A nanomachine concept A buckyball Buckytube
Results from a Two-Round Expert Delphi
Conducted by theMillennium Project of the American Council for the United Nations University
for theArmy Environmental Policy Institute
The content of this report does not necessarily reflect the views the Millennium Project's sponsors.
An expert panel of 29 participants identified potential military uses of nanotechnology that might occur between 2005–2010 and 2010–2025 with their potential for causing health hazards or environmental pollution.
Some examples between 2005 and 2010 are:
• Nanosensors to detect trace concentrations of biochemicals could lead to absorption of nanoparticles through the skin into the body and environment, concentrating in water and soil, and eventually linking with natural organisms, causing unknown environmental changes
• Nanomaterials (e.g., nanotubes) in uniforms and equipment to make them stronger and lighter could lead to nanofiber-like materials that break off from uniforms and equipment and enter the body and environment
• Nanoparticles as surface coverings to make it harder, smoother, and/or more stealthy could erode and be inhaled by military staff and the general population
• Nanomaterials used as filters to remove selected impurities from fluids could become very low in cost and hence ubiquitous, and result in many small but discrete concentrations of possibly toxic impurities.
Some examples between 2010 and 2025 are:
• Artificial blood cells (respirocytes) that dramatically enhance human performance could cause overheating of the body, bio-breakdowns, and their excretion could add to the environmental load.
• Large quantities of smart weapons — especially miniaturized, robotic weapons and intelligent, target-seeking ammunition without reliable remote off-switches could lead to unexpected injury to combatants and civilians, destruction to infrastructure, and environmental pollution.
• Small receptor-enhancers designed to increase alertness and reduce the reaction times of humans could cause addiction and/or subsequent Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, leading to weakness, neural damage, and death. Research Priorities: The expert panel also identified and rated research questions whose answers might produce knowledge to help prevent or reduce the health hazards and environmental pollution from potential military uses of nanotechnology. Those research questions or directions that would produce the most new knowledge to prevent or reduce health hazards (rated 4 or higher on a 5 point scale) are:
• How are nanoparticles absorbed into the body through the skin, lungs, eyes, ears, and alimentary canal?
• Once in the body, can nanoparticles evade natural defenses of humans and other animals? What is the likelihood of immune system recognition of nanomaterials?
• What are the sizes, aspect ratios, and surface activity determinants of nanoparticle impacts on living organisms (research must be conducted for specific nanoparticles)?
• What are potential exposure routes of nanomaterials - both airborne and waterborne?
• Are the current toxicity tests used for chemicals appropriate and/or useful for nanomaterials?
The research directions that would produce the most new knowledge to prevent or reduce environmental pollution from future military use of nanotechnology (rated 4 or higher on a 5 point scale) are:
• How biodegradable are nanotube-based structures?
• Could nanoparticles enter the food chain by getting into bacteria and protozoa and accumulate there?
• How will nanomaterials enter the environment and will they change when moving from one medium (e.g. air) to another (e.g. water)?
• How to identify and dispose of nanomaterial litter?
• How might nanoparticles get into plants and other organisms?
• Regardless of the question, the research should be interdisciplinary and international.
• Do nanoparticles act like bioaccumulants in Nature?
• How can nanotechnology be used for post-battlefield cleanup (including biological, chemical, and nuclear wastes) so that they do not pollute soil and water?
• What technologies can be used to minimize exposure to nanomaterials?
A nanometer is one billionth of a meter (10-9 meter). Nanotechnology manipulates matter at this nanoscale. It is more of an approach to engineering than a science, although it draws from the scientific knowledge of biology, physics, chemistry, and materials science and is expected to dramatically change these sciences. See Appendix B for a list of other definitions. Eric Drexler introduced the term "nanotechnology" in Engines of Creation (1986) to describe the "manipulation of individual atoms and molecules to build structures to complex, atomic specifications," and said that "Perhaps the 'arrival' of the concept of nanotechnology came about in physicist Richard Feynman's landmark 1959 lecture called There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom: The principles of physics … do not speak against the possibility of maneuvering things atom by atom … it has not been done because we are too big."
Today many other kinds of nanotechnology have attracted much attention. Global nanotech investments in 2004 were estimated at $8.6 billion, and revenues from nanotech products should equal that of information technology in ten years. President Bush signed into law the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act , providing $3.7 billion beginning in 2005 and spread over four years, as the largest governmental funding of scientific projects since the space program.
The applications of nanotechnology range from next generation flat panel TVs, advanced solar panels, and chemical and biosensors, to nanomedicine and energy transmission efficiencies. Richard Smalley, who discovered the first fullerenes, called "buckyballs (C60), and is developing the use of "buckytubes," expects nanotech to help improve energy transmission efficiencies. (Buckyballs are the hollow C60 spheres; a fullerene is any pure carbon molecule with 60 or more atoms, e.g. carbon nanotubes.)
Nanotechnology approaches range from "top down" (large machines that make very small things today like nanomaterials in tennis rackets, clothing, and sunscreens) to "bottom up" approaches (molecular assemblers that one day may make molecular machines that make larger things). This study invited input on the full range of approaches to nanotechnology from an expert panel via a two-round Delphi. The invitation letters and Delphi questionnaires are available at: http://www.acunu.org/millennium/nanotech-rd1.html and http://www.acunu.org/millennium/nanotech-rd2.html.
The 29 expert Delphi panel respondents had backgrounds in nanotechnology R&D with potential military applications, medicine, and/or environmental research related to nanotechnology. This study was conducted between September 2004 and January 2005 as a small addition to a contract with the Army Environmental Policy Institute to produce monthly scanning reports about international environmental security issues.
1. Potential Use and Potential Impacts between 2005 and 2010
The Delphi panel was asked to suggest potential environmental pollution and health hazards that might result from military uses of nanotechnology in the time periods 2005–2010 and 2010–2025.
