What types of nanotechnology presents the most benefit
and what presents the most risks to society?

What is nanotechnology?

It is not one type of technology but a range of converging hi-tech applications that are expected to impact greatly on lives over the coming years. It is the science of the small, where scientists and engineers working on the scale of matter at its most fundamental, the nanoscale, can assemble new things. Broadly speaking, nanotechnology means working on scales which are below 100 nanometres, or 1/100000th of the diameter of a human hair. There will be big transformations - healthcare, green technologies, manufacturing, commerce, the way we eat, play and access information.

One unique feature of working on the nanoscale, where atoms are literally put together, is that the physical properties of objects behave very differently than on larger scales. Nanoscale manufacturing is already occurring for some products including electronic equipment, food and healthcare. Although there is some scientific evidence, we are still largely unaware of health or environmental effects. More work needs to be done. There are also social, philosophical and equity issues – who will control such a technology, how will it be regulated, who will ultimately see the most benefit, and what will it mean for the future of humankind?

What is ‘Your Science Your Say’?

'Your Science Your Say’ is an online forum where new, or emerging, technologies are discussed and where there is public debate about what developments in the lab might be funded or regulated in future. Our philosophy is - it is important that risks and benefits of particular scientific applications to society and to the environment are debated publicly at the early development stages.

In ‘Your Science Your Say: Nanotechnology’, four nanotechnology researchers talk about their work in short Youtube videos. We want you to have your say about new Irish science. This is one of a range of methods for public engagement with nanotechnology being tested by a research project funded by the Irish Environment Protection Agency (EPA). Responses will help inform EPA on public engagement policy about new technologies, the environment and society.

How do you have your say?