Nanotech in Oregon

By Garlynn Woodsong of Portland, Oregon. Garlyn is "a geographer by training, a PSU graduate who went to MLC for high school and has family roots in both urban and rural Oregon."

The White House recently budgeted a new $8 million nanotechnology research center for Oregon. This will likely be located in Corvallis, though all of the major research institutions in the state are involved.

With this announcement, it seems like Oregon may be trying to do with nanotech what San Francisco is trying to do with biotech: Get the jump on an emerging new technology, attract the best and the brightest minds, and use this edge to compete successfully throughout the lifetime of the technology as it matures.

Will nanotechnology be the new big thing that pumps the state's economy back to life, creates jobs throughout the state, and attracts educated, talented people from elsewhere? Will it energize places like Portland's South Waterfront development, or will it cause more suburban office campus-style sprawl development?

What does this mean for the future of the state, and how does it affect the progessive vision?


  • (Show?)

    It's hard to see any connection to South Waterfront. OHSU wasn't listed among the consortium in the release I saw. I also see that some Hanford-related folks are involved -- now there's a group whose motives should be questioned. Does "nano" mean "nuclear"? As in, weapons? Or waste?

  • Thedude (unverified)

    Jack bog always looking on the bright side of life. Thanks for your usual negative contribution. Maybe nano technology will help cure your negative depression. Wouldn't that be ironic Bog.

  • JoanneR (unverified)

    Nano does not mean nuclear. Nano technology is currently being investigated to promote the development of treatments of diseases like cancer, as well as an astounding number of other applications. The technology is so new that the number of application is considered to currently be relatively 'small' compared to other more established technologies. To learn more about nano technology, and in particular the Federal Government's funding of nanotechnology research take this link. National Nanotechnology Innitiative

    I don't know how much of an impact this will have on the waterfront development. Nanotechnology, while it will certainly be very important to medical research, has many more current and potential applications in engeneering, materials development, energy, etc. I know that there are several colleges in the Portland area, but I don't know what types of science and technology they speciallize in. I had the impression that OSU and UO had curricula that were pointed more in the direction of those disciplines.

    I am glad to hear that Oregon will have the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of such an important new technology.

  • Alice (unverified)

    Maybe we need a NanoTram to jumpstart nanotech in Corvallis?

    Y'all think I'm joking, right? Wrong.

    Definition of Nanotram

    One of the most interesting challenges in the area of nanotechnology is the precise transport of nano-objects from one place on a nanostructure to another by a defined route. Researchers have now begun to overcome this challenge: there are three "stops" on the route of their new nanoscopic "tram" made of DNA.

    On the upside: itsy-bitsy budgets.

    On the downside: tiny trams can have HUGE cost overruns.

  • (Show?)

    nanotechnology can be really cool, or it can turn you into an insane, meglomaniacal monster willing to kill even those you love in your quest to conquer the world/galaxy/universe. it must be used responsibly to ensure the wrong people are not given superhuman powers. however, in time, we can all become immortal and able to do groovy stuff like see through walls, fly, and assimilate even dirt as nutrition. i'm looking forward to eye enhancements that let me read Moby Dick in twelve minutes and at least 4 extra arms.

  • Carl (unverified)

    Joanne R said

    "I am glad to hear that Oregon will have the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of such an important new technology.<"

    "Ground floor"?

    It's my understanding that nano technology is well beyond the "ground floor" and those who did venture in, at least 10 years ago, are leaps and bounds ahead of Oregon.

  • Jeremy R (unverified)

    I would like to praise Joanne R for her wit. That was pretty funny.

  • JoanneR (unverified)

    Garlynn, I didn't mean that there were no or very few medical applications for nanotechnology, but that there were many more applications for nanotechnology in areas other than medical than there are in the medical fields.

    Carl, I'd say that what I've seen of the current applications of nanotechnology in current industry would indicate that nanotechnology is at the stage that computers were at about 20 years ago. As far as I'm concerned, that's still ground floor.

  • Garlynn (unverified)


    Fair enough. I wasn't trying to dispute your assertion, simply point out that there are some applications, and that therefore this may be a growth business that could find a home in Portland's emerging South Waterfront district.

    I would completely agree that any company getting into nanotech now is getting in on the ground floor. I would definitely compare nanotech today to computers in the 1950s, when they had technically been around for about ten years, and some of the first applications were emerging for the government and extremely large corporations and universities.

    If the predictions for this technology's potential come true, it will revolutionalize both society and technology in ways that most people have no inkling of.

  • JoanneR (unverified)

    Garlynn - I gotta agree with you there. Hopefully there will be enough to go around for both northern and southern Oregon. Truely exciting times are coming in technology.

  • Justin (unverified)

    Okay... guess I'm the one who has to explain it to the policy wonks.

    Nanotechnology is the study and application of very small systems and devices. Typically, these consist of developments into machines and sensors that are typically only a few atoms in size. This contrasts to microtechnology, which are typically hundreds/thousands/millions of atoms in size (which is pretty much where silicon computer chip technology rests). In fact, there may be applications where we can build nanocomputers, that are just 100 to 1,000 times smaller than the current chips. (this doesn't mean your PC will tbe size of a matchstick, however: the chip in your computer is currently around 1/4" wide.

    'get in on the ground floor' ala South Waterfront is a comparison to OHSU's investment in a new biotechnology/medical campus located south of downtown in Portland, OR. What the author has suggested is that by Oregon grabbing early federal funding into nanotechnology, we may have a good chance to develop one of the largest & strongest nanotechnology centers in the world as the technology matures. This does not mean buildling a nanotechnology center at South Waterfront, but at one of the existing engineering schools (OSU being pretty much the only one in Oregon that actually gets funded).

    Note that nanotechnology is still very young, and there really are no applications for it yet, besides some preliminary research done in medicine. It is still very much in its infancy, perhaps 10 to 20 years from being commercially viable/widespread.

    <h2>Another good cliche that could be uses would be 'putting Oregon's foot in the door' for nanotechnology.</h2>
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