Oral evidence – Professor Gabriel Aeppli

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 approved by Professor Aeppli.


Nanoscience and Nanotechnology

Professor Aeppli described nanotechnology as the application of nanoscience, however noted that nanoscience is not new. Much of the technology that underpins modern microelectronics, for example the characterisation of silicon, is nanoscience.

Challenges

Professor Aeppli saw the continuation of Moore’s law to be a major challenge for nanotechnology, and noted that this law applies not only to microprocessors, but also to areas such as data storage. Another major challenge is to apply nanotechnology to health care, especially with a view towards containing the costs of healthcare while improving its quality. A final thrust needs to be made in the direction of exploiting nanotechnology to measure and manage the impact of human activities on the earth and environment.

Revolution or evolution?

When asked whether he saw progress in nanotechnology to be evolutionary or revolutionary, Professor Aeppli felt that on the whole, progress would be, and has been evolutionary. There have been a few singular events in the last two to three decades - the invention of the scanning probe microscopes and the discovery of fullerenes come to mind – and there is hope that nanoscience, like any other lively field, will yield a few more breakthroughs of this magnitude in the coming years.

Health, safety and environmental issues

Professor Aeppli felt that nanoscience and nanotechnology probably would not present any new or different health, safety or environmental issues than other technologies. In terms of regulation, he saw nanotechnology as a branch of chemistry.