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Buyer—and Seller—beware

by Rick Mullin
December 20, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 51


Purchasers of nanomaterials such as nanotubes, fullerenes, and nanoparticles frequently fail to get what they pay for, a new report by Lux Research warns.

The report, "Nanomaterials: Buyer Beware," details several "horror stories" in which buyers received carbon nanotubes heavily contaminated with leftover catalyst or material that was made up entirely of manufacturing by-products and contaminants. The report also cites a case of an inexperienced user destroying a large quantity of unpurified nanomaterials by using improper purification procedures.

Cristine Roman, chief science officer at CMP Cientfica, a Madrid-based research and consulting firm that specializes in nanomaterials, claims the problems cited by Lux, a nanomaterials research and investment advisory firm, are well known in the industry and are being addressed.

The Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers and other groups have launched efforts to establish standards for nanomaterials. The European Nanobusiness Association recently sponsored a conference in Vienna called Nanotube Quality: The Barrier To Adoption.

However, Matthew Nordan, vice president of research at Lux, says the standards work will not be completed for at least three years. He sees a treacherous situation for both buyers and sellers, given the hundreds of small suppliers serving the market and the inexperience of nanomaterial buyers, who are often "cagey" about their intended use of the materials. For now, the report advises, "both buyers and suppliers must act defensively."


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