The branch that promises a lot of money
- as long as it is safe
"The spectre of possible harm whether real or imagined threatens to slow the development of nanotechnology unless sound, independent and authoritative information is developed on what the risks are, and how to avoid them," Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies Chief Science Advisor Andrew Maynard and his co-authors write.
"We are running out of time to 'get it right.' Last year, more than $32 billion in products containing nano-materials were sold globally. By 2014, Lux Research estimates that $2.6 trillion in manufactured goods will incorporate nanotechnology," asserts Maynard. "If the public loses confidence in the commitment of governments, business, and the science community to conduct sound and systematic research into possible risks, then the enormous potential of nanotechnology will be squandered. We cannot let that happen."
"Fears over the possible dangers of some nanotechnologies may be exaggerated, but they are not necessarily unfounded," say the authors. "Recent studies examining the toxicity of engineered nanomaterials in cell cultures and animals have shown that size, surface area, surface chemistry, solubility and possibly shape, all play a role in determining the potential for nanomaterials to cause harm."
The paper outlines Five Grand Challenges to "stimulate research that is imaginative, innovative, timely and above all relevant to the safety of nanotechnology." They include the development of: