Nanotechnology, a new discipline that involves manipulating and measuring things on a scale more than 800 times smaller than a human hair, is set to revolutionise science and technology.
New technologies feature prominently in Greenpeace campaigns. While we campaign against the technology we believe will have a profound negative impact on the environment (like genetically modified crops and nuclear power), we also campaign in favour of those which provide solutions (like renewable energy and waste treatment technologies).
This prompted us to commission a comprehensive review of nanotechnology and artificial intelligence/robotics developments. We asked the Imperial College London to document existing applications and to analyse current research and development (R&D), the main players behind these developments, and the associated incentives and risks.
Nanotechnology could be harmful to the environment or could be of benefit - depending on the priorities for research and development that are now being decided by Government and companies.
Our research indicates that the first products of nanotechnology are likely to be faster computers and diagnostic aids in medicine. In the long term we can expect major applications in telecommunications, computing, pharmaceuticals, warfare and energy sectors.
Greenpeace is concerned about some current applications and the longer term possibilities of environmental damage. Our concern extends to a moratorium on so-called 'nanoparticles'.
But there is also scope for environmental benefit in the long term as well and we are keen to see that materialise.
We are making our views known and looking to promote discussion in the scientific and policy communities. We hope that these will be taken on board to avoid major public conflicts in years to come.