Nanotechnology: The concerns

By Sami Mughal

Nanotechnology is one of the latest advents of technology and comes with enormous potential, but like most new things that have a lot of promise; it is not without the cynics.

In this article I will try to see some of the scepticism that revolves around nanotechnology, and what the different viewpoints are.

The concern began when certain sunscreens were found to contain nano-particles that actually encouraged production of free radicals under sunlight. These radicals are now known to be dangerous, hence it being a cause of concern. This has prompted a lot of research into these products, especially from countries which have a lot more sunlight than we get in the UK, such as Australia.

While research may have proved that the sunscreen did encourage the production of free radicals, it does not mean that the technology itself is bad. It is much like calling a science like physics or chemistry bad because it may have been used to create products like guns or explosives.

There was also concern that the nano-particles being used in various products or treatments could be much like the case of asbestos, where it was only discovered later that the material itself is dangerous.

If you search for the dangers of nanotechnology, the main concerns are mainly revolving around the fact that we do not yet understand this technology. The few points that are causing such concern are:

–          Knowledge about what nanotechnology is, or how it fully works is still limited. As a result, it is not really known what tests are properly conclusive and what tests aren’t.
–          Building blocks that are used in nanotechnology, may or may not be dangerous.
–          The materials are so tiny (nano) that they actually react differently from standard sized materials. 
–          Fear of the unknown.
–          The amount of research and money required to assess this area.

While I have to admit that I do not have the required knowledge to answer these question myself, I got in touch with P2i, which is a local Oxfordshire company that specialises in liquid repellent nano-coatings for consumer products such as footwear and smartphones provided this response:

Our coating which is proven to be non-cytotoxic, non-allergenic and non-irritational has gone through rigorous testing to ensure there is no adverse reaction or increased sensitivity when in contact with human skin. In addition the concern that scientists appear to be raising is not over nanotechnology as such but nano-particles and our coating does not contain nano-particles but is merely nanometers thin.

You can find out more about P2i and their nano-coating technology here www.p2i.com  but in general the information available on this topic is still unclear but from the recent surge in articles on this subject it does look like answers will be forthcoming.

Sami Mughalhttps://www.oxgadgets.com
Can be found somewhere between designing new tech as an electronics engineer or testing new tech as a technology enthusiast. Lives mostly on Twitter, and would love to have a word with you there as @smacula.

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