The US House of Representatives on Wednesday approved the spending of US$2.4 billion over the next three years to foster research into nanotechnology, the science of manipulating single atoms and molecules to create new products.
The legislation, passed 405 to 19, would fund and coordinate research and development programs in the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Sponsors, led by Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert said the bill is aimed at keeping the US competitive in a field that has nearly unlimited scientific and economic potential.
They cited National Science Foundation (NSF) estimates that there will be a US$1 trillion global market for nanotechnology in little more than a decade.
Nanotechnology, said Repre-sentative Alcee Hastings "holds the promise of a new Renaissance in our understanding of nature."
Nanotechnology has already been applied in such products as stain-resistant, wrinkle-free pants and ultraviolet-light blocking sunscreens. Coming soon are high-brightness displays for computer screens and televisions.
And in the future, sponsors said, nanotechnology can be used to develop sensors to detect biological agents, new materials for increased computer memory and cancer treatments that directly attack tumor cells.
NSF officials have predicted that all computer chips, half of pharmaceuticals and half of chemical catalysts someday will come from nanotechnology components.