The following is an unranked list of the panel's suggestions (edited and condensed for clarity) that might occur between now and 2010:
1. Nanomaterials in sunscreens, camouflage creams, and/or bioweapons skin shields might be absorbed through the skin and/or flushed into the environment and enter the food chain.
2. Nanomaterials in uniforms and equipment to make them stronger, harder, smoother and/or lighter could be damaged and/or through normal usage and aging, break off and enter the body and environment including plants, other animals, water and fish.
3. Nanoparticles in fuel as additives might be inhaled by military staff and the public.
4. Nanoparticles as surface coverings to make it harder, smoother, and/or more stealthy could erode and be inhaled by military staff and the general population
5. Nanosensors to detect trace concentrations of biochemicals could lead to absorption of nanoparticles through the skin into the body and environment, concentrating in water and soil, and eventually linking with natural organisms, causing unknown environmental changes.
6. Very low cost filters/membranes using nanomaterials to remove selected impurities from fluids (liquids and gases) could become ubiquitous and result in many small but discrete concentrations of possibly toxic impurities that could become more toxic than the initial materials.
7. Nanoparticles in weapons such as depleted uranium could be inhaled by military in the battlefield and civilians if dispersed via wind or other means.
8. Similarly, nanoparticles created by the blast of high technology weapons and/or high temperature combustion processes could lead to diseases like cancer, lymphoma, or leukemia in humans and other animals induced by inhalation of nanopollution or ingestion of contaminated food; e.g., inhaled nano-sized pollution in the Twin Towers Collapse Phenomenon.
9. Nanoparticle accelerants and explosives could be accidentally dispersed into the environment.
10. If implanted into the body, radio frequency identification device (RFID) tags to track soldiers and equipment could result in materials "leaching" into the body; those in equipment could enter the environment.
11. More effective prophylactics and therapeutics—e.g. time-released polymers that would replace multiple vaccinations—would give better control over contracting and spread of illness and disease; however, those polymers would end up in the environment.
12. The biocompatibility of improved prosthetic devices (non-friction microscopic coatings) and implanted medical devices has yet to be established.
13. Disposal of highly efficient batteries using nanomaterials could impact ecosystem and human health.
2. Potential Use and Potential Impacts between 2010 and 2025
The following is an unranked list of the panel's suggestions (edited and condensed for clarity) that might occur between 2010 and 2025:
14. Artificial blood cells (respirocytes) that dramatically enhance human performance could cause overheating of the body, bio-breakdowns, and their excretion could add to the environmental load.
15. Large quantities of smart weapons—especially miniaturized, robotic weapons and intelligent, target-seeking ammunition without reliable remote off-switches could lead to unexpected injury to combatants and civilians, destruction to infrastructure, and environmental pollution.
16. Small receptor-enhancers that increase alertness and reduce the reaction times of humans could cause addiction and/or subsequent Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, leading to weakness, neural damage and death.
17. Inorganic, non-biodegradable nanoparticles (and perhaps also non-biocompatible) nanoparticles for drug release or cancer treatment, or "permanent" nanosensors, might induce a foreign body reaction.
18. Proteomic targeting, genetically selective "designer quasi-viral components", engineered to select specific human targets based on definable genetic markers, might mutate, creating a biological pandemic.
19. Nanoparticles to "clean-up" contaminated areas might create new compounds that could have unknown impacts on the environment, including long-term leaching into ground water reserves.
20. Ubiquitous surveillance systems deployed without strong controls on the use of information could lead to psychological stress from the sense of being watched by strangers.
21. Numerous centimeter-scale buoyant platforms deployed in the atmosphere might interfere with birds and aircraft, and damaged devices might fall as precipitation at uncontrolled locations over Earth's surface.
22. Nanoscale time-released bioweapons for inhalation might have long-term effects on those handling the bodies of victims and on the environment in general.
23. The deliberate high-volume production and use of nano-built weapons and ammunition might occur without sufficient disposal methods after the need for use has passed.
24. Nanaoscale biomolecule-driven motors that enhance the efficiency of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) usage, the frequency of generation of ATP and the life of ATP molecules in endurance athletes and/or long-haul soldiers could cause overheating of the body, bio¬breakdowns, and possibly lead to Rapid-Onset Muscle Soreness after a stipulated duration, and if allowed to function beyond this duration, may kill the organism thus modified.
25. Ubiquitous sensing in the oceans via large numbers of small drifting devices linked by acoustically based data-packet networks, and countermeasures to disable them, could affect sea life from these materials, as well as from acoustic pollution.
Other interesting suggestions for the period 2010 to 2025 that are not conventionally thought of as health or environmental impacts included:
• Nanocomputers could remove humans from the battlefield making warfighting less costly for the side with the nanotechnology and therefore make warfighting more likely. The reduction in lethality of wars aided by nanotechnology could reduce the moral sanctions against wars of aggression. Better sensors, effectors, and computational systems, with lower cost production enables deployment of teleoperated "soldiers" able to occupy territory without risk to human soldiers, could destabilize military balances, prompting preemptive wars or wars of aggression, enabling inexpensive conquest and subsequent suppression of insurgencies, and even a reduction in moral sanctions against wars of aggression. Rapidly deployed high-volume production of superior weapons and ammunition might have similar impacts.
• Automated or remote-controlled weapons, rather than removing humans from the field of battle, instead may make it easier to take the battlefield to the humans. Although these new weapons may shift the focus of conflict away from conventional battlefields, new battlefields will have to be developed, and many of them will overlay civilian populations.
• Inexpensive, high performance military systems make nonlethal weapons economical as a means of projecting force, despite their lower effectiveness per unit cost.
• Antisatellite systems based on inexpensive, high performance launch and orbital systems could lead to dense clouds of hazardous objects in near-Earth space, posing collision threats, strategic destabilization, and precipitating war.
• Special operations nanorobots designed to shoot from the inside, after being ingested, might miss their targets and lead to random killings.
