Intel, as reported in today's New York Times, announced an overhaul of basic chip design. Industry press releases call it the "most significant change" in chip design since the development of the integrated circuit in the 1960s. They key lies in a new transistor design that uses a hafnium-based insulating layer and a metal-gate electrode (vs. silicon gate electrodes and silicon dioxide as the insulator in current designs). According to the John Markoff, the new design will allow Intel to make further incremental advances with chip features as fine as 45 nanometers.
While only time will support this claim, it is interesting to see that the announcement came out a day after the Boston Globe reported that the Cambridge City Council, following on the heels of Berkeley, was considering regulations for nanoparticle research (just as they did for recombinant DNA research c. 1976).
So here we see the two faces of nano again - the continued development of nanoscale electronics with economic implications in the 10s of billions of dollars and policy makers' continued fixation on EHS issues. This is not to say that EHS issues are not worth considering...but is the obsession on EHS concerns, which seems largely an inside-the-Beltway phenomenon, at the neglect of other issues the best way to proceed?