1. Nanotechnology
  2. Science & Policy History
  3. Ethics
  4. The Arts
  5. Media Monitoring
  7. References & Links

Nanotechnology is an all-encompassing term given to describe a variety of techniques, which fabricate materials and devices on a nano scale.

Nanotechnology is also given as a definition in terms of scale, one nanometer (nm) is one billionth, or 10-9 of a metre, with there being up to 100 nanometres. To give some idea of scale, a DNA double helix has a diameter around 2nm and the bacteria of the genus Mycoplasma, the smallest cellular life form, are approximately 200nm in length.

Click here for a glossary of terms concerning nanotechnology.

Science & Policy History

Nanotechnology, at its very core is a hybrid science, which draws upon the disciplines of engineering and chemistry. It is understood that atoms and molecules stick together due to their complimentary shapes which help them to lock together or due to opposite charges draws them together. In much the same way a positive end of a magnet is attracted to a negatively charged magnet, so a positively charged atom will ‘stick’ to a negatively charged atom. Based on this simple understanding, as millions of atoms are pieced together in a certain way, a specific product can be made to take shape1. Therefore, in very simplistic terms the goal of nanotechnology could be said to involve the manipulation of individual atoms in order to arrange them in a certain pattern so that a specific and desired structure is created.

When constructing a material, technology has traditionally adopted what has been referred to as the "top down" approach2. Larger pieces of material are worked upon, adapted and molded in order to arrive at the desired shape and configuration. The results can vary in size from an integrated circuit including structures in microns to an ocean liner. The emergence of nanotechnology has seen two significant pathways open up. Firstly, the "top down" approach, involving the manipulating of matter molecule by molecule and atom by atom. High technology machinery is essential for this, such as atomic free microscopy. Secondly, the “bottom up” approach, whereby scientists have recognised that all the fundamental building blocks of life and components of each living cell are in many respects already working and functioning as little machines operating at the nanoscale. With this understanding they have sought to pioneer and develop new ways in which biological materials can be used and adapted.

In 1985 the discovery of “buckyballs”, a type of “fullerene” was made, based on the concept of taking atoms and molecules and manipulated them in order to create larger structures3. Made up of 60 carbon atoms, which together form a structure that resembles a football, the discovery of Buckyballs was very important for a number of reasons, not least because it concerned carbon. Carbon is the key building block of material in living things and can combine with other atoms with much ease. Due to this fact carbon is able to form more compounds than any other element, possessing good strong bonds and yet remains relatively light weight.

Building on such developments and knowledge, two IBM scientists took this a stage further when in 1990, they moved 35 individual xenon atoms using an atomic force microscopy instrument on the surface of a nickel crystal, in order to spell IBM4.

Following the discovery of buckyballs in 1993, carbon nanotubes were developed. These tubes are formed on a pattern of carbon atoms that can be formed in fibres possessing a strength 100 times that of steel, whilst only weighing one sixth of the weight of steel5. Following certain manipulating and shaping of nanotubes, it has been discovered various properties can be achieved, including the ability to conduct electricity. Such a discovery obviously presents the electrical industry with much scope for development. Already nanotube technology is being utilised in fuel cell batteries, ultra-wide screen TVs and sensors6.

The advent of nanotechnology and the thinking behind it began with the vision of Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman nearly 50 years ago. He had a vision of the development of tools that could be used in molecular engineering; engineering that takes place on the smallest scale, molecule by molecule. These ideas were then built upon and developed by the work of Eric Drexler who laid out the potential and the practical outworking of such an idea in the realm of engineering. Alongside such work Drexler also began to cite some of the advantages and benefits of such technology. Although there are many seemingly positive benefits of nanotechnology, the major areas of concern cover two key points. Firstly the aspect of safety particularly when used in humans and secondly, the cultural impact and the line of division between Man and Machine becoming blurred.

Research into nanotechnology is a key area at present, with various companies ploughing large amounts of time, energy and money into it. Some key multinationals such as IBM, Lucent Technologies, Hewlett Packard, Samsung and Siemens are channelling significant amounts of funding into research and development in this area7. Interest and the desire to be a key leader in the field is ensuring this emerging technology is not ignored. Aside from the multinationals, universities around the world are also leading the way when it comes to key research and development into nanotechnology. Despite being a technology that works on the smallest of scales, the breadth of exploration and development concerning nanotechnology is vast and so many universities are tending to specialise in one particular aspect and make significant advances and discoveries in key areas.

Table of Universities and their area of specialisation within nanotechnology8


Area of specialisation

Albany Institute of Nanotechnology

Nanoelectronics & photonics

Northwestern University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)


University of Pennsyslvania, Rice University and the University of Michigan

Biological and environmental based studies of nanoscience.

Max Planck Institute – Germany
Centre national de la Rescherche Scientifique – France
National Institute of Advanced Industrial and Technology - Japan

All engaged in particular aspects of nanotechnology.

Alongside universities and institutes like the ones listed above, there are also emerging multi-disciplinary research centres that are seeking to address the challenges presented by nanotechnology. Centres of nanoscience and nanotechnology research have been set up in order that they may bring together much of the scientific knowledge that is being accumulated at this time from around the world. For example, in the United States of America, there is the National Nanotechnology Initiative whilst in Germany the Federal Ministry of Education and Research has set up six Virtual Nanotechnology Competence Centres9.

Furthermore, the concept of partnership is being utilised to great effect between private and public entities who are seeking to join forces in order to collaborate and share expertise, knowledge and resources. Set up in 2000, the California Nanosystems Institute is a joint enterprise between the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of California at Santa Barbara10. Partnerships have been actively encouraged between the public sector and private sector firms such as IBM, Hewlett Packard and small biotech firms11. In many instances this is more than just a sharing of ideas, but rather a case of the applying of synergy in order to push back the boundaries of achievement and understanding in nanotechnology.