3. Research priorities
3.1 Research priorities for addressing health hazards
The Delphi Panel was also asked to identify and rate research questions, that if pursued might help prevent or reduce environmental and health impacts. The following scale was used to rate the questions:
Potential for gaining new knowledge from the research
5 = Will lead to critical knowledge for preventing and/or reducing problems 4 = Very likely to lead to critical knowledge for preventing and/or reducing problems3 = May lead to critical knowledge for preventing and/or reducing problems2 = Not likely to lead to critical knowledge for preventing and/or reducing problems1 = A complete waste of time
The tables below present the averages of the ratings by the Delphi panel listed in order of their potential for gaining new knowledge important to reducing or preventing potential health impacts noted previously.
Health hazard research questions––sorted by Knowledge Gain PotentialHow are nanoparticles absorbed into the body through the skin, lungs, eyes, ears, and alimentary canal? 4.46Once in the body, can nanoparticles evade natural defenses of humans and other animals? What is the likelihood of immune system recognition of nanomaterials? 4.38What are the sizes, aspect ratios, and surface activity determinants of nanoparticle impacts on living organisms (research must be conducted for specific nanoparticles)? 4.14What are potential exposure routes of nanomaterials - both airborne and waterborne? 4.00Are the current toxicity tests used for chemicals appropriate and/or useful for nanomaterials? 4.00What are the surface properties of nanoparticles that alter toxicity? What are the distinct properties of nanoparticles that may alter toxicity? 3.87Do nanoparticles concentrate at critical sites like synapses and tumors? 3.80Effect of exposure to nanoparticles on all lifestages, from fetus to old age, and on all major systems, including neural and immune systems. 3.79How are nanomaterials metabolized and eliminated by the body? 3.73What are the important unknowns about nanomaterials crossing the brain/blood barriers and traversing neural pathways? 3.64What is unique about the health hazards of manufactured nanomaterials vs. health hazards of particles of a similar size? 3.60Can nanomaterials concentrate inside humans? If so, in which organs are they most likely to accumulate? 3.53Can nanoparticles enter egg and sperm cells, altering DNA? 3.53How are namomaterials distributed throughout the body? 3.50What is the nature and quantitative effectiveness of the mechanism for removing nanoparticles from the lungs? 3.50Compared to existing weaponry, how much more deadly will nano-built smart weapons be especially miniaturized, robotic weapons and intelligent, target-seeking ammunition? 3.42Develop uniform nomenclature for research and presentation of results. 3.36How are nanomaterials biotransformed within different species? 3.36Organize data on impacts based on group or class of nanoparticles with respect to chemical composition, size, aspect ratio, and surface activity. 3.23What are the regulatory options to investigate? 3.20Is there built-in auto destruction within the nanoparticles? If so, what happens to the waste materials? 2.92What psychological aspects should be considered? 2.85
3.2 Research priorities for addressing environmental pollution––sorted by Knowledge Gain PotentialHow biodegradable are nanotube-based structures? 4.36Could nanoparticles enter the food chain by getting into bacteria and protozoa and accumulate there? 4.21How will nanomaterials enter the environment and will they change when moving from one medium (e.g. air) to another (e.g. water)? 4.20How to identify and dispose of nanomaterial litter? 4.14How might nanoparticles get into plants and other organisms? 4.14How can research in these fields be made more interdisciplinary and international? 4.08Do nanoparticles act like bioaccumulants in Nature? 4.07How can nanotechnology be used for post-battlefield cleanup (including biological, chemical, and nuclear wastes) so that they do not pollute soil and water? 4.00What technologies can be used to minimize exposure to nanomaterials? 4.00What are the potential environmental impacts of nanotech water purification systems? [Reformulation suggestion: How to determine whether there are environmental impacts of using functionalized nanomaterials or nanostructured membranes or filters for water purification?] 3.93Real inhalation studies (vs. simulation). 3.83Are nanoparticles changed in composition (as they go through the body or environment), or do they accumulate as pollutants in the environment? 3.79How do engineered or manufactured nanomaterials behave as compared with natural nanomaterials, or those resulting from combustion processes? 3.71Study nanotech impacts on ecological systems, and not just on single organisms. 3.54What climate change impacts are possible from extremely large-scale operations to provide energy (especially solar) or from mass-produced nano-built weaponry and/or military infrastructure? 3.54Compared with existing weaponry, how much more damage could nano-built weapons do to buildings, roads, and infrastructure, and how much of a pollution hazard will these create? 3.50How might nanomaterials leach into water tables? 3.42Study current nanoparticle contaminations in post-war fields by high-technology weapons, including smoked cigarette tobacco polluted with depleted uranium. 3.09What strategies could prevent uncontrollable growth (or the "gray goo" problem)? 2.79
3.3 Priorities of general questions to gain further insight into nanotech impacts––sorted by Knowledge Gain PotentialToxicologists and pharmaceutical scientists cannot solve or understand all these nanotech problems acting just within their disciplines. Biomaterialists, immunologists, and embryologists have a better cultural background to understand the physical-chemical and biological interactions of nanoparticles with human life and environment. A multidisciplinary team is necessary. 4.43What training will be necessary to provide the capacity for oversight for safe development and application of nanotechnology? 4.17What are the most useful methodologies and protocols for environmental pollution and health hazard studies for the range of nanotechnologies? 4.07What is a useful classification system to provide a framework to make research judgments and keep track of the state of knowledge about nanotech's potential pollutions? 4.00How can toxicologists and pharmaceutical scientists investigating nanoparticles' ability to evade cell defenses to target disease best be brought together? 4.00How can energy consumption be minimized and waste/pollution be prevented in the manufacturing of nano/military materials and products? This research would address green manufacturing of nanomaterials – applying green chemistry and green engineering principles. 4.00How can standard metrics for nanotech pollution/hazards be developed? 3.86Are there ways to use novel testing methods, protocols and technologies (e.g. toxicogenomics) to increase the efficiency with which we can generate important risk data for new nanomaterials? 