Nanotechnology enables us to understand and manipulate atoms and molecules—we can harness changes at the nanoscale to make new and improved materials and devices. Nanotechnology has led to advances in medical treatments, clean energy technologies, and semiconductor chips that power our modern lives. To celebrate 20 years of U.S. leadership in nanotechnology since the passing of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, over 300 members of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) community gathered for a day-long symposium. The event featured Arati Prabhakar, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Ron Wyden, Senator from Oregon and author of the legislation; and NASA astronaut Kathleen Rubins.

At the symposium, leaders from academia, government, and industry spoke about U.S. success in nanotechnology and future directions in this field. President Joe Biden, as well as former President Bill Clinton and his assistant for science and technology, Neal Lane, also submitted words of support. Discussions focused on the proactive and responsible development of new technologies; Nobel Prize-winning fundamental scientific advances; the NNI community’s efforts around education and workforce development; the essential role of shared infrastructures; and the commercialization of nanotechnologies that provide solutions to the nation’s biggest challenges.

Director Prabhakar spoke about the scientific revolution at the nanoscale, which has led to phenomenal technological advances. She emphasized that the insight that we gain at the nanoscale has deep implications for our engineering systems. Director Prabhakar also noted that this is an opportune moment to stop and celebrate the enormous progress that has been made, and that the future is still very bright.

The symposium included both established and early career professionals, as well as those outside the field of nanotechnology who have benefited from NNI investments. Common themes of discussions were the importance of interdisciplinary teams and training; the accessibility of user facilities by scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs from around the country; the importance of inspiring and training the next generation in nanotechnology; and the role of science communication to illustrate what nanotechnology is and its role in society to the general public. Throughout the symposium speakers and participants envisioned how nanotechnology can further transform society and help address ongoing and future societal challenges, such as climate change, air and water pollution, and infectious diseases.

The NNI is a U.S. government research and development initiative. Twenty federal departments, independent agencies, and commissions work together toward the shared vision of a future in which the ability to understand and control matter at the nanoscale leads to ongoing revolutions in technology and industry that benefit society. The NNI is coordinated under the auspices of the White House National Science and Technology Council (NSTC). To learn more about the NNI, please click here.


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