Feeds

Scientists call for nanotech caution

No grey goo apocalypse likely, but still...

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

New hybrid storage solutions

A new report has called for more research into the effects of nanoparticles on the environment and on human health. The Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineers (RAE) asks for tighter regulation of nanotechnology research, and has recommended to the British government that production of 'free' nanoparticles should be specifically prohibited until more is known.

In the meantime, it recommends that both nanoparticles and nanotubes should be treated as new chemicals under UK and European law, as this would mean they would have to go through rigorous safety tests and would be appropriately labelled.

The report follows a year-long independent study of the technology, commissioned by the government in June 2003. Its cautious tone is not surprising: science took a public battering during the row over genetically modified food, and the Royal Society and RAE would clearly prefer the public to view their approach as careful, not cavalier.

While acknowledging the potential benefits of nanotechnology, the report cautions against presenting it a a solution to every problem, to avoid sparking a backlash. It says that the lack of evidence about the risks it poses has resulted in considerable uncertainty - both in the public, and in the scientific community.

Nanotech also has its own image problems, sparked by Eric Drexler's now infamous description of runaway replication, a nightmare scenario in which the world is consumed by replicating nanobots and turned into grey goo. Drexler has subsequently said he thinks this is actually very unlikely, but the notion is so vivid, it still persists.

The Prince of Wales has also called for a careful approach: in an article in the Independent of Sunday he described his concerns that nanotechnology had the potential to be both physically and economically harmful if is it not used correctly.

Meanwhile, Nanotech enthusiasts point to the ways it could transform our lives through revolutions in computing, medical research and instrumentation, and by taking electronics beyond current limits. The economic impact would also be huge: Philippe Busquin, European Research Commissioner, has described the technology as "the oil of the future economy".

Lord Sainsbury, the Minister for Science and Innovation, welcomed the report. "We have learned that it is neccessary with major technologies to ensure that the debate takes place 'upstream'," he said.

He thanked both the Royal Society and The Royal Academy of Engineers for their work, and promised a formal government reponse to the report by the end of the year, after careful reflection on the recommendations.

You can read the report here. ®

Related stories

Prince Charles gives forth on nanotech
Europe sees nano-electronics as 'future oil'
World safe from nanobot 'grey goo'
Nanotech buckyballs kill fish
UK.gov pumps £90m into nanotech
Nano-technology more investor folly?
Nanotechnology may be over-hyped

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Boffins: Behold the SILICON CHEAPNESS of our tiny, radio-signal-munching IoT sensor
Single ant-sized Stanford chip combines radio, 'puter, antenna
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
TROUT and EELS in SINISTER PACT to RULE the oceans
Slimy chums form deadly alliance to sweep seas
Drones swarm over bearded Brit billionaire's island getaway
Just to take lovely pictures though, after Richard Branson invests in 3D Robotics
Chelyabinsk-sized SURPRISE asteroid to skim Earth, satnav birds
Space rock appears out of nowhere, buzzes planet on Sunday
California blue whale numbers soar to historical levels, say boffins
Still far too many of them being struck by US ships, mind
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.