BOSTON Scientists and the public agree that the promise of nanotechnology is great, but there are risks to it and they should be governed accordingly.
The new technology, which is making its way into products ranging from food storage containers to computers, is seen differently among scientists than the general public, with scientists appearing to be more concerned in some areas. But in broad categories of risk versus reward both groups seem to agree go slow and be cautious of the technologys deleterious effects. What may be most useful in the future are good, trusted communicators.
These are among the findings of a recent survey that will be presented by Elizabeth Corley, an Arizona State University assistant professor in the School of Public Affairs, on Feb. 15 at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting.
The report is based on a national telephone survey of American households and a sampling of 363 leading U.S. nanotechnology scientists and engineers. It reveals that scientists who have the most insight into a technology with enormous potential -- and that is already emerging in hundreds of products -- are unsure what health and environmental problems might be posed by the technology.
Findings of the report, first published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology (Nov. 25, 2007), were in stark contrast to controversies sparked by the advent of major past technologies, such as nuclear power and genetically modified foods, which scientists perceived as having lower risks than did the public.
Nanotechnology is based on sciences newfound ability to manipulate matter at the smallest scale, on the order of molecules and atoms. The field has enormous potential to develop applications ranging from new antimicrobial materials and tiny probes to sample individual cells in human patients, to vastly more powerful computers and lasers. Already, products with nanotechnology built in include g
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Arizona State University