3.86How can specific research into nano-related environmental pollution and health hazards effectively take into account the fundamental ways that all systems (ecological, economic, political, and social) may be disrupted and transformed by molecular manufacturing on local, national, and global scales? 3.71What will be the development timeline for nano-built nanomachines (exponential manufacturing) with military potential? How soon do we have to prepare? 3.69What are the commonalities between anthropogenic and manufactured particles? 3.69At what stage in the lifecycle of nano/military materials and products do the major environmental impacts occur (e.g., resource extraction, manufacture, use, end of life)? This research would address life cycle assessment of nanomaterials used in military activities. 3.67What are the "representative" nanomaterials that should be used for testing in terms of which nanomaterials may cause high exposures? 3.46How can stand-off off-switches be created to deactivate nanotech weapons? 3.18Can nanoparticles be made preferentially symbiotic with human hosts, creating a new breed of terrorists? 3.14How can nano-built nanoproducts intensify earlier problems of nanomaterials and create important new ones? 3.00How can arms-control measures prevent the deployment of powerful nanomanufacturing systems able to produce unprecedented quantities of advanced weapons? 3.00Establish Nanotech-Environmental summits. 3.00
4. Additional Comments from the Panelists
Applied nanobiology being utilized for the engineering of "next generation" bio-weapons, including the development of hybrid genetic marker targeting quasi-viral components and potentially hypervirulent "designer prions": I am greatly concerned that this work is already well under way, perhaps not in the U.S., but without question in other parts of the world. Certainly the "tools of the trade" for this type of endeavor already exist. Unlike nuclear devices, even those that have been purchased ready-made (such as the infamous Russian "suitcase nukes"), which require substantial complex maintenance, and can be detected, designer bio-entities, especially viruses and viral hybrids, can remain dormant for very long periods of time, with very little or no maintenance, and are essentially undetectable until eventually released.
Even once released, if the proteomic/genetic signature of the newly created hybrid organism is of an unknown origin (and therefore not in the current genetic library of known bio-pathogens), it can slip through even comprehensive biological scans until it is eventually isolated and analyzed. By that time, it has already been well established in the targeted population, and its desired effects have become manifest.
Indeed, the artform of inventing this new generation of bio-weapons is not just in creating extremely virulent and deadly quasi-viral entities that are proteomically selective for keyable genetic markers, but also are designed to have "stealth" proteomic signatures that mimic relatively harmless or benign organisms.
Furthermore, prions, which are responsible for pathologies such as the so-called "mad cow disease" (and similar pathologies which have occurred in other species, including humans), are still relatively new and somewhat unexplored as a potential military asset. No doubt, however, this is also being considered, and this is truly in the arena of nanobiology, in that prions are much smaller than even viruses (roughly speaking, prions are somewhat like a proteomic fragment of a virus).
The interesting and relevant point here about prions is that they are extremely hard to detect, can be hypervirulent, can remain dormant and "hidden", even within the targeted host victim until they become activated via a biological trigger, and most importantly, are virtually indestructible. Extreme temperatures, most chemicals that would usually kill viruses and even extremely high dosages of radiation have no affect on these entities. They can "lie in wait" anywhere, in soil, water, in living tissue, waiting for their cue to become active.
Once activated, they can create horrendous neurological pathologies, and death.
Worst case scenario: Hypervirulent "designer prions" get released into a general human population, as part of a scheme hatched not by a military organization, but as the outcome of an ideological agenda where simply death and mayhem on a mass scale is the intended goal. The end result is just that, death and mayhem on a scale almost unimaginable, leaving in its wake a new class of "sub-organism" entity which is essentially indestructible, ubiquitous, and even after the initial pandemic may be resolved by some form of treatment or antidote, it will lie in wait for centuries to come, like the ultimate bio-timebomb quietly waiting to be recatalyzed into action on an unsuspecting future population.
This scenario could in fact come to pass well within our lifetime. As a last note on this topic, once again making the comparison to "traditional" nuclear weapons: creating designer bio-entities does not require nearly the scale of enormous overhead, exotic resources and facilities as nuclear device development. Essentially, the right collection of molecular biologists and other specialists in certain areas of expertise could be quietly ensconced in an ordinary office building setting, anywhere, and obtain the required equipment off the shelf as standard biological research purchases directly from the suppliers of such technology without ever even the raising the suspicions of the vendors.
Hence, the prevention of this scenario should be a priority for military research.
Another area where nanotechnology could become truly terrible, as a weapon platform, beyond the more obvious applications such as smart or autonomous AI (artificial intelligence) enhanced vehicles, robots, swarms of "intelligent nanobugs", distributed intelligence "smart dust", and so on, and even the much more terrifying advent of proteomically selective nanobiological agents (mentioned above), would be in the theoretical realm of "selective disassembly"
The deployment of selective disassembly would be somewhat like a "controlled" version of the infamous "gray goo" concept, in that specific domains of material/chemistry regimes would be targeted for "molecular chaos" to ensue when the invading nanomaterial was triggered or catalyzed into action.
That this type of research would even be considered should be enough to cause very legitimate concern and regulatory action. There is no "global authority" that can actually regulate and prevent such a concept from being secretly explored and potentially deployed.
Who might do this is an area for debate, but if a country or group did so, then an entirely different potential future for nanotech could unfold, instead of its promising solution to so many of the world's current problems.
Although there is much thought given to carbon nanofibers, there are many different forms of nanostructured materials already in development (and deployment) which have nothing at all to do with carbon fullerene chemistry. For example, various forms of "smart" sensory garments without carbon fullerene chemistry of any type are being patented now. Carbon nanofibers are probably not particularly threatening, as per the same logic that applies to asbestos fibers, although there is yet no specific data to support or deny this position.
