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 The hidden structure of the periodic system
17.06.2019 | Max-Planck-Institut für Mathematik in den Naturwissenschaften (MPIMIS)

nachricht Tiny probe that senses deep in the lung set to shed light on disease
17.06.2019 | University of Edinburgh

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: The hidden structure of the periodic system

The well-known representation of chemical elements is just one example of how objects can be arranged and classified

The periodic table of elements that most chemistry books depict is only one special case. This tabular overview of the chemical elements, which goes back to...

Im Focus: MPSD team discovers light-induced ferroelectricity in strontium titanate

Light can be used not only to measure materials’ properties, but also to change them. Especially interesting are those cases in which the function of a material can be modified, such as its ability to conduct electricity or to store information in its magnetic state. A team led by Andrea Cavalleri from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg used terahertz frequency light pulses to transform a non-ferroelectric material into a ferroelectric one.

Ferroelectricity is a state in which the constituent lattice “looks” in one specific direction, forming a macroscopic electrical polarisation. The ability to...

Im Focus: Determining the Earth’s gravity field more accurately than ever before

Researchers at TU Graz calculate the most accurate gravity field determination of the Earth using 1.16 billion satellite measurements. This yields valuable knowledge for climate research.

The Earth’s gravity fluctuates from place to place. Geodesists use this phenomenon to observe geodynamic and climatological processes. Using...

Im Focus: Tube anemone has the largest animal mitochondrial genome ever sequenced

Discovery by Brazilian and US researchers could change the classification of two species, which appear more akin to jellyfish than was thought.

The tube anemone Isarachnanthus nocturnus is only 15 cm long but has the largest mitochondrial genome of any animal sequenced to date, with 80,923 base pairs....

Im Focus: Tiny light box opens new doors into the nanoworld

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have discovered a completely new way of capturing, amplifying and linking light to matter at the nanolevel. Using a tiny box, built from stacked atomically thin material, they have succeeded in creating a type of feedback loop in which light and matter become one. The discovery, which was recently published in Nature Nanotechnology, opens up new possibilities in the world of nanophotonics.

Photonics is concerned with various means of using light. Fibre-optic communication is an example of photonics, as is the technology behind photodetectors and...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Novel communications architecture for future ultra-high speed wireless networks

17.06.2019 | Information Technology

Climate Change in West Africa

17.06.2019 | Earth Sciences

Robotic fish to replace animal testing

17.06.2019 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>