Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The Scientific Reality behind Nanotechnology

28.07.2003


Nanotechnology is an emerging range of technologies in which medicine and engineering meet physics and chemistry. Nanotechnology supporters claim that the machines and materials it may produce will mean faster computers, less pollution and cheaper energy, and longer and healthier lives.



Critics, however - from Prince Charles to Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton - fear that nanomachines could run amok and turn the surface of the Earth into an uninhabitable morass. Environmentalists also question the safety of nanoparticles.

The debate, like that on genetically modified food, is noisy but often uninformative. Before the technology has even emerged, the debate has largely become polarised into utopian and dystopian visions.


In a report published today (28th July 2003), a team at the University of Sheffield funded by the Economic and Social Research Council investigates the scientific reality behind nanotechnology, and looks at the hopes and the fears that it raises - and provides a sober assessment of the possibilities that will help both sides of the debate.

The Social and Economic Challenges of Nanotechnology is the result of collaboration between a social scientist and a natural scientist: Professor Stephen Wood of the ESRC Centre of Innovation and Organisation (COI), and Professor Richard Jones of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, with Alison Geldart (COI), all at the University of Sheffield. It describes the emerging atom-by-atom science of nanotechnology and discusses the sweeping social and economic changes it might bring.

The word nanotechnology has been used to refer to everything from mundane, here and now applications, like stain-resistant trousers, to the most speculative extrapolations, such as self-replicating nano-robots. The report carefully distinguishes between what these technologies are delivering now, what may be possible in the future, and what is likely to remain beyond the bounds of feasibility.

The role of social science in nanotechnology´s development should be more than one of smoothing the path for its acceptance. Social science can help construct the lens (or lenses) through which we see nanotechnology, and understand its implications so these can be anticipated and incorporated into development.

Nanotechnology is also an opportunity to investigate broader themes, such as an evaluation of the drivers behind the technology development process, how society deals with risks under uncertainty, and issues of inequities and economic divides.

Easily readable, the report serves as a primer for those wanting to know what nanotechnology means. For those already engaged in the technology, boosters and doubters alike, it will become a major reference.

For further information contact:

Professor Stephen Wood, +44-0207-272-1558 or 0771-7377-185, s.j.wood@sheffield.ac.uk

Professor Richard Jones, +44-0114-2224530, r.a.l.jones@sheffield.ac.uk

Anna Hinds | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.esrc.ac.uk
http://www.regard.ac.uk.

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Seeing on the Quick: New Insights into Active Vision in the Brain
15.08.2018 | Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

nachricht New Approach to Treating Chronic Itch
15.08.2018 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

Im Focus: Lining up surprising behaviors of superconductor with one of the world's strongest magnets

Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur

What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

2018 Work Research Conference

25.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

15.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Diving robots find Antarctic winter seas exhale surprising amounts of carbon dioxide

15.08.2018 | Earth Sciences

Early opaque universe linked to galaxy scarcity

15.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>