The Second Cycle of Nanotechnology?

The time may be coming for nanotechnology to really take off. There are many descriptions of how technology become ingrained in the public perception. Most observations are based on the “business cycle” that relates to the profitability of developing a produce. There is also a cycle that relates to the application of technology and its acceptance by the general public.

The “business cycle” usually is described as an “S” curve. [Ref. 1] The initial phase of the effort requires considerable expenditure of funds to develop a product that meets the initial goals of the development effort. Assuming that is achieved, and many times it is not, then there is the development of a process to produce the ”technology” product. The acquisition by the early adopters will provide feedback for modifications. The level of acceptance will provide some feedback on whether the development will be a viable success. Assuming that this is progressing as desired, the organization will start recovering their investment and “making” money of this effort. After a period of time, the technology product matures and revenue stream diminishes until it is replaced by another product.

It is possible to ask a similar question about technology, in particular nanotechnology. Is there a cycle that relates to the technology itself? The initial one that comes to mind is the technology adoption lifecycle.   It is traditionally represented as a bell-curve that consists of innovators, early adaptors, early majority, late majority, and laggards. [Ref. 2] Another aspect is from observations on the web. Companies are measured by the length of time it takes to reach 100 million customers/clients/users. The faster the companies that “magic” number, the more perceived value it has. The “geeks” or “Techies” are normally very knowledgeable about developments, but it is not until the “mainstream” public becomes aware that “things” start to happen.

Recently, mid-August 2014, I was traveling on Alaska Airlines and picked up their Alaska Airlines Magazine. I was surprised to find an article on page 136 of the August issue entitled: Big Potential in Going Small” by Sally James. Her article is spread over 9 pages and can be found on line [Ref. 3]. It is a very good overview article that presents background information and some elements of current research efforts. It talks about the efforts ongoing at the University of Washington. The potential benefits of currently investigated applications are presented along with the possible dangers. This article has been receiving readership among the passengers of Alaska Airlines, which is not representative of the general population. However, one tends to read all the articles in an airline’s magazine to pass the time. Consequently, people would not read “tech” articles will be reading it.

The question to ponder is: Whether this article represents the start of another generation of articles on nanotechnology that will reach a wider portion of the general population and achieve the critical number of readers for nanotechnology to be understood and used by the majority of people?




[3]  pages 136-150

About Walt

I have been involved in various aspects of nanotechnology since the late 1970s. My interest in promoting nano-safety began in 2006 and produced a white paper in 2007 explaining the four pillars of nano-safety. I am a technology futurist and is currently focused on nanoelectronics, single digit nanomaterials, and 3D printing at the nanoscale. My experience includes three startups, two of which I founded, 13 years at SEMATECH, where I was a Senior Fellow of the technical staff when I left, and 12 years at General Electric with nine of them on corporate staff. I have a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, an MBA from James Madison University, and a B.S. in Physics from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Category(s): Nanotechnology

Leave a Reply