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 in nanotechnologies and whether nanotechnology raises or is likely to raise new ethical, health and safety or social issues which are not covered by current regulation12.

The aims of the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering study were to:

  • define what is meant by nanoscience and nanotechnology;
  • summarise the current state of scientific knowledge about nanotechnology;
  • identify the specific applications of the new technologies, in particular where nanotechnology is already in use;
  • carry out a forward look to see how the technology might be used in future, where possible estimating the likely time scales in which the most far-reaching applications of the technology might become reality;
  • identify what environmental, health and safety, ethical or societal implications or uncertainties may arise from the use of the technology, both current and future;
  • identify areas where regulation needs to be considered13.

Timeline of Events14

June 2003
UK Government commissions report on nanotechnology and its developments.

29 July 2004
The RS/RAEng report published

25 February 2005
Government published its response.

22 September 2006
DEFRA launches a Voluntary Reporting Scheme for engineered nanoscale materials.

November 2005
The Nanotechnology Research Coordination Group, publishes the first Government research report.

21 December 2006
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) publishes a report "An Overview of the Framework of Current Regulation Affecting the Development and Marketing of Nanomaterials", produced by the ESRC Centre for Business Relationships Accountability Sustainability and Society (BRASS), Cardiff University. This report provides an analysis of the potential gaps in the regulation of the development, manufacture, supply and use and end of life of free engineered nanoparticles.

The Nanotechnology Issues Dialogue Group (NIDG), chaired by the Office of Science and Innovation (OSI), is enabling the responsible development of nanotechnologies and co-ordinating the activities described in the Government's response to the report 'Nanoscience and nanotechnologies: opportunities and uncertainties', on nanotechnologies across departments, agencies and Research Councils. The Council for Science and Technology (CST), the UK Government’s top level advisory body on strategic science and technology policy, will conduct independent two and five year reviews of progress with the actions in the Government's response. CST will also assess the implications of any new developments. To monitor the CST’s current work, visit their website at 

In his open letter to the chair of the Council for Science and Technology concerning the two year review of the Government’s response to the RS/RAEng report, Lord Sainbury of Turville stated that the Government’s most notable achievements to date were as follows:

  • The setting up of a comprehensive programme of research to address the potential risks posed by engineered nanoscale materials. Delivery of such a programme has already begun.
  • The establishing of a Voluntary Reporting Scheme for industry and research organisations to provide Government with relevant information on the potential risks posed by these new materials.
  • A review of current regulatory controls with regard to products of nanotechnologies.
  • Extensive dialogue undertaken with the public, civic society organisations, the research community and industry around the policy making process for nanotechnologies.
  • Investment in order to help industry maximise the potential benefits that nanotechnology promises to deliver15.


“There's a lot of hype around nanotechnology, but there's also great potential... The science is barrelling forward, but the ethics aren't, and there's very little public engagement.... The first step is a fully-informed public - that's the gap we have to close, so we can optimise the benefits and minimise the risks...I don't want the science to slow down. I want the ethics to catch up.
- Dr. Peter Singer, Joint Center for Bioethics16

Nanotechnology sparks discussion on a variety of fronts, but one thing is fairly certain, nanotechnologies offer the potential of huge benefits. However, as with most new technologies, careful consideration needs to be given early on in the debate as to the full extent that nanotechnology will have on society. Consequently, adequate measures can be taken to minimise or even avoid adverse consequences. Therefore, the following are some of the ethical and social implications associated with nanotechnology that are currently being debated.

Environmental damage

There are concerns surrounding the issue of nanoparticles. Given that they are so small, nanoparticles will more than likely become airborne and be able to spread with great ease through the atmosphere. Consequently, there is the strong possibility that they will contaminate aquatic environments, accumulate in living organisms and bring serious damage to ecosystems17.

Early research suggests that carbon nanoparticles – buckyballs – can harm fish. However, for a more conclusive decision to be made, further research needs to be carried out. The full impact of nanoparticles will largely depend on their composition and surface chemistry18. For example, changing the chemical groups on the outside of buckyballs can significantly change their properties. As such mere generalisations cannot be made as to the effects that changes in their properties will have.

Issues of safety

Nanoparticles and nanotubes could be dangerous and harmful. However, due to the paucity of research in this area, there is currently inconclusive evidence. Essentially, nanotechnology is about creating new materials, all of which will require safety testing. The properties of nanoparticles are not necessary the same as the larger form of the same substance. For example, nano-gold is not like solid gold19. Existing safety measures therefore may not be adequate enough to cover nanoparticles.

Moreover, some nanoparticles have been found to pass through the skin. On the one hand there is a clear advantage to possessing this property; it provides a new way of being able to get vitamins into the body using cosmetics. Conversely, given the size, nanoparticles could also interfere with the functioning of proteins on the surface of cells, or be taken up into cells and bind to intercellular proteins. To date, experiments within a laboratory environment has shown such evidence but the harmful effects are as yet unclear20.

The lungs and respiratory system present a second possible route of exposure to nanoparticles. Once again, how nanoparticles behave in our lungs is unknown at present, but what can be certain is that they can be taken up by the lungs, triggering inflammation and are able to enter into the bloodstream. Therefore, it can be concluded that nanoparticles could be transported through nerve tissue to the brain21. Carbon nanotubes are particularly of concern in this regard as they resemble asbestos fibres. It is a known fact now that asbestos fibres have caused cancers in workers who have breathed an asbestos-laden atmosphere.

