Nanoscience and nanotechnologies involve studying and working
with matter on an ultra-small scale. One nanometre is one-millionth
of a millimetre and a single human hair is around 80,000 nanometres
in width. The technology stretches across the whole spectrum
of science, touching medicine, physics, engineering and chemistry.
Scientists, for example, are looking at whether nanotechnology
could be used to improve the delivery of cancer fighting drugs
and are examining whether nanoscale carbon could be used to
increase the power and speed of computer circuits.
In June 2003 the UK Government commissioned the Royal Society,
the UK national academy of science, and the Royal Academy
of Engineering, the UK national academy of engineering, to
carry out an independent study of likely developments and
whether nanotechnology raises or is likely to raise new ethical,
health and safety or social issues which are not covered by
The final report was published
in July 2004. The joint academies remain active in this area,
for more information please visit the what's
happening now page.