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Breakfast Thursday, 19 June, 2003, 07:19 GMT 08:19 UK
The truth about nanotechnology
Picture courtesy of Visions of Science awards
Winner of the Visions of Science award for concept 2002
Depending on who you believe, nanotechnology will either revolutionise industry, engineering and medicine or reduce the world to a mass of grey goo.

So who is right? On Monday scientists will gather in Paisley for the first international conference on nanotechnology in construction.

It will cover everything from self-compacting concrete and rust-proof steel to the creation of new materials.

  • On today's programme we heard from Professor John Ryan who's a nanotechnology expert and Caroline Lucas, an MEP for the Green Party


    All perfectly harmless. But, concern remains about a technology that has been likened to "opening Pandora's most terrifying box."

    The 1966 science fiction film Fantastic Voyage provided a glimpse of what nanotechnology would be like in the future.

    A miniaturised nuclear powered submarine raced through a man's arteries to try and remove a blood clot in his brain.

    The film has just been released on DVD which is extremely timely since nanotechnology - where things are made or manipulated on an atomic scale - is no longer fiction.

    IBM made the world take notice when it used individual atoms to spell the company name in 1989.

    And at the University of Cambridge's newly built Nanoscience Centre, scientists believe that nanotechnology is a natural evolution of developing technology.

    In fact nanotechnology has already made an impact in a number of industries.

    Pilkington used nanotechnology to produce self cleaning glass where an invisible coating reacts with the Sun's ultraviolet light to loosen dirt particles so that any rain simply washes the dirt away.

    An independent study to examine the benefits and risks of nanotechnology is currently underway. The benefits include faster computers and targeted drug delivery.

    The risks are well known in science fiction. The true facts are yet to be discovered.

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