Nanotechnology And Nanoethics In Engineering Computer Science Essay

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Nanotechnology can improve many physical, chemical, physicochemical and biological properties of the materials, which can be very useful for biomedical, aerospace, food, textile, cosmetic, manufacturing, oil, agricultural, defense and electronic industries. However, nanotechnology products (or nanomaterials) can be dangerous materials because of the atomic scale manipulation. Since the nanomaterials, such as nanotubes, nanoparticles, nanowires, nanofibers, nanocomposites and nanofilms, are all new products produced by entirely new manufacturing techniques, there is no specific rules and regulations that cover all the nanomaterials and manufacturing techniques. Thus, this issue brings nanoethics into nanotechnology research, development and education to seek and examine the potential risks and rewards of the applications of nanomaterials, as well as societal, economical, moral, health and other broader human implications of the advances of the technology. In the present nanoethics study, we will give a detail report of ethical, social, philosophical, environmental, safety and other legal issues of nanotechnology and its products, which may be very useful for the training and protection of the undergraduate and graduate students, as well as scientists in academia and industry, policymakers, and regulators working in the field.

Keyword: Nanotechnology, nanoethics and recent developments.

Nanotechnology has wide range applied in human society. It is to design, characterization, production, and application of structures, devices, and systems by controlling shape and size at nanometer scale [1] [2]. It changes the physical, chemical, physicochemical, and biological properties of materials for biomedical, aerospace, food, textile, and all other industries.

New products associate with nanotechnology are benefited with many advantages, stronger, lighter, faster, and smaller. Overall, they are better. Three or four nanotechnology products have been adding to marketshlef weekly since 2008, and number of products associated with nanotechnology increased two times in the market from 2007 to 2008 [3], and the trend of increasing will be exponentially. One of examples is that almost all computer manufacture are designing better and smaller netbook computer in 2009, and the price is getting cheaper as well, and as well as the new iphone 4 has much better capability than its predecessor iphone 3Gs. This could be proved by Moore's Law, Gordon Moore predicts that the number of transistors can be placed on an constant size of circuit will increased follow the function of exponential in 1965 [4].

It is difficult to specify exactly what could make an area of nanotechnology so special that it needs its own ethics, but a minimal requirement must be that it either raises ethics issues that are not raised by other kinds of technologies, or that it raises ethical issues of a different magnitude than other technologies. Is this the case for nanotechnology [5]

As new nanotechnology has been developing fast enough for improving existing products or create new products, but the research for bad effects of nanotechnolody stay still. What are the bad effects? As the new technology develops leading ahead, it is urgent to develop its ethics, legal regulations, environmental issues, and social impacts for those that will guide nanotechnology the right way.

Roles of Ethics of Nanotechnology

The objective of nanotechnology should contribute human success in socially and provide sustainable environment. Thus, ethics contained by responsible development of nanotechnology enclose:

The nanotechnology should express what represent integrity, human success and sustainability

Make available ethical power such as tools and assets that help individuals and organizations to give ethically informed judgment for nanotechnology.

There should be better communication between the nanotechnologies to society.

Ethical issues are important not only during the usage stage but also research and development and design stage of the nanoproduct.

Implement design guidelines which includes;

The machines which uses for production should only be specialized for nano production, it shouldn't be for general purpose.

Machine shouldn't be self replicating, it should supervise with the knowledge people

Nanomachines should not be made to use an abundant natural compound as fuel

Machine must have tagged so everyone can realize in case of loss [21]

Defining opportunities for nanotechnology to build the goal and wait for obstacles to its doing so;

Expand standards for evaluate potential nanotechnologies;

Defining boundaries on how the goal should be pursued [19].

Roles of ethics for safety within nanotechnology (minimizing the risk and maximizing the benefits) are responsible for;

Establishing standards and nano-labels; considering number of products in the market and some of the are even not under the label. Developing safety guidelines which specified on nano production. Establishing nano-safety committee to monitor nanotechnological researches as well as workers[20].

Ethics is a theory to guide people solve moral dilemmas rationally, it helps people think about situations and critisism the choices about legal or illegal, right or wrong. The more important is to let people act right, not only know what the right thing is. One of reason of lack of nanoethics is that nanotechnology has not caught attention from people, although the most of research fundings are coming from taxes the people paid. Even though, the people who are using nanotechnology product, are not aware the risks of human health, environmental, and social impacts.

