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Tech Brief: Nano Rising

By: Jeb Gleason-Allured, Editor
Posted: April 22, 2008, from the May 2008 issue of P&F magazine.

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  • May 2008 issue, pg. 20—2 pages
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According to the Center, “nanotechnology was incorporated into more than $50 billion in manufactured goods.” And, “since fiscal year 2001, the US has invested over $8 billion in nanotechnology research. In 2006 alone, over $12 billion was spent worldwide on nanotechnology research and development by governments and industry.” According to the group, the United States leads the nanotechnology pack, with 52% of the reported products. In second place was East Asia. The group maintains that the nanotech boom is just the beginning, and expects the number to grow rapidly over the next few years. To date, the flavor and fragrance industry has represented a tiny sliver of this boom.

Though definitions of what is—and is not—“nano” vary, the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) uses three criteria:

  • “Research and technology development at the atomic, molecular or macromolecular levels, in the length scale of approximately 1–100 nanometer range.” (Just a fraction of the width of a human hair.) 
  • “Creating and using structures, devices and systems that have novel properties and functions because of their small and/or intermediate size.” 
  • “Ability to control or manipulate on the atomic scale.”

Key nanomaterials include fullerenes, which are typically spherical, closed and hollow aromatic carbon compounds composed of 12 pentagonal and varying numbers of hexagonal faces, and nanotubes, which are typically carbon microscopic tubes measured in nanometers. These materials can be used for an almost endless array of effects, including controlled release of flavors and fragrances, masking of off-flavors, and protection of volatile flavor compounds in the service of enhanced shelf-life. But health worries abound.

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