One nanometer indicates an extremely small size, one billionth of a meter and one-millionth of a millimeter. In other words: a nanometer is to an apple, as an apple is to the Earth. The world of particles measurable in nanometers is, therefore, that of atoms and molecules, and when we speak of “nanotechnologies,” we refer to structures and systems that operate on a nanometric scale.
NanOpinion is a project funded by the European Community that brings together 17 partners from 11 countries intending to monitor public opinion about what are the hopes of citizens with respect to innovation deriving from nanotechnologies. The project is intended for all citizens. Dialogue is facilitated online, with awareness-raising events and through school training programs.
With the invention of the new generation of microscopes in the 1980s, it was possible to directly visualize and manipulate atoms and molecules. This has allowed the study of nanomaterials and the discovery of their exceptional properties useful for creating innovative materials and devices.
As a result, the use of nanotechnology is revolutionizing many sectors, such as medicine, information, and communication technology, cosmetics, the food industry, energy, and the environment. One field that has seen enormous changes thanks to nanotechnologies is that of electronics; just look at mobile phones, which are getting smaller, more efficient, and multifunctional.
There are already over 1,000 products on the market that use nanomaterials, and nanotechnologies are likely to be used more and more. In the future, our lives could change through numerous technological innovations, such as drugs that, once taken, can be activated and controlled externally, and data could be collected and sent to the doctor in order to define the therapy; nano-sized drugs that reach cancer cells; Skin “tattoos” that monitor salts and other metabolic levels and warn athletes or people with diabetes; integrated energy supply systems (in textiles, shoes, etc.) that store solar energy to charge electronic devices; flexible and transparent solar panels integrated into windows, tiles, etc .; surfaces and fabrics that remove harmful smog-related gases from urban air; smart food packages that have sensors to detect spoilage or contamination and that have a monitoring/communication system to alert the manufacturer and retailer, and many more.
Nanotechnologies are undoubtedly changing our lives for the better, but perhaps they are not as well known as they should be. For this reason, the NanOpinion project, in addition to providing citizens with a useful guide to this innovation, proposes a survey understand citizens’ degree of knowledge about nanotechnologies and their opinions on it.
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