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As implied in "Introduction to Nanoscale Technology" this collection of technologies can benefit us in many ways, including better health, faster computers, and greater awareness of our environment. In some cases, nanoscale technologies will provide only an incremental improvement over existing technologies. But in other cases, they can open the door to new techniques, products, and even fields. Materials will become stronger; sensors will become cheaper, more sensitive, and detect a broader range of phenomena; computers will become faster and more efficient; medicine will improve in many ways.
Nanoscale technology does not generally create unfamiliar types of risk. As today, materials may or may not be toxic; products may or may not be dangerous; a few applications may raise ethical issues.
Nanoparticle toxicity has become a significant issue. Whether made of new materials or smaller versions of existing materials, nanoparticles may have surprising properties. This has led to the worry (sometimes exaggerated for effect, but sometimes confirmed by experiment) that the medical or environmental effect of nanoparticles may not be predictable. Some groups, such as ETC, have called for banning nanoparticles even for research purposes until more is known about them.
To learn more about nanoscale technology risks and benefits, see Health, Environmental, and other Societal Impacts from CBEN (Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology) and Nanoscience and nanotechnologies: opportunities and uncertainties from the Royal Society.
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