My overall impression is that there is some discontinuity in style and depth of examples between the different sections. The bionano section being the most detailed. Perhaps this also reflects the reality of where most applications have been made, but I am not so convinced the other areas could not produce a similar list.
There is little sense of market/industrial ownership coming through the report. Perhaps a reflection on what has happened in US and Japan should be used to inform better here? This should help to form judgements between "hyped-up claims" and delivery. My own view is there is need for a segmentation of likely achievements into short, medium and long term, to gain a balance between funding of more science vs. more technology to deliver societal benefits.
In conclusion, this interim report is looking a little ragged (as one might naturally expect at this stage) - it would benefit from reference to data and reports produced in US on related areas (I presume the committee are well versed in some of these?) and some analysis of what UK is well placed to bring to the international arena. The potential applications need a good deal more work with timescales and bottlenecks to be shown.
Detailed comments by section:
3a, p5: The critical issue around definition relates to whether the rationale of bottom-up assembly is inherent in the approach undertaken, not just length scale.
3b, p5: It is true that metrology is a key area for research since many consequences of the quantised states are only now being measured, or are to be measured. For example, even hitherto well known effects such as heat transfer require a very different approach in the case of nanofluids (dispersions containing stable nanosized particulate solids, often metal oxides or metals).
3c, p6: It is true that UK has no strategy for nanotechnology and that its scope is rather skewed by application involving microelectronics. I have attended meetings at DoE this year connected with the launch of 5 new nanoscience centres (costing $3billion in the current year!) and it is clear that both senators and congress have a strong acquaintance with the likely avenues for long term and medium term benefit and an appetite to draw down on both medium and long term discoveries. Key application areas are seen to be energy devices and mechanisms, medical and healthcare, new materials and products and communications. UK should be developing strategic links with these new DoE centres, as they establishment does allow for international engagement. (I have further details on this if required).
4c, p9:There are medium term opportunities for use of nanoscale responsive systems (controlled assembly, surfaces etc) for chemical, drug and property manipulation relevant to all industrial and manufacturing sectors. This was not highlighted strongly in the remarks in this section.
The behaviour of nearly all properties across nanointerfaces is not well known, not just electrical properties.
Further there major issue for us is to build multidisciplinary teams who can work across the length scales to deliver new products using nanoscience e.g. requiring nanomanufacturing. The area of nanomanufacturing is key since it will determine the practical update and speed societal benefits. Both US and UK are weak in this area. For example consider this quote:
"If there is not a substantial cost or performance advantage, many of today's promising nanotechnology developments are not going anywhere"
Rittner (Business Communications Corp.) at 5th Nanoparticle Conference, New York, Oct 2002
And this view is shared by the Alliance of Nanotechnology Businesses and the USA NT Venture Capitalists group.
In my view, it is just as important for UK to focus on nanomanufacturing as upon the underlying science base, indeed its an area where we could become international competitive. The committee may wish to know that in Leeds and Sheffield we are seeking to initiate an new research platform "Nanofactory" for developing nanomanufacturing following a major regional and US survey "Nanomanufacturing- an opportunity for Yorkshire and Humber" -this consists of a skills audit and review and discussion of innovation pathways based on a series of US interviews. This report will be published in December 2003.
4c, p11: There are other applications here too, e.g. nanofluids for emergency toxic poisoning therapy etc. etc. Was the idea to make a list of all areas of substance? Other areas in textiles, coatings and inks exist.
4d: Science of stabilisation of nanoparticles in fluids continues to be a challenge. Ideally nanoparticles should be produced to the desired size directly(e.g. by supercritical fluids production, cross membrance crystallisation , templating using nanoemulsions/complex structured emulsion etc) otherwise schemes for breakage of nanoaggregates have to be deployed and this becomes inefficient. This is also referred to in your report on p 18 (section 6bii)
The major issue causing hold up is appropriate routes to larger scale manufacture, as exemplified above.
5. I have no comments here.
6. I have few comments here as some points also relate to section 4. The examples provided are extensive and interesting.
7. Given the limitations noted on metrology its not surprising that measurements
of toxicology etc are only rudimentary to date. There is clearly need for continued
and careful dissemination of science and technology in this area (as there is
for all areas of S&T). The recent ESRC report by Richard Jones et al (Sheffield)
and the report from Friends of Earth contain helpful analyses of societal issues
that should be compared with the points made here. It would be nice to see the
report focussing more strongly on methodologies to assess risk for nanomaterials
- this would also highlight associated research needs in the areas of instrumentation
and analysis. There s room for use of tables and quantification in this section.
I would be pleased to amplify any points or share sources of information as appropriate.
Richard A Williams FREng FIChEM FIMMM CEng
Anglo American plc Professor of Mineral and Process Engineering
Institute of Particle Science & Engineering
University of Leeds