A billionth of a meter goes the distance

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It was a tough crowd, but the scientist remained unfazed and continued his presentation on nanobacteria as he pointed to slides of Holstein cows.

Many in that nearly-filled ballroom at a Washington, DC, hotel were not only interested in what this scientist had to say, but were waiting for their chance to shoot him down in front of his peers for discussing his research and for suggesting that it was imperative for life-science industries to delve into the realm of the nanometer.

The name of this scientist and the conference he spoke at is irrelevant. It is how he was received that is most interesting. And here it is, two years later, and it would probably not be all that surprising to find that same scientist, grinning happily and finally validated for no longer being labeled a wingnut.

These days, the nanometer scale is touching virtually every corner of the contamination-control industry.

Product dimensions are dropping, and many manufacturers of microelectronic devices, like micro electro mechanical systems (MEMS) makers, are exploiting the smaller geometries to launch faster telecommunication bandwidth speeds.

Smaller dimensions mean that micro-contamination will now have to be taken in to account in the manufacturing process. Al Lieberman, the father of the particle counter, recently said that particle size ranges would most likely need to be extended to the nanometer by the ISO/TC 209 committee.

And that brings us back to the subject of nanobacteria, some strands of which Tampa, FL-based NanobacLabs calls an “emerging infectious disease” that has “no known benefit to humans.”

In fact, the medical nanotechnology-focused pharmaceutical company describes nanobacteria as almost stealth-like; expanding, contracting, moving and functioning like a colony. That could spell trouble if it moves into a pharmaceutical lot or even death if it sets up shop in a food-processing environment.

On the flip side, uncovering the secrets of nanotechnology through research and development could vastly improve the quality of life in virtually every industry that embraces contamination control as well as the lives of the constituents those markets serve.

Two years ago, a man stood before a crowd to talk about his research on nanobacteria, a subject that seemed to some as far-fetched as it was ridiculous. But now, in the absurd times that we are living in, the importance of nanotechnology is starting to catch on.

Are you?

Mark A. DeSorbo
Associate Editor


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