Nano-sunscreens leave their mark

June 21, 2008

Painted metal roofs are cheap, convenient, and usually very durable.  But over the past two years, a rash of accelerated ageing has blighted pre-painted steel roofing in Australia.  And intriguingly the ageing—which affects the coating—seems to be localized to small patches, taking on the form of fingerprints, handprints and even footprints.

The culprit it seems is sunscreen that is spilt or otherwise transferred to the roofing by construction workers during installation. And not any old sunscreen—this would appear to be a uniquely nano phenomenon.  But I get ahead of myself… Read the rest of this entry »

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Nanotechnology—in bed with Madonna?

April 25, 2008

If you want proof that nano is mainstream, just pick up the U.S. May edition of fashion magazine “Elle.”   Sharing cover-space with Madonna is the latest article on nanotech and the beauty business.

Elle might not be your first choice of reading for cutting edge science, but Joanne Chen’s article “Small Wonders” is no slouch when it comes to conveying complex ideas in digestible bites.  Using beauty products as examples (from hair dryers to conditioners to anti-wrinkle cream), Chen takes the reader on a journey through the wonders and worries of nano.   As an exercise in making nanotechnology accessible, the article is a must-read.   Read the rest of this entry »


I’m breathing in nanoparticles, so why aren’t I dead already?

April 5, 2008

Read some accounts of nanotechnology risks, and you might be forgiven for concluding that a single engineered nanoparticle can kill you.  Of course, a little critical thinking soon dispels this notion—we are constantly bombarded with incidental nanoparticles from sources that include cars, incinerators and fires; we have been since birth.  And as critics of “risk extremists” often point out, we seem to be doing just fine in this nano-rich environment.  But does this mean that the potential risks associated with engineered nanoparticles are little more than a myth?

This was the question I faced while writing an opinions piece for the latest issue of Nano Today.  It’s a question that’s constantly popping up, either because someone has forgotten (or never realized) that nanoparticle exposure is a fact of life, or as a justification for not worrying about the engineered varieties of nanoparticles. Read the rest of this entry »


People breathing in nanoparticles? Surely you’re joking Mr. Feynman!

October 8, 2007

Admit it-deep down, your don’t really believe people will be exposed to engineered nanomaterials.  After all, most nanomaterials will be made in enclosed reactors, handled as precious commodities where not a particle can be spared, and irreversibly incorporated into a bewildering array of products.  And those that do start their life as nanoparticles will clump together in the blink of an eye, becoming nano-no-more before anyone can breathe them, touch them or (goodness forbid) eat them!

At least, that is how the argument goes.  Read the rest of this entry »