Nanotechnology and the Great Race
By Arnold Kling
I once wrote an essay that I called The Great Race, in which I argued that two factors that affect the future are technological change in the private sector and the growth of entitlement spending. Many posts in this blog have focused on entitlements. I focus less here on technology. But several recent articles on nanotechnology are interesting.
Mike Treder of Small Times writes,
Imagine a world with billions of desktop-size, portable, nonpolluting, cheap machines that can manufacture almost anything-from clothing to furniture to electronics, and much more – in just a few hours. Today, such devices do not exist. But in the years ahead, this advanced form of nanotechnology could create the next Industrial Revolution…
The Washington Post surveyed the field in a recent article.
It is too soon to say whether nano will wean society from dirty technologies or simply produce its own versions of the asbestos, diesel soot and DDT debacles that are the legacy of the last industrial revolution. The science is still new, and the rhetoric on both sides remains defensive and polarized.
The San Francisco Chronicle interviewed three experts. Venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson talks about near-term applications (meaning three to five years away).
In energy, there’s everything from energy storage in batteries (to) new solid-state batteries, new solar cells like Nanosys (Inc. of Palo Alto) and Konarka (Technologies Inc. of Massachusetts) and others who are finding novel ways to manufacture solar cells.
Generally speaking, if you control matter more precisely, you can get more efficiency out of any process. Then there is a variety of near-term opportunities in drug delivery and eventually therapeutics. But diagnostics, sensors, initially, because you don’t have to go through the same hoops for one of those products as you do for a therapeutic agent.
My suspicion is that energy conservation and better batteries may be the “killer app” for nanotechnology over the next decade. Of course, energy is Lynne Kiesling’s turf, including her recent posts on cars as distributed generation sites, potential superconductors, and the Toyota Prius.
For Discussion. What factors will cause the price of energy to rise over the next decade, and what factors will cause the price of energy to fall?