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March 24, 2016 | Author: | Posted in science, technology

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Revolutionary technological advances played a central role in the 20th century . While new technologies continue to show the potential to advance human kind and serve the public interest on the one hand , these same technologies have engendered wide political , legal and ethical debates . Such discourse is pivotal given the growing economic and societal implications of these technologies . Advancements made in reproductive technologies , pharmaceuticals , genetic engineering and stem cell research are all recent examples where radical new [banner_entry_middle]

solutions have been offered amongst intense debate and new ethical , policy and legal boundaries

Nanotechnology , a form of molecular engineering , has been heralded as the `new technological revolution . This technology enables the manipulation of matter at the atomic level , and offers unrivalled possibilities across the fields of biotechnology , information technology , agriculture , medicine , and materials , in manufacturing electronics , healthcare and environment and for `revolutionary advances in military capabilities . Its potential is breathtaking (Tegart 364-370 ) Future applications of nanotechnology are likely to see scientists having the ability to `modify matter and transform every aspect of work and life , with advancements having impacts as profound as the Industrial Revolution

However , while much attention in nanotechnology has to date focused on its scientific and commercial potential , there has been far less debate on associated regulatory , ethical and legal aspects . Indeed , most public and private research at the nano-scale seems to have essentially evolved to date `beneath the radar screen of civil society and government regulators (Mehta 34-39

The nanotechnology phenomenon

Rather than simply being one technique , `nanotechnology ‘ is an emerging family of technologies including `nanosciences ‘ and `nanotechnologies enabling the manipulation of matter at the atomic level . Nanotechnology is defined by its scale – the nanometer (nm ) or one billionth (10 ?9 ) of a meter (Mehta 34-39 ) Conceptually , nanotechnology refers to the ability to control the composition of molecules and atoms , within the range of 100 nm down to 1 .0 nm , potentially enabling scientists to create specific molecular structures and devices . The sizes here are barely comprehendible . For example , given that the width of a human hair is approximately 80 000 nm , some 1600 nano-tech devices , each 50 nm wide would fit across a human hair

Science function or science fiction

The commercial production of nano-scale applications has already begun with over 140 companies across the world already commercially producing nano-scale particles in 2002 . Such `first generation ‘ applications include functioning scientific tools such as atomic force microscopes and the creation of simple nano-scale compounds and composites (or particles ) for use in sunscreens , cosmetics , coatings , and paints . Other examples include stain resistant clothing , dirt-resistant bathtubs and smaller , faster computer memory (Tegart 364-370

Within 5-15 years , a `second generation ‘ is expected . Although a logical continuation of existing trends , this second-generation development might be viewed as mid way between the existing `science functions ‘ and more futuristic `science fiction . The Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering explain that the progression will be from basic nano-scale compounds and composites to more… [banner_entry_footer]

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