Also, in the arena of nanoparticulates utilized for filtration purposes (such as in water treatment, for instance), perhaps in the long term, there could be cause for concern, but again, there is no data to my knowledge that supports this. Furthermore, if nanofiltration techniques provide a ready solution for many water problems, then a balance between the perceived potential threat of these materials and the real (and immediate) benefits of fresh / water access has to be assessed.
Another nanomaterial is "qauntum dots." Cadmium sulfide is the common material of choice for creating quantum dots, spectrally selective/resonant nanoparticles whose resonant frequencies are determined by the physical size of the particle. The applications are many and highly interesting, but cadmium is also highly toxic (carbon, for instance, is not). However, it should also be pointed out that there are already various alternative (and less toxic) material variants being investigated for potential quantum dot manufacture, particularly in potential medical applications.
I think that language that makes the following points would help to clarify the reported results: Current nanofabrication uses large things to make nanoscale things, often crudely, messily, and expensively. Future productive nanosystems will use small things to make both large and nanoscale things, and can be precise, clean, and inexpensive. Expertise in nanoscale products is often associated with confused assessments of productive nanosystems, which are long-term goals of a different field. Accordingly, mixing discussions of productive nanosystems with discussions of current nanoscale products can lead to mixed results.
There seems to be three general categories of questions about the effects of nanomaterials on the body: 1) are they physically large enough (individually or with massive accumulation) to obstruct a bodily function at the tissue (capillary, bronchiole, neural synapse), cellular or subcellular levels; 2) does the body interact with or metabolize them; and 3) what is the function of the particular "nanobot" in question?
Our skin, GI tract, and lungs are constantly exposed to particles of all size without much effect unless the particle is large enough or the exposure is large enough...as in smoke inhalation, asbestosis, etc.
But we do interact with and metabolize many things regardless of size or amount that our body uses. These are either chemical reactions (e.g., carbohydrate, protein, fat metabolism, Na pump, K pump, etc.) or allergens. Much work has been done to study chemistry and allergy in the human body and it is likely that the chemical makeup of most nanomaterials is not new to the study of the human body. Therefore I think the real question of harm to the body is about the function for which the "nanobot" is created. What job is it supposed to do? Because the creator of the "nanobot" knows its function (s)he would probably already know how to stop that function or should create along with it an "off- switch" mechanism, antidote, or decay mechanism (or vaccine?) that would arrest any harmful or pollutant effect. I believe this principle should apply to any scientific creation of any scale that could be harmful to humanity.
An additional research question should be: What will be the potential environmental and human health impact of the convergence of nanotechnology with biotechnology, cognitive technology and information technology?
I do not follow how the development of nanosensors leads to environmental damage. Is the concern the eventual environmental ubiquity of nanosensors, which themselves would be absorbed through the skin and then excreted from the human body, to later build up concentrations of nanosensors in the environment, which would somehow alter natural organisms? This seems like a tortured series of assumptions to me. Military development of nanosensors to detect trace biologics? Yes. Military use of nanoparticulate "stuff" (drugs, nutrients, etc.) as skin creams for transdermal delivery? Yes. Concentrations of nanowaste in the environment? Plausibly. Unforseen nanowaste manipulations of natural organisms? Possibly. But all of these strung together? Doubtful.
Nanoparticulates and nanofibers have two different dimensional challenges to entry into the body. Nanofibers have a reasonable length to them, which boosts them dimensionally into the micro range, which the human body deals with differently – so trapping and excreting them is more likely and thus less of a health threat (this addresses the physical threat, but obviously not any chemical threat that they might pose, in any size). There has already been a study which showed cytotoxicity, but NORA (National Occupational Research Agenda created by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) is still looking into the nanofiber toxicity issue.
Since filtration systems are designed to capture, not release the filtrants, nanotech should not be an issue. If anything, the concentration of toxics in a filtration system is a good thing, not a negative environmental impact. You would be removing them from the environment.
Nutritional and vaccination applications of using nanotech are not mentioned. Both of these are possible within five years. Drug delivery is mentioned once, but the health-related applications go beyond that. From a nutritional (human systems performance) perspective, the greater solubility, greater ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, greater dosing efficiency, better time-release functions, etc. of nanotech-enhanced nutraceuticals provides high value on the battlefield. Research on several vaccination applications for nanotech are in process, the objective of which is to leverage nanotech's delivery advantage over conventional vaccination technologies.
Consider the possible consequences of hostile agents breaking into communications and control of nanosystems, either in their intended activity or (worse) replication activities––particularly if the intended activity is as a weapon. (Nanoterminator III?)
Nanorobots for the elimination of the nanoparticles inside the blood can have a positive impact on human health. Nanomotors for moving nanoparticles outside of the human body can also have a positive impact on human health. Low-cost, disposable nanostructured platforms for diagnostics of diseases and biocontamination can be very effective and provide rapid response in biowarfare and control of disease outbreaks in adverse environments. Nanostructured energy scavenging devices could provide low-cost power generation for micro-devices that would allow better, real-time, and pervasive monitoring of environmental conditions.
5. References for related research
The following are references for research related to potential environmental and health impacts of military use of nanotechnology. An initial list was provided by the research staff. The panel added to the list during both rounds of the Delphi. (Note that long Web addresses may have to be copy/pasted into the browser address window.)
Jürgen Altmann and Mark Gubrud, Risks from Military Uses of Nanotechnology. 2002 "Military Uses of Nanotechnology: Perspectives and Concerns", Security Dialogue (SAGE Publications) 35(1):61-79 (2002) http://www.ep3.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/bvp/RiskMilNT_Lecce.pdf ; http://www.sagepublications.com/ DOI: 10.1177/0967010604042536)
P.J.A. Borm and W.G. Kreyling, Toxicological Hazards of Inhaled Nanoparticles—Potential Implications for Drug Delivery, J. of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology 4(5):521-531 (2004). This paper gives a brief review on the toxicology of inhaled nanoparticles, including general principles and current paradigms to explain the special case of nanoparticles in pulmonary toxicology.
