Sunday, August 20, 2006

European companies: Nano is nature

Nanotechnology may be golf clubs and squash rackets in the minds of the U.S. public. In Europe, companies would like to make sure that people think "nature" when they think "nano."

This may or may not be a reaction to the public relations disaster that surrounded biotechnology and GMOs in Europe. But it is noticeable how absent the "technology" part is from most descriptions of nanotech products.

Thomas Merlo & Partner AG, for example, trademarked the name Nano Nuno® for their line of kitchenware and bed and table covers. The tagline for their nanotech-based products: “High tech inspired by nature.”

And the nature frame appears in product names, catalog descriptions, and on web sites. Heinrich Heine GmbH, a German mail order department store, sells Nano Nuno® placemats:

“Das innovative Designprodukt besitzt die natürliche Oberflächenstruktur des Lotusblattes - Fettspritzer, Salatsauce, Rotwein oder Kaffee perlen wie Regenwasser ab und lassen sich ganz einfach abtupfen, und das Wende-Platzset ist wieder sauber.”

[“The innovatively designed product has the same natural surface structure as the leaf of a lotus flower – grease, salad dressing, red wine or coffee roll off like a drop of rain and can just be wiped off. And the placemat is clean again.”]

The Lotus Effect® trademark I blogged about on Friday feeds directly into the “nano is nature” idea. ProIdee, the German equivalent of SharperImage, for example, sells Nano Nuno® umbrellas. As their catalog puts it: nano just copies nature:

“In der Natur sorgt eine winzige, raue Nanostruktur auf den Blättern der Lotuspflanze für einen faszinierenden Effekt: Schmutz und Wasser perlen einfach ab. Denn die Haftfläche ist wesentlich geringer als bei einer glatten Oberfläche. Ihr NanoNuno®-Regenschirm funktioniert nach diesem natürlichen Prinzip. So dringt Feuchtigkeit erst gar nicht ins Gewebe. Kein umständliches Trocknen. Dieses Verfahren wurde in jahrelanger Forschung in der Schweiz entwickelt.

[“In nature, the leaves of the lotus flower are covered with tiny, fine-grained nanostructures that have a fascinating effect: dirt and water simply roll off. That’s because there’s much less direct surface area that these materials can attach themselves to. Your NanoNuno® umbrella is based on the same principle. That also means that humidity can’t get into the fabric. No hassle with wet umbrellas. The procedure was developed in years of research in Switzerland.”]