The report of the workshop held as part of the Nanotechnology study has been studied by a number of people inside Rolls-Royce, including several Fellows of the Royal Academy of Engineering who had been approached directly by you for their opinions.

The general opinion is that we welcome this report, which echoes our own views on the subject. The following specific points have been mentioned:

  1. The distinction between nanoscience and nanotechnology is important, particularly for those who are looking at how to incorporate nanotechnology (e.g. materials) into other products, rather than supply nanotechnology research tools to nanoscience.

  2. The issue of relabelling established research areas as ‘nano’ was not discussed in any detail, apart from a reference to colloid chemistry. It is important, however, when considering proposals for research and application. It may be that the interest in nanotechnology will stimulate further useful developments in research areas that have become relatively moribund.

  3. It was useful to have subsections discussing the science fiction around nanotechnology. The public perception issue should not be ignored either by developers or users of the technology. (For evidence one only has to look at the issue of acceptability of GM food.)

  4. The issue of health and safety, particularly for 2D (nanotubes, fibres) and 3D (nanoparticles) is very important, as this was a key stumbling block back in the 1980’s for whisker based materials. It is good that some work is planned in this area (e.g. Peter Dobson’s workshop on absorption of nanoparticles through the skin), but this aspect should be an integral part of any national strategy for nanotechnology.

  5. Environmental aspects are also important, the claim that nanotechnology could offer reductions in process waste (e.g. solvents) is interesting, and probably worth following up. The potential for bioremediation also seems to be promising. There is also the potential for adverse effects on the environment during manufacture and disposal, which needs to be addressed.

This response is issued on behalf of other interested Fellows at Rolls-Royce.

for Rolls-Royce plc
Dr Mike G J W Howse