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“Good things come in small packages,” is a comment we often hear around Christmas time. For those in the burgeoning field of nanotechnology, though, the maxim has year-round relevance. We define nanotechnology as the building of substances and structures so tiny as to be essentially invisible. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. By comparison, a human hair is 80,000 nanometers wide. Nanotechnology involves fabricating nanomaterials and forging them into useful products. At this level, however, material properties change and can spawn unintended side effects.

A scarcity of empirical data — especially regarding losses — hampers nanotechnology-related risk dialogue. Nanotechnology is a growing niche, so there is little litigation or loss history to analyze. Thus, much of the discussion of nanotechnology and its management flows from hypothetical examples.

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