Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

Promoting the Safe Integration of New Technologies

Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

Momentous change can come in tiny packages. Nanotechnologies have been hailed by many as the next industrial revolution, likely to affect everything from clothing and medical treatments to engineering. Although focused on the very small, nanotechnology—the ability to measure, manipulate and manufacture objects that are 1/100th to 1/100,000th the circumference of a human hair—offers immense promise. Whether used in cancer therapies, pollution-eating compounds or stain-resistant apparel, these atomic marvels are radically and rapidly changing the way we live. The National Science Foundation predicts that the global marketplace for goods and services using nanotechnologies will grow to $1 trillion by 2015 and employ 2 million workers.

While nanotechnology's possible benefits are clear, its potential risks are not. As nanotechnology products and processes move into daily use, the risks to human health and the environment must be evaluated and addressed. Both the public and private sectors have a responsibility to ensure that advances in nanotechnology proceed in lockstep with a comprehensive understanding of its consequences.

Seeking policy solutions. The Pew Charitable Trusts established the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) in partnership with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Based in Washington, D.C., PEN works to improve awareness of nanotechnologies' benefits and risks, and ensure that those risks can be properly assessed and handled. Since 2005, PEN has become a visible and respected information source on the scope of nanotechnology product development and potential health and environmental safety questions. It has drawn attention to inadequate levels of investment in research into the risks of nanotechnology, and also to flaws in existing laws and regulations that provide oversight in this area. The project engages a wide spectrum of government, industry and academic leaders in working to close gaps in knowledge and develop more robust oversight measures. Its efforts include:

Ensuring that government and industry undertake more strategic and focused research into the risks inherent in nanotechnology, by:

  • Expanding the comprehensiveness of the existing risk-research database by including data from industry and other countries, and ensuring the transfer of that data to a permanent entity that will keep it updated indefinitely.
  • Highlighting and pressing for increased resources to fund the most vital research needs, as outlined in a recent peer-reviewed article in the journal Nature and endorsed by key public policy leaders.

Helping to identify and fill gaps in oversight, by:

  • Continuing to analyze weaknesses in federal oversight authority and highlight these for relevant agencies and the public.
  • Encouraging the adoption of industry agreements that can help supplement federal efforts.

National Homeownership Month

Article

37 Researchers Working to Transform Biomedical Science

Quick View
Article

Biomedical researchers are on the front lines of scientific innovation. From responding to global pandemics to pioneering lifesaving cancer treatments, these researchers push past scientific boundaries to solve pressing health challenges. For nearly 40 years, The Pew Charitable Trusts has supported more than 1,000 early-career biomedical scientists committed to this discovery.

Composite image of modern city network communication concept

Learn the Basics of Broadband from Our Limited Series

Sign up for our four-week email course on Broadband Basics

Quick View

How does broadband internet reach our homes, phones, and tablets? What kind of infrastructure connects us all together? What are the major barriers to broadband access for American communities?

Pills illustration
Pills illustration

What Is Antibiotic Resistance—and How Can We Fight It?

Sign up for our four-week email series The Race Against Resistance.

Quick View

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as “superbugs,” are a major threat to modern medicine. But how does resistance work, and what can we do to slow the spread? Read personal stories, expert accounts, and more for the answers to those questions in our four-week email series: Slowing Superbugs.