Therefore, further research is required in order for more decisive decisions and conclusions to be made regarding the safety of nanoparticles. Part of this decision making process will also involve solving the issue of measuring and monitoring nanoparticles because due to their size, standard instruments will not be able to measure them.

Civil liberties

A further application of nanotechnology will present new possibilities for collecting new data. There is the potential for tiny senses to be embedded in clothes, products or even bodies which could record and collect a multitude of data, including the movement of people, products, health and financial details22.

Whilst on the one hand, this can be see as an advantage, helping service providers or companies to structure themselves so as to give us what we need. But on the other hand, it makes it harder to protect privacy and to keep certain information confidential. Issues of privacy are not new issues particularly with the advent of barcodes, ID cards and CCTV cameras. Therefore, on this particular issue nanotechnology does not present any new issues but does look set to help intensify debate and discussion surrounding existing questions of privacy.

The nano-divide

To date the advances and development of nanotechnology have been fuelled by a rich-world agenda: suncreams, tennis balls, tennis racquets, laptop computers etc23. As a result there is a fear that nanotechnology will help increase the gap between rich and poor and create what some have referred to as a “nano divide”.

However, it is not inevitable that nanotechnology will increase such a divide. If applied with informed decision making, it could help to lessen the divide between rich and poor. Nanotechnology could be successfully applied in developing renewable energy from solar power; it could help with water purification in developing countries and help in waste clean up. Moreover, some scientists have already identified ways in which they have been able to establish a correlation between the top ten applications of nanotechnology for developing countries and the UN millennium development goal24. The South African Nanotechnology Initiative, a national network of academic researchers, is involved in areas such as nanophase catalysts, nanofiltration, nanowires, nanotubes and quantum dots. Furthermore, developing countries such as Thailand, Philippines, Chile, Argentina and Mexico are also pursuing nanotechnology25.

As with most things, the issue really does depend on how much new technology wants to be used in addressing problems affecting the developing world, over simply ‘enhancing’ our lives.


Increasingly, it appears that the distinction between human and machine could become blurred through the convergence of biology, nanotechnology, information technology and even neuroscience. If some of the grander ideas which nanotechnology would seemingly promise are believed to be true, then fusion between people and technology could occur like never before.

The living cell is already a complex and well ordered piece of nanotechnology. If this were to be combined or even adapted using new nano-devices then in theory, humans could be given new capabilities the likes of which have been seen before. Enhanced senses, control of computers connected by way of their nervous systems all become well within the reach of humans.

At the heart of this particular question is whether or not the issue of enhancement is simply a new twist to an old story or a new stage in evolution. At this time, humans can ‘enhance’ themselves through education, exercise or cosmetic surgery for example. However, does nanotechnology push the boundaries further so much so that broader social concerns are raised? Some even suggest that we could be heading towards a separate evolution – “organic” humans versus “enhanced” humans26.

Once again, these are questions that we currently do not have clear answers to. However, they are issues that require careful consideration and debate in order to shape a future that we want.

The Arts


Chris Madden Cartoons by Chris Madden
The artist creates cartoons on a variety of subjects ranging from gardening to science. One of his cartoons that deals with the human genome and how gene patenting can lead to financial rewards can be viewed at:

NanoWars by Anthony S. Napier
NanoWars is a site that contains science fiction stories that are related to nanotechnology. Anthony Napier has a two-chapter cartoon entitled NanoWars that shows two computers that have been developed with Artificial Intelligence wage war against with nanotechnology playing a major role. The Cartoon is available at:


A nanotech engineer who is forcibly implanted with a bomb developed through nanotechnology tries to save himself and catch the perpetrator.

(1997), Vidmark/Trimark

Star Trek-First Contac
The Borg, whose goal is to destroy other races by injecting them with nanoprobes which turn them into drones, invades Federation space hoping to defeat it in battle or to prevent the invention of warp travel which would prevent first contact with alien species.

(1996), Paramount Studio

A virtual reality serial killer computer program which is used for training police officers, enters the real world by injecting his personality into a nano-machine android.

(1995), Paramount Studio


Acts of the Apostles by John F. X. Sundman
A burnt-out software engineer discovers that the key to the Gulf War Syndrome is nanotechnologically produced submicroscopic machines that rearrange human DNA, which is being developed in a pharmaceutical laboratory in Switzerland. He works on stopping this laboratory from further development.

(Rosalita Associates: Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts 1999)

Architects of Emortality by Brian Stableford
In an age where nanotechnology has brought near immortality to humans, two detectives of the U.N. police investigate the murder of scientists through genetically-altered flowers.

(Tor Books: New York 1999)

Assemblers of Infinity by Kevin Anderson
A scientist is sent to the moon to investigate the alien "nanocritters," tiny self-replicating machines, that were discovered constructing something inside a crater on the moon.

(Bantam Books: New York 1993)

Blood Music by Greg Bear
A geneticist injects himself with genetically modified human leukocytes which have the ability to self-replicate, which initially improves his physical attributes, but they eventually escape his body into society, intent on reinventing humanity.

(I Books: New York 2002)

By the Light of the Moon by Dean Koontz
After being forcibly injected with a nanotechnology-produced substance containing nanobots, three people develop supernatural powers, which, for reasons unbeknownst to them, make them fugitives. Together they come to grips with their new abilities and use it to prevail against their pursuers.

(Bantam: New York 2003)

Crawlers by John Shirley
A top-secret military research program involving nanoparticles goes awry, entering a small Bay Area town and altering the human construction of its citizens.

