Foresight Nanotechnology Challenges
Foresight's focus on advancing beneficial nanotechnology includes both delivering the ultimate opportunities of advanced nanotechnology and harvesting the near-term benefits of incremental advances in current nanoscience and nanotechnology. Our efforts are turned to guiding nanotechnology research, public policy and education to address six major challenges that humanity faces.
Balancing humanity’s energy demands while protecting the environment is a major challenge. Nanotechnology will help to solve the dilemma of energy needs and limited planetary resources through more efficient generation, storage and distribution.
The demand for fresh water is increasing. Considering the current rate of consumption and projected population growth, some two-thirds of the world will be affected by drought by the year 2050. Nanotechnology can help solve this problem through improved water purification and filtration.
Humans are living longer lives, yet infectious diseases and cancer continue to kill millions annually. Because of an aging population there could be a 50% increase of new cancer cases by the year 2020. Nanotechnology will enhance the quality of life for human beings through medical diagnostics, drug delivery and customized therapy.
As a set of fundamental technologies that cuts across all industries, nanotech can benefit the environment in a wide variety of ways. Stronger, lighter-weight materials in transportation can reduce fuel use, nano-structured fibers reduce staining and therefore laundering, and low-cost nanosensors will make pollution monitoring affordable. In the longer term, manufacturing processes using productive nanosystems should be able to build our products with little if any waste.
Through May of 2006, Challenge 4 was "Maximizing Productivity of Agriculture"
Pressure on the world's food sources is ever increasing while harvests have fallen short in recent years. It is anticipated that our world population will swell to 8.9 billion by the year 2050 putting even greater demands on agriculture. Precision farming, targeted pest management and the creation of high yield crops are a few nanotech solutions.
Previous challenge: Maximizing Productivity of Agriculture, June 2005 - May 2006
Humanity will need to cooperate as we respond to disasters and critical threats to our survival. A "planetary nervous system" fostering rapid communication and cross-cultural relationships is needed. Nanotechnology applications in electronics will increase access through reduced cost and higher performance of memory, networks, processors and components.
Heavy demands on resources and raw materials are creating challenges on earth, whereas these items are plentiful in space. Current obstacles to developing space are cost, reliability, safety, and performance. Nanotechnology will solve these through improved fuels, smart materials, uniforms and environments.
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