New nanotechnology consumer products launched at rate of 3-4 per
29 April 2008
New nanotechnology consumer products are coming on the market at the
rate of 3-4 per week, according to the Project on Emerging
Nanotechnologies' (PEN) inventory of consumer products.
The number of consumer products using nanotechnology has grown from
212 to 609 since PEN launched the world's first online inventory of
manufacturer-identified nanotech goods in March 2006. Health and fitness
items, which include cosmetics and sunscreens, represent 60 percent of
There are 35 automotive products in the PEN inventory, including the
Hummer H2. General Motors Corporation bills the H2 as having a cargo bed
that "uses about seven pounds of molded-in-color nanocomposite parts for
its trim, center bridge, sail panel and box rail protector".
Nanoscale silver is the most cited nanomaterial used. It is found in
143 products or over 20% of the inventory. Carbon, including carbon
nanotubes and fullerenes, is the second highest nanoscale material
cited. Other nanoscale materials explicitly referenced in products are
zinc (including zinc oxide) and titanium (including titanium dioxide),
silica and gold.
In testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee last week, PEN
Project Director David Rejeski cited Ace Silver Plus — one of nine 'nano
toothpastes' in the PEN inventory — as an example of the upsurge in
nanotechnology consumer products in stores. Another toothpaste is
Swissdent Nanowhitening Toothpaste which says it has "calcium peroxides,
in the form of nanoparticles".
The Senate Commerce Committee hearing marks the start of the US
Senate debate on the future direction of the annual $1.5 million federal
investment in nanotechnology research and development (R&D).
While polls show most Americans know little or nothing about
nanotechnology, in 2006 nanotechnology was incorporated into more than
$50 billion in manufactured goods. By 2014, according to Lux Research
estimates, $2.6 trillion in manufactured goods will incorporate
nanotechnology — or about 15% of total global output. Despite a 2006
worldwide investment of $12.4 billion in nanotech R&D, comparatively
little was spent on examining nanotechnology's potential environmental,
health and safety risks.
"Public trust is the 'dark horse' in nanotechnology's future," says
Rejeski in his testimony. "If government and industry do not work to
build public confidence in nanotechnology, consumers may reach for the
'No-Nano' label in the future and investors will put their money
According to Rejeski, "The use of nanotechnology in consumer products
and industrial applications is growing rapidly, with the products listed
in the PEN inventory showing just the tip of the iceberg. Public
perceptions about risks — real and perceived — can have large economic
consequences. How consumers respond to these early products, in food,
electronics, health care, clothing and cars, is a litmus test for
broader market acceptance of nanotechnologies in the future."
Nanotechnology is the ability to measure, see, manipulate and
manufacture things usually between 1 and 100 nanometers (nm). A
nanometer is one billionth of a meter. A human hair is roughly 100,000
The searchable list of nanotechnology merchandise — containing
everything from nanotech diamonds and cooking oil, to golf clubs and
iPhones — is available free at: