has been hailed by some as a revolutionary science and
by others as a threat to mankind.
The technology which spawned fears of unstoppable
'grey goo' taking over the planet and inspired the
bestselling Michael Crichton novel Prey continues
to be one of the most controversial fields in modern
But what is the truth behind nanotechnology and
what is its real potential to affect the way we live
in the coming decades? This question, and others,
will be the subject of a ground-breaking public debate
at The University of Nottingham later this month.
Eric Drexler, formerly of the Foresight Institute
and now Chief Technical Adviser with Nanorex, was
responsible for the concept that nanotechnology could
lead to self-replicating 'nanobots' and 'grey goo'
with the potential to threaten life as we know it.
claims building from initial work in 1981 have
generated years of heated debate with researchers
who have very different ideas about the potential
of science at the scale of thousandths of a millimetre.
Dr. Drexler's concept of nanotechnology is now generally
referred to as 'molecular manufacturing'.
For the first time, key members of the US molecular
manufacturing community are coming to the UK this
month to debate the issues with British academics.
On the other side of the public debate will be Professor
Richard Jones, of the University of Sheffield. Professor
Jones is the author of a popular science book on
nanotechnology, Soft Machines , and takes
a more sceptical line on the potential of Drexler's
version of nanotechnology. His view is that materials
behave differently at the nanoscale compared to familiar
human scales and this means nanotech may be more
like biology than conventional engineering.
Also taking part will be Professor Saul Tendler,
head of The University of Nottingham's School of
Pharmacy, who was a member of the panel that produced
an influential report on nanotechnologies published
by the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering
The molecular manufacturing community will be represented
by Dr J Storrs Hall, chief scientist of Nanorex Inc.,
and author of a recently published book on Drexlerian
nanotechnology entitled Nanofuture ; and
materials scientist David Forrest, president of the
Institute of Molecular Manufacturing (IMM) and Senior
Fellow at the Foresight Institute.
The IMM is a foundation formed in 1991 to conduct,
support, and promote research on molecular manufacturing.
Dr. Forrest participated in the recent review of
the US National Nanotechnology Initiative organised
by the National Academy of Sciences.
Another participant in the debate will be Jack Stilgoe,
from the DEMOS thinktank, an investigator on an ESRC-funded
project on public engagement with nanotechnology.
The debate will be chaired by Faye Scott from Involve ,
a thinktank recently tasked by the government's Office
of Science and Technology to set up a Nanotechnology
debate, on August 24, has the theme: 'Nanotechnology:
Radical new science or plus ca change
?'. It is
free and open to the public, and takes place at
4.30pm in theatre B1 in the Physics and Maths building
on the main University Park campus.
Philip Moriarty, of the University's School of
Physics and Astronomy, said: I've chosen this
theme so as to highlight the gulf that exists between
the perception of the potential of nanotechnology
as held by the majority of the scientific community
and the vision of nanobots and nanofactories which
usually accompanies most stories in the media regarding
The debate is part of the UK Summer School in Surface
Science, being held at the University from August
21-26. Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences
Research Council, the Summer School is aimed primarily
at science postgraduates but the nanotechnology debate
is aimed at a broader public audience.
Around 30 internationally renowned speakers will
be taking part over the five-day event, which has
attracted more than 80 postgraduates from the UK
Professor Moriarty is chairman of the organising
committee for the Summer School. The University of
Cambridge, UCL and Imperial College are also involved
in the organising committee.
this year it was announced that Nottingham would
receive a £3.5 million grant to set up
a new state-of-the-art research centre in the city.
The Nottingham Micro Nano Technology (MNT) Centre
will be an advanced manufacturing facility to help
companies develop revolutionary new products and
services at a scale of thousandths of a millimetre.
grant will provide open access for companies to
cutting-edge facilities designed to help bring
nanotechnology products and services to the market particularly
in healthcare, engineering and information communications
More information is available
from Professor Philip Moriarty , School of Physics
and Astronomy on +44 (0)115 951 5156 , firstname.lastname@example.org
; or Press Officer Tim Utton in the University's
Public Affairs Office on +44 (0)115 846 8092 , email@example.com