Center for Responsible Nanotechnology, The Effects of Molecular Manufacturing on Military and Government Capability and Planning. – http://www.crnano.org/study20.htm
Vicki L. Colvin, The Potential Impact of Engineered Nanomaterials, Nature Biotechnology, Nature Publishing Group 10:1166-70 (October 2003)
K. Donaldson, V. Stone, L. Tran, W.G. Kreyling, and P. Borm, Nanotoxicology: a new frontier in toxicology, Occup Environ Med 61:727–728 (2004)
Kevin L. Dreher, Health and Environmental Impact of Nanotechnology: Toxicological Assessment of Manufactured Nanoparticles, Toxicological Sciences 77:3-5 (2004)
R. Duncan, The Dawning Era of Polymer Therapeutics, Nature Reviews 2:347-359 (May 2003) http://www.nature.com/reviews/drugdisc. Research at the interface of polymer chemistry and the biomedical sciences has given rise to the first nano-sized (5–100 nm) polymer-based pharmaceuticals, the 'polymer therapeutics'. Polymer therapeutics includes rationally designed macromolecular drugs, polymer–drug and polymer–protein conjugates, polymeric micelles containing covalently bound drugs, and polyplexes for DNA delivery. The successful clinical application of polymer–protein conjugates, and promising clinical results arising from trials with polymer–anticancer-drug conjugates, bode well for the future design and development of the ever more sophisticated bio-nanotechnologies that are needed to realize the full potential of the post-genomics age.
Nanotechnology: Looking As We Leap, Environmental Health Perspectives, 112:A741-749. (Sept 2004) Main Section of EHP Online – http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/members/2004/112-13/focus.html
From Genomes to Atoms: The Big Down: Atomtech: Technologies Converging at the Nano Scale, The ETC Group, January 2003. – http://www.etcgroup.org/documents/TheBigDown.pdf
Robert A. Freitas Jr., Exploratory Design in Medical Nanotechnology: A Mechanical Artificial Red Cell, Artificial Cells, Blood Substitutes, and Immobil. Biotech 26:411-430. (1998) http://www.foresight.org/Nanomedicine/Respirocytes.html (The original "respirocytes" technical paper; first paper on medical nanorobotics ever published in peer-reviewed mainstream medical journal)
Robert A. Freitas Jr., Nanomedicine, Volume I: Basic Capabilities, Georgetown TX: Landes Bioscience, 1999. http://www.nanomedicine.com/NMI.htm (First textbook ever published on nanomedicine and medical nanorobotics; includes over 3700 literature references)
Robert A. Freitas Jr., Some Limits to Global Ecophagy by Biovorous Nanoreplicators, with Public Policy Recommendations, Richardson TX: Zyvex LLC (preprint), April 2000. http://www.foresight.org/NanoRev/Ecophagy.html (First technical discussion of ecophagy risk or "gray goo.")
Robert A. Freitas Jr., Nanomedicine, Volume IIA: Biocompatibility, Georgetown TX: Landes Bioscience, 2003. http://www.nanomedicine.com/NMIIA.htm (First comprehensive textbook ever published on the biocompatibility of nanomaterials, nanoparticles, and nanorobots in the human body, especially diamondoid and carbon-based materials; includes over 6200 literature references)
Robert A. Freitas Jr. and Ralph C. Merkle, Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines, Georgetown TX: Landes Bioscience, 2004. http://www.MolecularAssembler.com/KSRM.htm (First comprehensive technical review of replicative machines ever published, including molecular assemblers and nanofactories; includes over 3200 literature references)
A.M. Gatti and F. Rivasi, Biocompatibility of micro- and nanoparticles Part I in liver and kidney, Biomaterials, 23(11):2381-2387 (June 2002)
A.M. Gatti and S. Montanari, The so-called Balkan Syndrome: a bioengineering approach (English version) (February 13, 2004) http://www.idust.net/Docs/Nanoparticles01.htm
A.M. Gatti, Biocompatibility of micro- and nano-particles in the colon (part II), Biomaterials 25(3):385-392 (Feb 2004)
A.M. Gatti, M. Balestri, and A. Bagni, Granulomatosis associated to porcelain wear debris, Amer. J. of Dentistry 15(6):369-372 (2002)
A.M. Gatti, Risk assessment of micro and nanoparticles and the human health, Chapter of Handbook of Nanostructured Biomaterials and their Applications, American Scientific Publisher USA in press Dec 2004.
A.M. Gatti, Symposium Keynote Presentation: "Risk Assessment of Nano-Particles and Nano-Technologies for Human Health", 7th World Biomaterials Congress–2004, 748-749
A.M. Gatti, S. Montanari, E. Monari, A. Gambarelli, F. Capitani, and B. Parisini Detection of micro and nanosized biocompatible particles in blood, J. of Mat. Sci. Mat in Med. 15(4):469-472 (April 2004)
Chiu-Wing Lam, John T. James, Richard McCluskey, and Robert L. Hunter, Pulmonary Toxicity of Single-Wall Carbon Nanotubes in Mice 7 and 90 Days after Intratracheal Instillation, Toxicological Sciences 77:126-134 (2004)
M. Lucarelli, AM. Gatti, G. Savarinoo, P. Quattroni, L. Martinelli, E.Monari, and D.Boraschi, Innate defence functions of macrophages can be biased by nano-sized ceramic and metallic particles. Cytokine Netw. 15(4):1-8 (December 2004).
