Converging Nanotechnology and Digital Currencies

It was a great pleasure and honor to be the keynote speaker at the World Digital Currency Forum on the 16th December 2019 in Hong Kong, along with my colleague and Asia Pacific CEO of The World Nano Foundation Global Economist Nick Zhao. It was a great opportunity to share with everyone the extraordinary innovation Nanotechnology and Digitally Assets/ Digital Currencies can deliver for our economies and the planet. More importantly these complimentary technologies are now converging bringing the physical and the digital together.

Nanotechnology first came into the public consciousness about a decade ago, but nanoscale innovation has been developing for many decades.  Nanotechnology lets science and industries operate at below molecular level, allowing us to change the rules of physics, chemistry and biology.  Nanoscale technology is a hundred thousand times smaller than a human hair and can transform and enhance any physical or digital asset allowing them to collectively create extraordinary innovation with positive outcomes for sustainable life and economies.

The World Nano Foundation’s aim is to commercialise the ready to go nanotech innovation through smart investments, technology, infrastructure and strategy implementation. This will help to ensure we create a far more decarbonised, decentralised and digitalised global economy.

We shared with the audience some of the areas of nanotechnology that is creating a complete change for almost every industry type, as well as accelerate and secure our digitised future.


Nanotechnology’s unique properties allow huge amounts of data to be stored and transmitted in real time.  Many tiny nano materials or sensors are now being used in clothing and textiles to repel harmful pollutants as well as communicate complex data back to a digital asset.  These technologies have huge benefits for the financial industry but also for electrical devices, healthcare, energy, food, media, telecoms, transport and infrastructure using Smart contracts. 

Many people outside of research organisations and academics can’t fully explain the blockchain or nanotechnology and its impact with any clarity. The reality is that neither of these transformational technologies are yet fully understood by government officials or some investors let alone the wider community.  The real-world applications are enormous and are now already in market. They’re in our mobile phones, drugs our TVs and even our cement. They are now about to enter the market on a scale way beyond any other industrial revolution. Much of which goes unnoticed to the outside world due to the fact this is so small in nature of the technology but infinitely smart.

When it comes to Digital Assets/Digital Currency technology it is perhaps best known as the technology that underpins the cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum, but it can be applied to many different business areas or communities like finance, media, healthcare, identity and any supply chain. Major IT companies, such as IBM, Microsoft, SAP and Oracle have invested heavily in making blockchain usable by business enterprises for these applications, and more.  China has just announced prior to the World Digital Currency Forum Hong Kong event that it plans to launch a global digital currency of its own and it was been reported that one day this may replace the dollar as the currency of choice in the global markets or for smaller countries.  Nanotechnology and Digital assets as well as the blockchain working together will accelerate the speed of change and our ability to sustain our economies and our environment.  The World Digital Bank was at the event and shared with us how they plan to launch various digital currencies starting in Asia and over 40 countries were represented at the World Digital Currency Forum. It has also been reported that the EU as well as the Bank of England are considering their options about their own digital currencies potentially unwritten against their fiat currency. Tech Giants like Facebook have also made their intentions clear and a tipping point for governments and the public is maybe upon us.  


As part of my talk, I also highlighted one example of how the combination of the blockchain and nanotechnology can be applied to a particularly challenging aspect of the supply chain management, namely the huge global criminal marketplace in counterfeit goods. This as we know really hurts business profits, impacts brand trust and undermines customer relationships.  The counterfeit market alone is a trillion-dollar global business and something that a more secure digital asset can potentially eradicate using nanotechnology-based quantum dots as the foundations of any transaction of a physical asset or digital asset.  This is even more fool proof than a DNA fingerprint.  

As most would know by now a blockchain is a type of database that is tamper proof. Data stored in a blockchain cannot be changed (the technical term is immutable), it can be shared among multiple users, and significantly the composition of the data stored is agreed to by multiple users of the blockchain before it can be stored (this process is known as consensus). In short, blockchains as the world is finding out are an incredibly secure way to keep information safe and consistent among multiple participants in a business network.

Furthermore, on this shadowy world of counterfeit goods. Sadly, it’s a big business for criminals. Industry statistics suggest counterfeiting is a $1.8 trillion endeavour that spans the globe. Just about every product is a target for counterfeiters – luxury fashion accessories, fine art, wine, auto parts, pharmaceuticals, sports brands and consumer electronics are some common examples – and this activity impacts businesses and their brands both financially and reputationally and can represent a significant risk for consumers.

So how is the combination of blockchain and nanotechnology being leveraged to fight the counterfeiters as just one example of how nanotechnology will work alongside the blockchain, digital assets or digital currencies?

