Here in the U.S., we're putting nanotechnology to work making everyday products better, from car parts to packaging, paint to skin cream. Around the world, however, the brightest minds of this generation are focusing on nanotechnology as the solution to our very biggest global problems. The goal is nothing less than using nanotechnology to bring the basic necessities of life to every corner of the globe, raising the standard of living for every citizen of the world, and helping facilitate world peace with more universal abundance.
Sound audacious? You bet. And I was fortunate enough to play a part in this next wave at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting of The New Champions in Tianjen, China. Scientists, government officials and business leaders came from scores of countries on every continent, all seeking technology-based answers to the challenges that face all 6.7 billion citizens of our planet. I saw incredible cooperation between science and industry, developed and developing countries, each looking to nanotechnology as the accepted, adopted science most likely to address the most crucial needs facing us all:
- Clean water. A simple, low-cost approach could save millions who die of malaria and other waterborne diseases. And imagine the quality of life improvement if clean water were readily available anywhere.
- Cheap, clean energy. We're all looking for a way to erase our carbon footprint from the environment. However, for so many in the world, the lack of a power source denies them the boon of 21st century technology -- light, heat, communications, education. Nano-enabled solar panels, energy cells and other generation solutions are at the forefront of research, with conservation technologies close behind.
- Clean air. It's a problem for all of us, but developing nations often suffer disproportionately because they lack environmental technologies. Nanotech could help.
- Disease control. Nanotechnology could make medicines less costly and easier to use and store.
- Food purity. Like clean water, a healthier food supply and better preservation techniques could prevent illness and increase life quality and expectancy.
Based on conversations with my fellow conference participants, I predict these most pressing problems will be solved by the under-40 age group. Visionary scientists were well-represented in the Young Global Leaders, a group of 245 young executives, public figures and intellectuals from 65 countries recognized by the World Economic Forum for their leadership potential in shaping the future.
And the geography represented by attendees? It matched the worldwide geography of the issues. The U.S., Europe, Asia and the other accepted knowledge centers were well represented, of course. However, the circle also included countries you might not expect, nations who see nanotechnology as their chance for progress by leaps and bounds: Palestine, Pakistan, Kenya, Turkey, and Costa Rica are just a few. Universities have developed centers of learning where scientists are creating home-grown nanotech cognoscenti. Financing is going into advanced manufacturing facilities and a work force to operate them. In the years ahead, every corner of the globe will be solving the problems we face and have the cost effective powerhouse manufacturing to make solutions into reality.
Yes, change is coming. Nanotechnology is the central theme and catalyst. I hope you believe as I do, that it's going to make all the difference in the world.
Scott E. Rickert is chief executive of Nanofilm, Ltd., located in Valley View, Ohio.