M. Lucarelli, E. Monari, A.M. Gatti, and D. Boraschi, Modulation of defence cell functions by nanoparticles in vitro. Bioceramics 16 (Porto). Ed. M.Barbosa , Trans Tech Publ, (ISBN 0-87849-932-6), 907-910 (2004)
Wolfgang Luther (ed.), Industrial Application of Nanomaterials - Chances and Risks, Technological Analysis (with support of the European Commission), Düsseldorf: Future Technologies Division (2004) http://www.zukuenftigetechnologien.de/11.pdf
The Nanotech Report 2004, New York: Lux Research, 2004http://www.luxresearchinc.com/reference.html
Tom McCarthy, War in the Age of Invisible Machines, World Systems http://www.mccarthy.cx/WorldSystem/war.htm
Sonia E. Miller, Esq., The Convergence of N: on Nanotechnology, Nanobiotechnology, and Nanomedicine, New York Law Journal (December 2, 2003) http://www.ctba.us/articles.asp
NSF Workshop Report, Emerging Issues in Nanoparticle Aerosol Science and Technology (June 2003), http://nano.gov:/html/res/NSFAerosolParteport.pdf
Joe Pappalardo, Military Ponders Future of Nanotech, National Defense (October 2004) http://nationaldefense.ndia.org/issues/2004/oct/Military_Ponders.htm
K. Peters, R.E. Unger, A.M.Gatti, E. Monari, and C.J.Kirkpatrick, Effects of nano-scaled particles on endothelial cell function in vitro: Studies on viability, proliferation and inflammation, J. of Material Science: Mat. in Medicine 15(4):321-325 (2004)
Chris Phoenix and Eric Drexler, Safe exponential manufacturing, Nanotechnology 15:869-872 http://www.iop.org/EJ/abstract/0957-4484/15/8/001/ — This paper explains that the so-called 'gray goo problem' is now less of a concern than are the implications of other forms of molecular manufacturing. The authors say "Nanotechnology-based fabrication can be thoroughly non-biological and inherently safe: such systems need have no ability to move about, use natural resources, or undergo incremental mutation. Moreover, self-replication is unnecessary: the development and use of highly productive systems of nanomachinery (nanofactories) need not involve the construction of autonomous self-replicating nanomachines. [However,] other concerns present greater problems. Since weapon systems will be both easier to build and more likely to draw investment, the potential for dangerous systems is best considered in the context of military competition and arms control."
Mihail C. Roco and WIlliam Sims (ed.), Societal Implications of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, Bainbridge, Kluwer Academic Publishers (2001)
Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies: Opportunities and Uncertainties, London: Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering, July 2004 http://www.nanotec.org.uk/finalReport.htm The report illustrates the fact that nanotechnologies offer many benefits both now and in the future but that public debate is needed about their development. It also highlights the immediate need for research to address uncertainties about the health and environmental effects of nanoparticles––one small area of nanotechnologies. In particular Chapter 5 addresses issues of health effects and nanotoxicology.
Nanotechnology: Small Matter, Many Unknowns, Zurich: Swiss Reinsurance Company, 2004. http://www.swissre.com/INTERNET/pwswpspr.nsf/fmBookMarkFrameSet?ReadForm&BM=../vwAllbyIDKeyLu/ULUR-5YAFFS?OpenDocment (If this fails, go to http://www.swissre.com/ and search for "nanotechnology")
Overview of Completed and Ongoing Activities in the Field: Safety and Risks of Nanotechnology, Version 2.2, Technologie Management, Switzerland, November 18, 2004. http://www.temas.ch/WWWTEMAS/TEMAS_Homepage.nsf/vwRes/Safety/$FILE/NANOSafety_Version2_2.pdf
D. B. Warheit, B. R. Laurence, K. L. Reed, D. H. Roach, G. A. M. Reynolds, and T. R. Webb, Comparative Pulmonary Toxicity Assessment of Single-Wall Carbon Nanotubes in Rats, Toxicological Sciences 77:117 125 (2004)
The Wise-Nano project, a collaborative website to study the facts and implications of advanced nanotechnology. It is a site for researchers worldwide to work together, helping to build an understanding of the technologies, their effects, and what to do about them. http://wise-nano.org/
The following Websites should also prove useful:
http://www.aist.go.jp/NIRE/eco_tec_e/hyouka_e.htm—National Institute for Resources and Environment (Japan) – Evaluation Technologies for Environmental Effects and Ecotechnology. Excellent technical discussion, with many graphics.
http://www.blogger.com/'http://www.azonano.com— World's Premier Online Nanotechnology Information Site"—A commercially sponsored portal and news site with an extensive collection of information.
http://www.eurekalert.org/nanotalk/20041207/talk.php — A useful portal and news site sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
http://www.euronanoforum2005.org/—Web site of the conference, "EuroNanoForum 2005"—"Nanotechnology and the Health of the EU Citizen in 2020"––6-9 September 2005
http://www.luxresearchinc.com—site/ of Lux Research Inc., a "leading nanotechnology research and advisory firm". Links to corporate-related events, and white papers.
http://www.nano.gov/—The home page for the U.S. government's National Nanotechnology Initiative. Offers current news and a variety of links.
http://www.blogger.com/'http://www.nanoforum.org— Nanotechnology Gateway". Sponsored by the EU. News and a small number of links.
http://www.nano.org.uk—site/ of the (UK) Institute of Nanotechnology. Links to events and various other types of resources.
Appendix A: The Delphi Panel
Michael BrodyU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyWashington D.C.
Vicki L. ColvinCenter for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology (CBEN)and Associate Professor of Chemistry, Rice UniversityHouston, Texas
Anna Laura ComunianInternational Council of PsychologistsPadova, Italy
K. Eric Drexler, ChairmanForesight InstituteIndependent ConsultantLos Altos CA
Sujoy DuttaEvalueserve (India) Pvt. Ltd.Gurgaon, India
Robert A. Freitas Jr.Institute for Molecular ManufacturingIndependent ConsultantPilot Hill, CA
Antonietta M. GattiEC Task Force of the JRC-ISPRALaboratory of Biomaterials Department of Neurosciences Modena, Italy
Theodore J. GordonSenior FellowACUNU, Millennium ProjectOld Lyme CT
Barbara KarnU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyWashington, D.C.
