Congress Greenlights Nanotechnology R&D Measure

Feds budgets a few billion bucks for nanotechnology R&D. Nanoparticles could help produce smaller, faster microprocessors.

WASHINGTON—Trying to tie up loose ends before heading home for the year, Congress this week passed legislation dedicating nearly $3.7 billion for nanotechnology research and development.

Following Senate approval earlier in the week, the House of Representatives Thursday approved the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, which names The National Science Foundation as the lead R&D agency. The Department of Energy, Department of Commerce, NASA, the EPA and other agencies will participate in the nanotechnology project.

The manufacturing industry lobbied for the measure as a means of igniting economic growth, arguing that Europe and Japan were positioned to out-pace the United States in nano-science advancement absent a stronger federal role. Scientists have said that nanoparticles can improve and strengthen traditional manufacturing materials such as steel and will help produce smaller, faster electronic devices.

"As in so many other areas, we can lead the world, or we can put off investment in research and development and find ourselves playing catch-up," said David Peyton, technology policy director at the National Association of Manufacturers, after the House approved the bill. "If we want to keep pushing the frontier in materials science, it will have to involve working with smaller and smaller particles."

The legislation requires a panel to advise the White House on nanotechnology issues, and it creates a National Nanotechnology Coordination Office and an American Nanotechnology Preparedness Center.