I don’t like nanomaterials companies very much. In fact they are usually nothing but trouble. If they are not squandering huge amounts of investors money chasing non existent markets then they are having messy legal spats with competitors and suppliers, or even prancing around bringing hugely expensive but ultimately pointless libel suits against anyone who questions their business model. Anyway, not to worry, most of them have either gone bust or found something more useful to do with their nanotech expertise than trying to put carts before horses and good riddance.
I’ll be doing my best to avoid a lynching at tomorrow’s Nanomaterials 2010 conference where I will be talking about “Trends and opportunities in the nanomaterials marketplace” – something I’m pretty sure that I will be able to manage without jumping up and down yelling “nanomaterials are the new gold so give me all your money” (actually as we and the World Gold Council proved a while ago, Gold is the new Gold).
However we do need to make use of nanomaterials to address a number of pressing issues caused by rising populations and declining resources unless we all want to go back to the Dark Ages, and this is where I think the opportunities lie, and perhaps this time it won’t be just large chemical producers who can take advantage.
If we look at most of our current crop of ‘sustainable’ technologies, from hybrid vehicles to wind turbines and solar arrays they are rubbish. There is absolutely no comparison with the elegance of nature’s solutions, almost all of which are built from the bottom up and which I often refer to as ‘materials by design’, a subject of eternal debate with my nanoclastic colleague Dexter Johnson. We need to start thinking seriously about how we can use our new found control over the properties of materials to address resource issues, create clean water and of course double food production in the next forty years, not producing tons of stuff that no one will ever want just because we can.