Nanotechnology-Social and Ethical Considerations

Science, Engineering and Technology developments in the 21 st Century, and with the challenges of . finite global resources, environmental and economic impacts, we are faced with wide applications of scientific discovery, and research opportunities of “Nanotechnology” breakthroughs. Nanotechnology research, developments and innovations has already made many positive and promising implications but, also comes with a number of ethical, moral, environmental and societal issues. This paper and presentation is designed to explore and lead the International Conference on Engineering Education (ICEE) discussion on the important scientific, engineering, technological and societal interaction and/or impacts of Nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology is a rapidly progressive field of research and development impacting areas like material science, electronics, precision manufacturing and medicine. Nanotechnology offers the possibility of many societal benefits, such as reduced energy use, lower cost for computing, material reuse and recycling, and effective medical treatments. However, as Nanotechnology makes rapid advances, there are growing concerns about risks associated in the areas of environmental, privacy, security, ethical, moral, social and political impacts of its use and applications. The objectives of this paper are as follows: ƒ Provide a brief introduction to Nanotechnology ƒ Provide a brief analysis of Nanotechnology research and its impact on global technology transfer. ƒ Provide a brief synopsis of social and ethical considerations of Nanotechnology The prefix “Nano” signifies a billionth: A billionth of a second is a Nanosecond; a billionth of a meter is a Nanometer. Therefore Nanotechnology and/or Nanoscience are the study of the ecology around us at one of the smallest of the particle levels, commonly known to us as Nanostructure of Materials [1]. The terminology and/or the concept of Nanotechnology and Nanoengineering use the fundamentals of atoms and molecules as the basic building blocks to create new materials, perform molecular functions, design embedded systems, and also create minute machines and devices. Nanotechnology research and development brings the possibility of material science, for example, the fabrication of composites with ten (10) times the strength of steel and with only a fraction of the weight. Research of miniaturization (due to Nanotechnology), will bring new innovations and inventions impacting the emerging field of digital technology, communication and information science, ICE cluster (instrumentation, controls and electronics), polymer science, fibers and synthetics, semi conductor chips (including sensors, optical devices, mirrors, actuators and embedded chips) [2]. Nanotechnology innovations will create materials at the atomic level, thus creating the technological ability to fabricate precision machines, devices and systems (such as: molecular sized computers and robots) to substantially change various sectors of our emerging 21 st Century economy, such as fiber optics, biotechnology, MEMS, manufacturing, medicine, pharmaceutical science, environmental science, automation, genetic engineering, cloning, nuclear physics, and the science of warfare [3]. Nanotechnology’s promise and potential is to create a world of abundance in an ecology challenged by finite resources with an accelerated need for adequate food, safe water, a clean environment, abundant power and energy supply, and increased need for goods and services. With this major developments and inherent research capabilities impacting the field of Nanotechnology, the applied science and engineering discipline must strongly examine the socioeconomic and ethical considerations of Nanotechnology.

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