The World Nano Foundation has companies who have developed highly sophisticated nanomaterials in the form of Quantum dots over the past decade. Quantum dots are nanoscale semiconductor particles that possess notable and extremely useful optical and electrical properties. They measure from 1,000 to 100,000 atoms in size (approximately 10,000 dots would fit across the diameter of a human hair) and they generate light when energy is applied to them or generate energy when light is applied.

We work with nanotech companies who can now create large commercial quantities of quantum dot materials that can be finely tuned to emit predetermined wavelengths of light (in both the visible and non-visible spectrums) with the ability to create billions of unique optical signatures linked to any physical or digital asset. Moreover, they are excitable by numerous excitation energy sources which creates many unique opportunities in the digital and physical space.

These Quantum dots can be incorporated into almost any physical item at time of manufacture, and then provide a unique light signature that establishes absolute product identity. These identities are impossible to copy or clone so that products enhanced by them can be verified as being genuine items and not counterfeits.

When the Quantum dot signature of a product is scanned (via a hand-held scanner or an app on a smartphone), a digital representation is created that is stored on a secure and tamper-proof blockchain platform. It is this platform that allows for tracking of products providing visibility among all participants in their supply chain – from manufacture to customer purchase.

In addition, the blockchain platform is also used to store the unique digital identities of individual customers, and to tie ownership of a product to a customer at purchase time. No longer making it necessary to keep a physical receipt.

For example, a customer purchasing a luxury item that has Quantum dots incorporated into it by its manufacturer can use their smartphone to scan the asset to give them confidence that the product is genuine. As a bonus, the manufacturer is notified that the individual item’s authenticity has been checked and can offer a warranty or loyalty program to the customer in order to establish an enduring brand/customer relationship.

The key thing for the blockchain and the nanotechnology is that they both working together in this example massively impacting the bottom line. Surveys conducted by retailers point to customers not only appreciating being able to prove product authenticity but tending to buy more products where that functionality is available. They also frequent the seller more often.

Almost everyone is a winner – the customer, the retailer and the product brand. Not the criminal counterfeiters.  This has enormous applications in many other fields such as health and wellbeing data and use of trading other commodities.


We also shared with the audience how health and wellbeing, is being sold as healthcare for everyone and as we are seeing almost every government pledging to invest more in healthcare, resources and infrastructure.  The recent international longevity conference we attended highlighted that there should be a complete reassessment of where healthcare budgets are deployed due in part to our ageing populations.  In fact, only a small percentage of government health budgets goes on preventative medicines or diagnostics.  This is where again the advent of nano enabled diagnostics or biomarkers is so important so that we can track our health more accurately in real time rather than any traditional or outdated cumbersome centralized systems, doctors or hospitals.  New-born babies, elderly people, sick hospital patients and sports enthusiasts all stand to gain from the development of wearable technology using nanomaterials linking it back to a rewards and loyalty system using digital assets and the Blockchain. 

These products will bring about the next golden age of healthcare, by allowing the public and medics to be alerted remotely in real time to changes in a patient’s health.

These nanoscale devices will provide early warning systems for a range of people: poorly patients on busy hospital wards; elderly people in care homes at risk of falling or sudden illness; those at risk of anaphylactic shock, characterised by a sudden drop in blood pressure.

By spotting changes in pulse, blood pressure, joint movement and respiration rates, these products could identify sickness before external symptoms reveal themselves. In that way, a patient could be helped sooner.

The blockchain and digital assets have the ability to work together with nano sensors to alert the individual of any actions that would improve their health and wellbeing, again in real time.  A digital currency or asset could reward that community for positive actions or activity and vastly reduce the burden on our healthcare systems.  These nanotechnologies could also stop future pandemics happening as the spread of disease will be stopped using smart data and testing on the move as well as having nano medicines that can treat the root cause.

The World Nano Foundation defines these as enabling technologies where different technologies combine to create extraordinary leapfrog opportunities for the global community to change the dynamics of an entire healthcare eco system.  This would create a massive reduction in the cost of healthcare and make the whole world healthier and more sustainable.


There is immense societal and economic need to treat degenerative and autoimmune diseases. Predicted to reach global annual costs of trillions of dollars and already costing $250 billion for Alzheimer’s. Tragically the young also suffer, including autoimmune attack against the brain in Multiple Sclerosis costing $100 billion. Yet still today there is no cure despite huge investment in drugs and more recently stem cell approaches where costs may soar to $1 million per patient.

The World Nano Foundation is working with our partners who are exploiting nanotechnology to turn the tables by creating nano-medicines  able to target disease sites to treat and heal tissues – a quantum leap for mankind.

