Public opinion of nanotechnology neutral, study finds

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2007 11:21 am    Post subject: Public opinion of nanotechnology neutral, study finds Reply with quote

Nano, nano it's not Robin Williams' refrain in the 1970s television sitcom Mork and Mindy, but something shoppers will hear often in December as companies cash in on the technological term.

Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod Nano may be the most recognized of more than 350 products that have been identified by their manufacturers as having a connection with nanotechnology, according to a study by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and published in the science journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology is the science of manipulating and controlling matter at a scale below 100 nanometres, or in the range of 1/100,000th the width of a human hair.

Public opinion neutral
The study's authors Steven C. Currall of University College London and London Business School, and Neal Lane, Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy examined how the public's perceptions of nanotechnology are being shaped by consumer trends and whether awareness will lead to increased support for research.

Currall and Lane conducted 503 interviews in the United States by randomly dialing telephone numbers from a list, and asking respondents about their perceptions of nanotechnology in the context of other technologies, such as nuclear power and genetic modification of organisms (GMO).

"Our results showed that nanotechnology was seen as relatively neutral; it was perceived as less risky and more beneficial than a number of other technologies, such as GMO, pesticides, chemical disinfectants and human genetic engineering," the study says.

However, the study also found that it was seen as "more risky and less beneficial " than solar power, vaccinations, hydroelectric power and computer display screens.

The scientists say in the study that with public opinion generally neutral toward nanotechnology, people working in the field need to make an effort to shape the way in which it is viewed in the future.

"Now is the time to educate the public aggressively with facts about the risks and benefits of nanotechnology. Education can prevent opinions from becoming polarized on the basis of misinformation," they write.

The study arose from the Wilson Center's Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, which is aimed at safely promoting and fostering the development of nanotechnology.

Explosion in products anticipated
Some $2.4 trillion US in goods that make use of nanotechnology are expected to be available by 2014.

The products available today range from the mundane to the intimate, with the overwhelming majority falling into the health and fitness category at 229 items. The next closest grouping of goods is home and garden with 39 products, followed closely by electronics and computers with 35 items.

Some other goods found on the list include:

Nano Silver antibacterial and deodorant socks by Goodweave Textiles Co. Ltd., which use microscopic silver particles to fight odour-causing bacteria.
Nanometer-silver Cryptomorphic Condom, a prophylactic spray manufactured by Chinese-Canadian condom maker Blue Cross Biomedical Ltd. The company says the condom's "antibacterial properties presumably arise from the nano-particles of silver incorporated into the spray."
Nanodesu X bowling ball made by The American Bowling Service Co., which claims it uses "Nano-Carbon Particle Technology" for a durable finish that aids performance.
Xbox 360 video game console by Microsoft Corp., which uses computer chips fabricated through IBM's 90-nanometre "silicon on insulator" technique.


This story was first posted on 6th December 2006.
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