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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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