Delineating the emergence of nanotechnologies that offer new functionalities is an important element in an anticipatory approach to the governance of nanotechnology and its potential impacts. This paper examines the transition to next generation active nanotechnologies which incorporate functions that respond to the environment or systems concepts that combine devices and structures that are dynamic and which may change their states in use. We develop an approach to identifying these active nanotechnologies and then use bibliometric analysis to examine the extent of research papers and patents involving these concepts. We also examine references to environmental, health, and safety concepts in these papers, given that these next generation nanotechnologies are likely to have risk profiles that are different from those of first-generation passive nanomaterials. Our results show a steady growth overall in focus on active nanotechnologies in the research literature and in patents over the study period of 1990–2010. We also find an increase in consideration given to environmental, health, and safety topics. While gaps are highlighted in our understanding of research and innovation in active nanotechnologies, the results suggest that there is beginning to be a shift to active nanotechnologies, with the implication that governance processes need to be conscious of this shift and to prepare for it.
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Interviews were conducted with Mihail C. Roco by telephone on September 7, 2012, and in-person on February 18, 2013 at the National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA.
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We thank David Guston, Kathy Eggleson, and Fred Klaessig for their helpful suggestions on an earlier version of this paper, which was presented at the Workshop on the Anticipatory Governance of Complex Engineered Nanomaterials. This study was undertaken with support from the US National Science Foundation under Award # 0937591 (Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University), Award # 1235693 (Collaborative Research: Workshop on the Anticipatory Governance of Complex Engineered Nanomaterials), and Award # 1542174 (NNCI: Southeastern Nanotechnology Infrastructure Corridor). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsors.
Guest Editors: Kathleen Eggleson, David H. Guston
This article is part of the Special Focus on Anticipatory Governance of Next Generation Nanotechnology
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Suominen, A., Li, Y., Youtie, J. et al. A bibliometric analysis of the development of next generation active nanotechnologies. J Nanopart Res 18, 270 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11051-016-3578-8
- Active nanotechnology
- Systems of nanotechnology
- Environmental, health, and safety
- Science and technology survey