists to alter the material’s properties, thus opening a multitude of potential innovative technologies. Dr. Teague’s testimony highlighted how nanotechnology could be used to transform the nation’s energy consumption: photovoltaic cells formed from nanoscale particles of semiconductor materials can be used to harness and convert sunlight into high efficiency electricity. Other emerging applications include employing “smart” bio-nanotubes to deliver drugs and genes to targeted areas of the human body, and an elevator—supported by cables made of carbon nanotubes—to outer space.

The emerging field has become one of the nation’s priorities for scientific research. Under the “American Competitiveness Initiative,” designed to position the United States at the forefront of scientific innovation, President George W. Bush provided increased funding to the National Science Foundation, a leading agency in the NNI, to fuel research in critical areas of innovation, including nanotechnology. The fiscal year 2007 federal nanotechnology budget will fund approximately 50 new interdisciplinary research teams to facilitate partnership between government, industry, and university researchers.

As advancements in the manufacture and applications of nanoscale materials are made, standards are needed to facilitate the progress and commercialization of the many uses of nanotechnology. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) established the ANSI Nanotechnology Standards Panel (ANSI-NSP) in 2004 to coordinate and promote the development of voluntary, consensus standards for nanotechnology applications. Dr. Teague serves as co-chair of the ANSI-NSP. Primary work areas of the panel include the standardization of nanotechnology nomenclature/terminology; materials properties; and testing, measurement and characterization procedures.

In 2005, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) established the ISO Technical Committee (TC) 229 Nanotechnologies to spearhead the development of international standards for this emerging field. ISO TC 229 created three working groups to advance standardization in the areas of terminology and nomenclature; metrology and characterization; and health, safety, and the environment. Under Dr. Teague’s guidance, the U.S. leads the working group on health, safety, and environmental aspects of nanotechnologies. [See related article, ISO Nanotechnologies TC 229 Meets in London].

In his address to the Senate, Dr. Teague emphasized the importance of international cooperation in nanotechnology standardization efforts.

“Because technological innovation is a global phenomenon . . . all countries will benefit from cooperating and coordinating efforts in many of the formative areas of nanotechnology R&D, such as technical norms and standards; intellectual property rights; environment, health, and safety; and education,” Dr. Teague said.

For information on becoming a member of the U.S. TAG to ISO TC 229 or the ANSI-NSP, contact Heather Benko, standards administrator (hbenko@ansi.org; 212.642.4912).

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