(Del Rey; 1st Edition: New York 2003)

Crescent City Rhapsody by Kathleen Ann Goonan
A murder victim revived through nanotechnology seeks to transform the world into a better place using nanotechnology in a beneficial way.

(HarperCollins Publishers: New York 2001)

Deception Well by Linda Nagata
Left by his father in the only inhabitable city at the time, empowered by nanotechnology that causes his body to exude psychoactive enzymes that can transform anyone into his willing and loving supplicant, an adolescent leads a rebellion of youths against the city·s elders.

(Bantam Books, Incorporated: New York 1996)

Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson
In a future ruled by Neo-Victorian thought, a nanotech engineer is commissioned to create an illegal primer which is in fact a powerful nanotech computer which teaches girls to think for themselves. He loses the book which is subsequently found by a homeless girl. What the girl learns from the book eventually changes the world.

(Bantam Books, Incorporated: New York 2000)

Forge of Heaven by C. J. Cherryh
A sequel to Hammerfull, a satellite orbits the planet to prevent the illicit nanotechnology and "nanoceles" that are on the planet from spreading.

(HarperCollins Publishers: New York 2004)

From a Changeling Star by Jeffrey A. Carver
An astronomer that is infected with nano-agents which alter his appearance, memory, and DNA, searches out to discover why he was so infected.

(Bantam: New York 1998)

Gravity Dreams by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
Labeled a "demon" because of his physiologically enhanced powers as a result of a rouge nanotechnology infection, Tyndel is forced to escape his theocratic homeland for a neighboring country inhabited by "demons" that dwell in a society of technological wonders enhanced by nanotechnology. There, Tyndel struggles to adapt to a new way of life in a society that accepts the superhuman as "natural."

(Tor Books: New York 2000)

Hammerfull by C. J. Cherryh
Marak, a warrior considered mad because of the nanos which infected him and fellow madmen which caused them to hear voices and see visions calling them to go to the silver tower in the east, is given the task of saving the Ila, the powerful dictator made eternal because of nanomachines in her body, and his world as he knows it, by bringing them to that very same silver tower.

"(HarperCollins Publishers: New York 2002)

Hunted by James Alan Ga
Edward York, a member of the Outward Fleet Explorer Corps, is sent away on a Navy starship in which all other crew and passengers die in the same instant, leaving Edward alone and trapped with unknown, destructive nanotechnology. After informing the Navy about the danger, of which the Navy is curiously apathetic, he discovers that he has been a victim of a conspiracy and, together with the help of another Explorer, frees himself and some alien friends from the danger that ensues.

(HarperCollins Publishers: New York 2000)

Inherit the Earth by Brian Stableford
In a future where biomedical nanotechnology has lengthened human lives to 150 years and robust health, the protagonist is forced into a cat and mouse game with immortality as the prize.

(Tor Books: New York 1999)

Light Music by Kathleen Ann Goonan
After pirates had damaged a sentient city, placing its ability into becoming a spacecraft in peril, some inhabitants went searching for a guidance system which would allow it to become a space craft. After forgetting their search they meet beings mutated because of nanotechnology.

(HarperCollins Publishers: New York 2002)

Limit of Vision by Linda Nagata
In a world where sentient nanotech lifeforms and its technology are outlawed, they search ways to persevere and survive.

(Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC: New York 2002)

Mississippi Blues by Kathleen Ann Goonan
The heroine of the first novel (above) leads a group of refugees on a huge nanotech riverboat to the refuge city of New Orleans.

(Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC: New York 1999)

Moonseed by Stephen Baxter
A ten-dimensional nano-virus that has destroyed Venus now threatens Earth. The protagonists try to save the Earth and search for a refuge for humanity if Earth will be destroyed by this virus.

(HarperCollins Publishers: New York 1999)

Moonwar by Benjamin Bova
A fledgling lunar colony made possible by nanotechnology, fights for its survival both militarily and politically when it defies a UN directive that outlawed nanotechnology.

(HarperCollins Publishers: New York 1998)

Murder in the Solid State by Wil McCarthy
A nanotechnological chemist battles for his life after he develops nanoware that renders the Vandergroot Molecular Sniffer, a machine that can detect molecules associated with almost any form of illegal activity, useless.

(Tor Books: New York 1998)

Nanodreams by Elton Elliot, ed.
An anthology of science fiction stories focused on the potential and promise of nanotechnology, including stories by writers like Poul Anderson and Greg Bear.

(Baen Books: Riverdale, New York 1995)

Nanotech by Jack Dann, ed. and Gardner Dozois, ed.
An anthology of science fiction stories related to the possibilities and potentials of nanotechnology, including stories by writers like Greg Bear, Stephen Baxter, Nancy Kress, and Greg Egan.

(Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated: New York 1998)

Prey by Michael Crichton
Nanomachines, smaller than dust specks, have been programmed with a predator/prey software of an unemployed programmer which allowed the nanomachines to reproduce, evolve, and learn new behaviors. These nanomachines escape and begin to hunt other life forms, and the programmer of the software is called in to rein in the nanomachines.

(HarperCollins Publishers: New York 2002)

Red Dust by Paul J. McAuley
A young technician is infected with a nanovirus which gives him astonishing powers. He uses those powers to rescue civilization from chaos

(William Morrow: New York 1994)

Terminal Cafe by Ian McDonald
Thanks to nanotechnology, dead people are resurrected, but they must serve the mortally living in gratitude for being resurrected, and they revolt.

(Bantam, Reprint Edition: New York 1995)

The Bohr Maker by Linda Nagata
The Bohr Maker, an outlawed microscopic factory full of self-replicating machines programmed to transform a human host into a genius-level nanotech engineer, was stolen and subsequently found by a poverty-stricken woman. This changes the destiny of everyone in unanticipated ways.