Wolfgang G. KreylingGSF - National Research Center for Environment and HealthNeuherberg/Munich, Germany Linda MacDonald GlennUniversity of VermontIndependent ConsultantBurlington, VT
Norbert MalanowskiFuture Technologies Division of VDI TZ GmbH and Independent ConsultantDuesseldorf, Germany
John McGuinnessArmy Environmental Policy InstituteArlington, VA
Kara MorganU.S. Food and Drug AdministrationRockville, MD
Tom MurphyRadiologist and Independent ConsultantDes Moines, IA
Charles Ostman, Senior FellowInstitute for Global FuturesChair, Nano Electronics & Photonics Forum, Senior Consultant, Silicon Valley Nano VenturesBerkeley, CA
Chris PhoenixCenter for Responsible NanotechnologyBrooklyn NY Peter RzeszotarskiCenter for Disease, Control, and PreventionAtlanta, GA
Jennifer SassNatural Resources Defense CouncilWashington, D.C.
Nora SavageU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyWashington, D.C.
Rich SilberglittSenior Physical ScientistRAND CorporationSanta Monica CA,
Anita StreetU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyWashington D.C.
Päivi TörmäJyväskylä UniversityJyväskylä, Finland
Mike Treder and Chris PhoenixCenter for Responsible NanotechnologyBrooklyn NY
Terry TurneyCSIRO Nanotechnology CentreVictoria, Australia
Jorma Virtanen Jyväskylä UniversityJyväskylä, Finland
Matti Vuento Jyväskylä UniversityJyväskylä, Finland
Scott WalshEnvironmental DefenseWashington D.C.
Paul WerbosNational Science FoundationArlington, VA
Elizabeth FlorescuDirector of researchAC/UNU Millennium ProjectCalgary, AB, Canada
John YoungResearch ConsultantAC/UNU Millennium projectUnion Bridge, MD
Hayato KobayashiResearch AssistantAC/UNU Millennium ProjectWashington D.C.
Jerome C. Glenn, directorAC/UNU Millennium ProjectWashington, D.C.
Appendix B: Definitions of nanotechnology
In recent general usage, any technology related to features of nanometer scale: thin films, fine particles, chemical synthesis, advanced microlithography, and so forth. As introduced by the author, a technology based on the ability to build structures to complex, atomic specifications by means of mechanosynthesis; this can be termed molecular nanotechnology. www.foresight.org/Nanosystems/glossary/glossary_n.html
The science and art of making devices that are smaller in scale than MEMS, often at a molecular size, generally fabricated by chemical processes that result in the growth or formation of certain useful structures. www.isye.gatech.edu/~tg/publications/ecology/eolss/node2.html
Nanotechnology is a new technology for creating MEMS structures in the "Nano" range which is three orders of magnitude, or 1000 times smaller than the current generation of MEMS devices. Refers to devices ranging in size from a nanometer to a micron. www.allaboutmems.com/glossary.html
The manufacture of systems of molecular size that emulate the behavior of larger systems. Any life system is potentially creatable in these dimensions, using standard biological or even inorganic components. www.calresco.org/glossary.htm
A manufacturing technology able to inexpensively fabricate most structures consistent with natural law, and to do so with molecular precision. www.nanotech-now.com/nanotechnology-glossary-M-O.htm
The application of science to developing new materials and processes by manipulating molecular and atomic particles. www.nanoelectronicsplanet.com/glossary/article
The science of creating highly miniaturized machines that work on the molecular level. www.morphonix.com/software/education/science/brain/game/brainarium/brainarium_glossary.html
Atomic engineering the ability to devise self-replicating machines, robots, and computers that are molecular sized. www.levity.com/mavericks/glossary.htm
A precise molecule by molecule control of products and byproducts in the development of functional structures. www.biotech.ca/EN/what_glossary.html
…is the science of building devices at the molecular and atomic level. For example, a single data bit might be represented by only one atom some time in the future. Beyond being used in computers and communications devices, nanotechnology could be used to build devices, change the properties of materials, and extensively in biotechnology. www.beta-rubicon.com/Definitions.htm
Constructing things one atom or molecule at a time or using programmed molecular sized robots called 'nanobots', for example treatment of disease from within the human body using nanobots. www.iib.qld.gov.au/itcareers/talk.asp
The development and use of devices that have a size of only less than 200 nanometres. www.eppic-faraday.com/glossary.html
…the creation of nanoscale devices (up to 100 nanometers) www.eetimes.com/story/OEG20020912S0030
Research and technology development at the atomic, molecular or macromolecular levels in the length scale of approximately one to several hundred nanometers. www.solexa.co.uk/Glossary/g.htm
— technology that changes atoms to create something new www.nasaexplores.com/lessons/02-057/5-8_glossary.html
"an experimental technology which uses individual atoms or molecules as the components of minute machines, measured by the nanometer, or a millionth of a millimeter."* www.hale.nrsd.net/HaleLibraryHome/LibraryWeb_folder/SciWebPages/Topic_Define.html
(n.) is synonymous with molecular systems engineering. An interdisciplinary field where devices are constructed at the molecular scale and function at this scale. This technology is expected to allow the construction of very compact and high performance computing devices. www.new-npac.org/projects/html/projects/cdroms/cewes-1999-06-vol1/nhse/roadmap/applgloss/applgloss.html
This refers to the construction and use of structures and devices that range in size from one to 100 nanometers. www.midlandstech.com/jlh/ast/glossary/n.htm
…the branch of engineering that deals with things smaller than 100 nanometers (especially with the manipulation of individual molecules) www.cogsci.princeton.edu/cgi-bin/webwn
Nanotechnology is the projected ability to make things from the bottom up, using techniques and tools that are being developed today to place every atom and molecule in a desired place. If this form of molecular engineering is achieved, which seems probable, it will result in a manufacturing revolution.http://www.crnano.org/whatis.htm