We have one extraordinary example of a company who has invented a nanomedicine to heal and repair the brain. Their secret has been to take the “stemness” out of Stem Cells – a growth factor called “LIF” – and formulate it as a nanoparticle using FDA-approved gel to create a synthetic stem cell. This is a game changer – cell-free synthetic stem cells for low cost, high gain.  They are designed to hitch a ride on immune cells that act as a Trojan Horse, carrying the synthetic stem cells to where disease is active – even inside the brain.  Being synthetic, industrial scale production has the potential to provide global access to patients suffering degenerative diseases. Millions of years of evolution of stem cells has been captured at nanoscale – quantum biology with immense power to treat the body without drugs. Preclinical Proof is compelling – with reversal of paralysis in a model of Multiple Sclerosis. The company is working with nature and is uniquely disruptive to lucrative healthcare markets.

Recognized by global awards, this company is now working alongside The World Nano Foundation as it moves into clinical trials – leading the world to treat previously untreatable diseases. Patients will receive an intra-venous injection of the synthetic stem cells (LIF-loaded nanoparticles) predicted to rapidly enter the brain through natural pathways at the blood-brain barrier that are specific for LIF – all part of the unique design covered by patents and suitable for production at scale with minimal effects on the environment.


30 years ago, at the start of the digital revolution main frame computers could only cope with what a typical smartphone can process in less than a fraction of a second and this is because of the highly powerful nano sensors embedded in our modern smart phones. 

With the advent of 5G, and then 6G, 7G and beyond nanotechnology will allow incredible amounts of data to pass via digital assets in a nano second.  However, many countries are now gearing up for 5G by digging up most of our cities to put in new faster fibre optic cable. It is our view and many others that this fibre optic cable will become obsolete within a few years as millimeter wave technology using nano scale innovation will allow us to transmit unlimited amounts of data safely through the airwaves rather than via cumbersome fibre cable without the associated cost and disruption to our urban infrastructures.  This will be much faster and cheaper virtual fibre network that will be able to communicate, process and deliver securely to any digital eco system or asset within a nano second.  The financial benefits on our future smart cities, infrastructure and economies will be unprecedented.

At The World Nano Foundation, we are working with ex-NASA engineers alongside some of the world’s leading telecoms companies to bring this commercially ready innovation to the digital economy.  This will allow for trillions of transactions to run seamlessly across multiple digital or physical assets.  The technology was first used for communication networks between space and earth via the space station.


So, the fusion between nanotechnology and digital assets is now making the next industrial revolution industry 4.0 a reality over the coming years.  This is not a development of the 21st century; it’s in the present as is the emergence of digital currencies.   We are also seeing the potential for 3D printing potentially linked to the blockchain and even food being grown from the lab (no food miles here) without pollutants such as antibiotics in our food or water table or worse plastic particulates. 

Energy will also be able to travel using highly sensitive speed of light cables that will transfer energy as well as data around the world in nano seconds.  This form of technology will have a massive impact on solar energy and the Blockchain can again play a major part in the transaction process. 


We have to embrace these enabling technologies as we have a population that’s going to grow from 6 billion to 9.7 billion in less than 30 years.  We have governments promising healthcare investment for everyone in an unsustainable centralized model that creates the worst outcomes for everyone.   More of the world’s population are living in our urban cities and we need these converging technologies for life to function sustainably.

There are now 7 billion smartphones in the world, and we will have over a trillion nano sensors in operation by 2025 so everything is possible with smart investment.  By 2050 we will have more plastic than fish in our seas and our water table already has far too many antibiotics and other pollutants in it due to over production of animal-based foods.  These technologies can reverse this if we act now.  The plans for global centralized based infrastructure investment are $97 trillion by 2040 and it’s not productive or sustainable.  We’ve all heard about the impacts of climate events and we have to make better decisions using a combination of nanotechnology and digital innovation. 


Experience shows us that innovation brings about huge change to our world and environments.  The last industrial revolution brought great benefits but significant challenges.  Whether that’s burning carbon-based fossil fuels and damaging our atmosphere, or the overuse of antibiotics via our eco systems.  The digital media world is also learning that reliable content from trusted sources or lack of it has opened up all sorts of challenges for our economies as well as governments around fake news and cyber security.   Combining nanotechnology and digital assets can create a force for good – let’s make sure we build a positive legacy for our futures and the next generation that follow on.

We can do this through international collaboration and by ensuring that the public, industry, the media and everyone else fully understand what the opportunity and vision is for our futures. In our small way The World Nano Foundation is trying to do this through our community of over 250,000 people and organizations’ in over 60 countries.

Involving global tech giants from the past such as Steve Wozniak and others like him learning from them about how to avoid mistakes from the past. 

We are at tipping point in these complimentary technologies where the physical and the digital will start to converge as one. What we must never forget is it has to bring a  currency of life “ not just a currency of  short-term gain over long term thinking or there will be no value chain or model that will sustain itself.  We can harness and seize this time to create positive but a lasting impact.