(Bantam Books, Incorporated: New York 1995)

The Cyborg from Earth: A Jupiter Novel by Charles Sheffield
Despite the protagonist·s demonstrated unfitness for military duty, he is sent to the Messina Dust Cloud, home to a human population that has been illegally experimenting with nanotechnology to create warrior cyborgs, to deal with the warrior cyborgs. He discovers why he was sent before he becomes the pawn in someone else·s dangerous game.

(St. Martin·s Press: New York 1999)

The Nanotech Chronicles by Michael Flynn
Compilation of short science fiction stories exploring the possibilities of nanotechnology.

(Baen Books: Riverdale, New York 1991)

The Octagonal Raven by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
Daryn Alwyn, a member of the wealthy elite and thus a beneficiary of Apreselected” genetic advantages and nanotech augmentation, finds himself and others like him the target of assassinations. His investigations to discover those behind these assassination attempts uncover a conspiracy attempt to take over the world.

(Tor Books: New York 2002)

The Precipice by Benjamin Bova
Two industrialists send an experimental spaceship, powered by innovations in fusion and nanotechnology, to the asteroid belt to explore the feasibility of transferring the heavy industries into outer space to prevent further damage to Earth resulting from the greenhouse effect caused by the pollution from the heavy industries.

(Tor Books: New York 2001)

Ventus by Karl Schroeder
Following a successful terraformation of the planet Ventus via a complex nanosystem in preparation of a coming human colony, for some unknown reason the system refused to let the humans, once they arrived, to employ the technology, forcing them to use Middle Ages technology.

(Tor Books: New York 2000)

X-Files: Antibodies by Kevin J. Anderson and Elizabeth Hand
Two investigators search for answers as to whether a disease ridden body was a result of microscopic bio-machines that went out of control.

(HarperPrism: New York 1997)

Visual Arts

Alexa by Alexa Smith
Alexa Smith is an artist that is fascinated by the field of nanotechnology and has therefore focused her art in that field. Her works of nanotechnology-inspired art are available at:

Nanomedicine Art Gallery
The Nanomedicine Art Gallery contains an array of visual artworks from a variety of artists that depicts their different conceptions of how medical nanorobots and nanomedical devices and systems might appear. This website is available at:

Nanotechnology Art Gallery
Nanotechnology: The Exhibition, a collaboration of the Miami University Nanotechnology Center and the Miami University Art Museum, shows the influence and inspiration that nanotechnology has on art as well as art on nanotechnology. Links are provided to allow online viewing of the statements and artworks of five contemporary scientist/artists that are shown. Included in this exhibition, are artworks by Buckminster Fuller, the visionary thinker, which involved geodesic domes which were reminiscent of patterns of subsequently discovered stable assemblies of carbon atoms. This website is available at:

Media Monitoring

'Nanosprings' offer improved performance in biomedicine, electronics
Researchers at Oregon State University have successfully loaded biological molecules onto"nanosprings," an advance that could have many industrial and biomedical applications.

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The taste of tiny: Putting nanofoods on the menu
Using nanotechnology, a team is working on tweaking foods to trick the body into feeling pleasantly full long after the final mouthful - and without overeating.

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Virtual reality tackles tough questions
Virtual reality is allowing scientists to ask difficult questions about human behaviour that were previously not possible or were thought too unethical.

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3D imaging methodology reveals nano details not seen before
A team of scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Northwestern University has produced 3–D images and videos of a tiny platinum nanoparticle.

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50 ideas to change science forever: Nanotechnology
Exploring the impact of nanotechnology.

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A Week in Tomorrow
By Professor Nigel Cameron || Quite the eventful time for me, this past week, immersing myself in tomorrow. First up, our C-PET Roundtable on Synthetic Biology last Friday. Biology isn’t what it used to be. As the engineering approach to living systems moves beyond theory to practice (as J. Craig Venter has recently reminded us), side by side with extraordinary possibilities for good lie options for the weird – and the scary. Scary, not least, in the Asymmetric Century. In tandem with concerns lest we “play God” lie anxieties at least as great that someone will play the Devil. Smallpox, anyone? Not your grandmother’s WMDs.

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Advances in nano drug delivery
Scientists have found a possible way to fool the immune system to prevent it from recognizing and destroying nanoparticles before they deliver their drug payload.

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Advances in nanotech safety
Scientists have identified for the first time a mechanism by which nanoparticles cause lung damage and have demonstrated that it can be combated by blocking the process involved, taking a step toward addressing the growing concerns over the safety of nanotechnology.

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Anticancer nanotech
Tiny particles of albumin, a protein found in the blood, can be used to carry radioactive isotopes to the site of a cancerous tumour in the body and so avoid many of the side-effects of conventional radiotherapy.

Read More

Arizona State University awarded $6.5 million to study nanotechnology and society
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $6.5 million to the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University (CNS-ASU) to continue its work regarding the societal aspects of nanotechnology for another five years.

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Assessing the Way Forward for UK and Nano
Nanotechnology: It has been called the fourth technological revolution with the potential to provide us with the tools to fight global challenges and to engage in atomically precise manufacturing. Some commentators have even said that it presents us with a rebound revolution that far from moving us forward, causes us to rethink our understanding of science and technology. Despite these exciting and profound benefits unanswered questions and uncertainty still permeate the nano project. For example, confusion over language and what is precisely meant by nanotechnology.

