This evidence was taken on November 5th 2003 at the World Nano-economic Congress, London, in the presence of Professor Ray Oliver, Nanotechnology Working Group member, and Dr Andrew Dunn of the Royal Society. The evidence was written up by the secretariat and has been sent to Prof. Flodstrom for comment. At the time of going to press no comments had been received.
Definition and applications of nanoscience and nanotechnology
Prof. Flodstrom felt that nanoscience and nanotechnology are multifaceted and contain a mixture of old and new, with many older branches of science such as organic chemistry trying to adopt the ‘nano’ label in order to attract funds. Amongst the new developments to emerge from nanotechnology, Prof. Flodstrom cited new phenomena related to reduced dimensions, grain size reduction in steel resulting in much enhanced strength, and new electronics operating with dimensions below electron scattering lengths.
When asked whether he thought a nanotechnology industry existed today, Prof. Flodstrum though not, but considered this a possibility in the far future. He drew comparison with the Swedish steel industry of 40 years ago which then produced steel with macro-scale grains. Due to advances that have enabled a much smaller grain size, the industry now operates with a completely new manufacturing infrastructure.
Social and ethical issues
Prof. Flodstrom takes a positive and pragmatic view towards nanotechnology, and concentrates more on how to exploit nanoscience and nanotechnology than the possible social and ethical issues surrounding them.
As far as Prof. Flodstrom is aware, there are no toxicity studies into nanomaterials underway in Sweden. He sees this as lacking and would like to see a national program set up in order to tackle this gap in knowledge.
Is nanoscience special?
Prof. Flodstrom was asked if he felt that nanoscience was special, or different from other scientific fields. He started by remarking that nanoscience and nanotechnology are in an exploratory phase at the moment, but noted that nanoscience was an excellent way of bringing people together from many disparate fields, and thought that it was probably the only true multidisciplinary science.