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Call for Government action on nanotechnology issues
University of Canterbury physicist Associate Professor Simon Brown hopes a report published this week will spur the New Zealand Government to face up to the challenges nanotechnology poses for the country.

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Caltech-led Team Provides Proof in Humans of RNA Interference Using Targeted Nanoparticles
A California Institute of Technology (Caltech)-led team of researchers and clinicians has published the first proof that a targeted nanoparticle—used as an experimental therapeutic and injected directly into a patient’s bloodstream—can traffic into tumors.

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Carbon nanotube rubber could provide e-skin for robots

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Could 3D printing point the way to artificial organs
A 3D printing technique that produces clusters of stem cells could speed up progress towards the creation of artificial organs.

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Designer nano luggage to carry drugs to diseased cells
For the first time, scientists have succeeded in growing empty particles derived from a plant virus and have made them carry useful chemicals. The external surface of these nano containers could be decorated with molecules that guide them to where they are needed in the body, before the chemical load is discharged to exert its effect on diseased cells.

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Diatom nanostructures bend light

Simple marine algae called diatoms have evolved intricate structures that allow them to manipulate light.

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DNA could become building blocks of smaller, more powerful microchips
Scientists are using DNA — the building blocks of life — to make the next generation of smaller, more powerful microchips. Researchers at IBM are looking at ways to create artificial DNA nanostructures to provide frameworks on which to build tiny electric circuits.

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DNA logic gates herald injectable computers
DNA-based logic gates that could carry out calculations inside the body have been constructed for the first time. The work brings the prospect of injectable biocomputers programmed to target diseases as they arise.

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DNA nanotechnology breakthrough offers promising applications in medicine
A team of McGill Chemistry Department researchers led by Dr. Hanadi Sleiman has achieved a major breakthrough in the development of nanotubes - tiny "magic bullets" that could one day deliver drugs to specific diseased cells.

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Edible Nanostructures
Sugar, salt, alcohol and a little serendipity led a Northwestern University research team to discover a new class of nanostructures that could be used for gas storage and food and medical technologies.

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Exploring Synthetic Biology - April 20th, 2pm | Revolution, Regulation and Responsibilities series
The third symposium in BioCentre's 2010-11 series recently took place on Wednesday 20th April

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Exploring transhumanism
For transhumanists, the human species is about to begin a new form of evolution. Instead of biological evolution – slow processes of survival, reproduction, and adaptation over geological time – it will be powered by technologies that will increasingly work their way inwards, radically transforming our bodies and minds.

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Fine–tuning Nanotech to Target Cancer
Programmable nanoparticles have shown promise in early cancer trials, and may finally fulfill the promise of nanomedicine.

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Gene testing for doctors
A new device rapidly analyzes blood for medically relevant genetic variations. A desktop instrument recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration might finally bring pharmacogenomic testing--the use of a patient's genetic information for drug prescription decisions--to the mainstream.

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Here’s one I printed earlier: Shaping the agenda on 3D–printing
Being given the option of picking an online design for a new pair of shoes, sunglasses or even a washing machine and then making it from the comfort of your own home might sound like a little too good to be true. Some may even question whether they had been caught up in an episode of Star Trek and the use of replicator technology so often used by Captain Jean–Luc Picard and others on the SS Enterprise. But these kinds of options are not located in some far distant universe.

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Human 'bonding' with nano
A novel transistor controlled by the chemical that provides the energy for our cells' metabolism could be a big step towards making prosthetic devices that can be wired directly into the nervous system.

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ICT Implants, nanotechnology, and some reasons for caution
Artificial implants can serve important medical functions in humans and, at least historically, have tended to be passive medical devices. Artificial valves and joints are some of the more common examples. This area is expanding however, with the application of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), as well as nanotechnologies, in the development of more sophisticated, primarily active, medical implantable devices (Nsanze, 2005, pp. 119–120). There are a number of significant ethical and philosophical issues arising from the latter category in particular, many of which require immediate attention.

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Invisibility cloak created in 3-D
Scientists have created the first device to render an object invisible in three dimensions. The "cloak", described in the journal Science, hid an object from detection using light of wavelengths close to those that are visible to humans.

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IVF doctors to raffle human egg
A fertility clinic is raffling a human egg in London to promote its new “baby profiling” service, which circumvents British IVF (in vitro fertilisation) laws.

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Launch of first nanotech regulation database
A global database of government documents on nanotechnology is being launched by three law professors at Arizona State University who, with their colleagues in Australia and Belgium, have corralled and organized a massive number of regulatory documents dealing with the rapidly advancing technology.

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Medical nanotech could find unconventional oil
Nanotechnology developed for medical applications could form a model for ways of exploiting oil reserves that conventional methods cannot reach.

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Meet the nano-spiders: The DNA robots that could one day be walking through your body
Scientists have created microscopic robots out of DNA molecules that can walk, turn and even create tiny products of their own on a nano-scale assembly line.

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Most intimate binding of Man and Machine Yet
Man and machine can now be linked more intimately than ever, according to a new article in the journal ACS Nano Letters. Scientists have embedded a nano-sized transistor inside a cell-like membrane and powered it using the cell's own fuel.

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Most religious oppose nanotechnology
Attitudes to nanotechnology may be determined by religious and cultural beliefs, suggest researchers writing in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

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Nano cure for cancer
Nanotechnology has been used for the first time to destroy cancer cells with a highly targeted package of "tumour busting" genes.

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Nano research on a nano scale rate of progress

By Matt James

In 2004 the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering (RS/RAEng) published their eagerly anticipated report on the opportunities and uncertainties of nanotechnologies. The report quickly earned wide spread respect for its detail and perspectives on the advances surrounding nanotechnology and correcting the UK Government's failure to lead on the nanotech issue in the past. Thus, the report quickly assumed gold standard status.

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Nano-based RFID tags could replace bar codes
RFID tags printed through a new roll-to-roll process could replace bar codes and make checking out of a store a snap.

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Nano-powered implantable medical devices
Zhong Lin Wang thinks piezoelectric nanowires could power implantable medical devices and serve as tiny sensors. Nanoscale sensors are exquisitely sensitive, very frugal with power, and, of course, tiny.

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Nanoblasts from laser-activated nanoparticles move molecules, proteins and DNA into cells
Using chemical "nanoblasts" that punch tiny holes in the protective membranes of cells, researchers have demonstrated a new technique for getting therapeutic small molecules, proteins and DNA directly into living cells.

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Nanodiamonds used in gene therapy
Now a team of Northwestern University researchers has introduced the power of nanodiamonds as a novel gene delivery technology that combines key properties in one approach: enhanced delivery efficiency along with outstanding biocompatibility.

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Nanoparticle Cocktail Targets and Kills Tumors
A team of researchers from two of the National Cancer Institute's Centers of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence have teamed up to develop a "cocktail" of different nanometer-sized particles that work in concert within the bloodstream to locate, adhere to and kill cancerous tumors.

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Nanoparticles could pose threat to humans: scientists
They can make fabric resistant to stains, improve the taste of food and help drug research, but nanoparticles could also pose a danger to human health, experts warned Wednesday.

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Nanosensors for Medical Monitoring
Physicians often test the levels of a few telltale blood proteins in seriously injured or ill patients to detect organ failure and other problems.

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Nanosponge drug delivery system more effective than direct injection
When loaded with an anticancer drug, a delivery system based on a novel material called nanosponge is three to five times more effective at reducing tumor growth than direct injection.

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Nanotech helps in the battle against HIV in Africa
A new form of labelling antibodies using nanotechnology has been developed specifically for use by medical teams operating from a temporary clinic in the heat of an African summer.

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Nanotech helps to help wounds
Forget stitches and old-school sutures. The Air Force is funding scientists who are using nano-technology and lasers to seal up wounds at a molecular level.

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Nanotech lacks extensive norms and standards
Public opinion has to be involved at an early stage in the development of nanotechnologies to avoid misunderstanding and false expectations, World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (Comest) chairman Prof Dr Alain Pompidou said yesterday

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Nanotech to help improve medical tests
A laboratory test used to detect disease and perform biological research could be made more than 3 million times more sensitive, according to Princeton researchers.

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Nanotechnology's road to artificial brains
Researchers are working hard on laying the foundations for what is called neuromorphic engineering – a new interdisciplinary discipline that includes nanotechnologies and whose goal is to design artificial neural systems with physical architectures similar to biological nervous systems.

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Nanotechnology: A response

Emma Hockridge, Policy coordinator for the Soil Association writes on developments in nanotechnology and the possible dangers.

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Nanotubes help to target tumours
Tiny nanoprobes have shown to be effective in delivering cancer drugs more directly to tumor cells - mitigating the damage to nearby healthy cells - and Purdue University research has shown that the nanoprobes are getting the drugs to right cellular compartments.

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Nanowires That Behave Like Cells
Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have sealed silicon-nanowire transistors in a membrane similar to those that surround biological cells.

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NASA Ames helps Singularity University get off the ground
For nine weeks starting at the end of June, a select group of graduate and post-doctoral students from around the world will gather at NASA Ames Research Center to study a variety of the world’s deep challenges, with major financial backing from Google Inc. and a variety of tech leaders from Silicon Valley.

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New drug delivery system using nanoparticles
A new drug delivery system which uses nanoparticles triggered by electromagnetic field has been developed.

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New hybrid technology with cell membranes and nanotech
A hybrid of silicon nanocircuits and biological components that mimics some of the processes that control the passage of molecules into and out of cells has been created by a team of scientists from UC Davis, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and UC Berkeley.

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New nanoparticles could improve cancer treatment
Researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have developed a nanoparticle that can deliver precise doses of two or more drugs to prostate cancer cells.

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New study on carbon nanotubes gives hope for medical applications
A team of Swedish and American scientists has shown for the first time that carbon nanotubes can be broken down by an enzyme - myeloperoxidase (MPO) - found in white blood cells.

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New technologies confuse reality and fiction: Pope
Pope Benedict XVI states that the media’s increasing reliance on images, fuelled by the endless development of new technologies, risks confusing real life with virtual reality.

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Push-Button Logic on the Nanoscale
Circuits that can perform logic operations at the push of a button are a dime-a-dozen these days, but a breakthrough by researchers in the USA has meant they can be smaller and simpler than ever before.

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Researchers create self-assembling nanodevices that move and change shape on demand
By emulating nature’s design principles, a team at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard Medical School and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has created nanodevices made of DNA that self-assemble and can be programmed to move and change shape on demand.

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Researchers develop a dissolvable needle-free Nanopatch for vaccine delivery
Research has found that the Nanopatch is now dissolvable, eliminating the possibility of needle-stick injury.

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RNA Interference Delivered Using Nanoparticles Hits Target in Human Patients
A multi-institutional team of researchers and clinicians has published the first proof that a targeted nanoparticle can traffic into tumor.

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Scientists Quantify Nanoparticle-Protein Interactions
Insulin, one of the most common proteins in human blood, can accumulate into fibrous masses when it misfolds. Research by a team at NIST indicates that gold nanoparticles apparently increase insulin's tendency to form these fibers.

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Self-assembling computer chips
The features on computer chips are getting so small that soon the process used to make them, which has hardly changed in the last 50 years, won’t work anymore.  In a paper that appeared recently in Nature Nanotechnology, MIT researchers have taken an important step toward making that approach practical.

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Self-assembling photovoltaic technology can keep repairing itself
MIT scientists have created a novel set of self-assembling molecules that can turn sunlight into electricity.

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Silver-nanowire filters provide clean water for the developing world
Stanford researchers have developed a water-purifying filter that makes the process more than 80,000 times faster than existing filters.

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Smallest electric engine could power nanomachines
A blueprint has been sketched out for the smallest ever electric motor, which could eventually be used to drive tiny conveyor belts or pumps in future nanomachines.

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The carbon nanotechnology revolution
The Guardian newspaper website reports that Professor Ravi Silva believes we’re about to experience a new industrial revolution, driven by nanotechnology and carbon

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The dawn of the replicators
MakerBot is one of a range of desktop manufacturing plants being developed by researchers and hobbyists around the world. Their goal is to create a machine that is able to fix itself and, ultimately, to replicate.

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The development of nanomedicine
One of the promises of nanomedicine is the design of tiny particles that can home in on diseased cells and get inside them. Nanoparticles can carry drugs into cells and tag cells for MRI and other diagnostic tests; and they may eventually even enter a cell's nucleus to repair damaged genes. Unfortunately, designing them involves as much luck as engineering.

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The futures that don't need us, that didn't happen, and that we should avoid
The messenger can be as important as the message. A statement that seems incongruous with the speaker's broader ideology often piques the interest of those who may otherwise be unreceptive.

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Tiny Probes Measure Signals Inside Cells
Nanowire transistors could make better connections between the body and electronic devices.

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U.S. faces widening information gap on nanotechnology
As the global nanotechnology industry continues to produce cutting-edge consumer products, the scientific community is leaving a key part of the U.S. public behind when sharing knowledge of this new field of science, according to a new study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Arizona State University.

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U.S. Risks Losing Global Leadership in Nanotech
According to a new report from Lux Research, the USA risks losing its status as a world leader in nanotech.

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UK nanotech centres may be axed, says science minister
Britain's 24 nanotechnology centres could be among the casualties of cuts to the UK science budget.

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Using Gold Nanoparticles to Hit Cancer Where It Hurts
Taking gold nanoparticles to the cancer cell and hitting them with a laser has been shown to be a promising tool in fighting cancer, but what about cancers that occur in places where a laser light can’t reach? Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have shown that by directing gold nanoparticles into the nuclei of cancer cells, they can not only prevent them from multiplying, but can kill them where they lurk.

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Vigilance needed in nanotechnology
University of Calgary chemistry professor David Cramb is a step closer to helping solve a complex problem in nanotechnology: the impact nanoparticles have on human health and the environment.

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References & Links

Institute of Nanotechnology, Nanotechnology: What is it?,

Mike Treder, War, Interdependence, and Nanotechnology,

Ralph C. Merke, Nanotechnology: It’s a Small, Small, Small. Small World,

An overview of the nanotechnology research being done in the European Community is available at:

The Royal Society

The Royal Society is the independent scientific academy of the UK and the Commonwealth dedicated to promoting excellence in science.

The Center on Nanotechnology and Society

The Center on Nanotechnology's NELSI Global public policy document archive

This archives serves as a clearinghouse for national and international public policy documents related to NELSI.

The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology

The Institute for Nanotechnology at Northwestern University, a nanotechnology research centre.
"The European nanotechnology gateway," brings together news, events, organizations, publications, and a variety of other resources and materials relating to nanotechnology in the European community.

  1. Bonsor, K., How Nanotechnology will work, (2007)  [accessed 23rd January 2007]

  2. Center on Nanotechnology & Society, Nanotechnoloy 101: Background, (2006), [accessed 23rd January 2007].

  3. Ibid

  4. Ibid

  5. Ibid

  6. Ibid

  7. Ibid

  8. Ibid

  9. Ibid

  10. Ibid

  11. Ibid

  12. The Royal Academy of Engineering and The Royal Society, Nanotechnology and Nanoscience: Homepage, (2003),  [accessed 25th January 2007].

  13. The Royal Academy of Engineering and The Royal Society, Nanotechnology and Nanoscience: About the Study, (2003), [accessed 25th January 2007].

  14. Department for Trade and Industry, Science in Government: Science & Technology Policy Issues – Nanotechnology, (2007), [accessed 25th January 2007].

  15. Nanotechnology 2 year progress review – Letter from Lord Sainsbury to Professor Sir John Beringer, Council for Science and Technology, 3rd October 2006, [accessed 23rd January 2007].

  16. Kirby, A. ‘Nanotech may spark fierce ethical row’, 14th February 2003, BBC News Online, [accessed 23rd January 2007].

  17. The Wellcome Trust, Big Picture on Nanoscience, Issue 2, June 2005, p.6 [accessed 24th January 2007]

  18. Ibid

  19. Ibid

  20. Ibid

  21. Ibid

  22. The Wellcome Trust, Big Picture on Nanoscience, Issue 2, June 2005, p.7 [accessed 24th January 2007]

  23. Ibid

  24. Salamanca-Buentello F, Persad DL, Court EB, Martin DK, Daar AS, et al (2005) Nanotechnology and the developing world, PloS Med 2 (4): e97 at The Joint Center for Bioethics, University of Toronto, [accessed 23rd January 2007].

  25. Ibid

  26. The Wellcome Trust, Big Picture on Nanoscience, Issue 2, June 2005, p.7 [accessed 24th January 2007].