Due to lack of nanoethics information, the risks for human health and environmental are still lagging behind of the nanotechnology researches [6]. The assessments are still under developing, and they cost expensively. Also, the test results vary depend on where the nanoparticles or nanoproducts are, what the environmental is, and what the concentration of nanoparticles are. Due to all of those factors, and some unknow factors, it needs hugh fundings to investgate nano risk issue. According to a UK survey on suncreen product, most of them are added with titianium dioxide and zinc oxide to block UV rays from body, however, some other new nanoparticles may have better UV blocking ability even benefit on anti-aging, however they do still have some unknown potential health issues [7]. With the follow-up researches on those suncreen products, none of their manufacturers put information of nanoparticles on the lable of product, it cause the ethical issue for not letting consumer to know the properties of nanoparticles and their potential side effects [7].

Risk assessment is another major problem in nanoethics, the nanoparticles can easily get into human body via organs [7] [8], but companies neglect to investigate the nano properties of their bulk products, eventhough, the bulk properties of the materials pass the quality control from authority. More concerns are depending on different nanoparticles. Appropriate risk assessments seem necessary, but it hasn't gotten attention from some companies. Overall, more people are aware how serious risk it may cause. Goverments are increasing fundings to ensure risk analysis would be taken care, because organizations understand the potential risk of products may cost more financial damage to companies than their products could possibly make. It is always worth to sharpen the dull oxes before lop trees.

More goverments are increasing budges to ensure the safety of nanotechnology and its applications, even some insurance companies are involving in it [9]. There are five nanoethical critical thinkings for assessing risk education:

How varies do properties of nanoparticle compare with its bulk material

How does nanoparticle change properties when release it in ambient environment

How does toxicity change when one kind of nanoparticle mixed with others

How to prevent nanoparticle to become airborne pollution

How does nanoparticle interact with human organisms

Based on those factors, it is not the responsibility for nanoethics researcher only, but also be a part resposibility for nanotechnology reaserch. As a survey has been done showing:

… that industry and university scientists are among the handful of groups the public trusts the most for information about nanotechnology - much more than governmental bodies, regulatory agencies and news media. Nanotechnology may, therefore, be one of the first emerging technologies where academia and business have the ability to reach out directly to a public who trusts the information they provide. Ironically, nanotechnology may also be the first emerging technology for which scientists may have to explain to that public why they should be more rather than less concerned about some potential risks.[10]

For the best results, it is good for both fileds working together in any process of nanothechnology researches. All the nanoproducts or nanoparticles should be investigated for the case by case toxicities, and this needs to be the nanoethics regulation before nanoproducts unveil to public.

Responsible development of any new materials requires that risks to health and the general environment associated with the development, production, use and disposal of these materials are addressed. This assessment of possible risks posed to public health from novel materials, requires understanding of the intrinsic toxicity of the material, the levels of exposure that may occur (by inhalation, by ingestion or through the skin), and any relationship between exposure and health effects. This is necessary to protect workers involved in production and use of these materials, the public and the ecosystem; [11].

There are some possible negative effects on using nanotechnology:

Society: developing nanoethics as fast as possible to guide the right path for nanotechnology's developing.

Health: nanoparticle can enter cells, nucleus, and cross the blood-brain barrier if the size is smaller than 100nm, 40nm, and 30nm [12]. If those nanoparticles go into human body, it may carries with blood circulation through all the body, and cause human sick.

Environmental: how will nature or artificially to disposal or recycle nanoparticles?

National security: nanoproducts may be utilized by terrorists to against us.

Personal privacy: many famous people are aware of their privacy when they go out, it is because the nanodevices are becoming smaller, and nearly impossible to be detected by eyes.

With all the points have mentioned, educators need to understand which part of nanoethics is too futuristic, and which is normal [13]. Nanoethics should focus on solving real problems more than publishing papers.

Nanoethic Societal and Philosophical Issues

Societal impact of nanotechnology identifies harms, conflicts, fairness, and issues which are concerning respect for persons. For example; some changes bring benefit to some people; on the other hand, it may bring harm to others. Other potential issues can be safeguards for workers occupied with unsafe manufacturing processes, equity disputes come out with intellectual property protection, and questions concerning relationships between governments, universities and industry.

Scientists and engineers bring to their work a laudable concern for the social value of their labors. However, those working in a particular technical field may be focused on the immediate technical challenges and not see all of the potential social and ethical implications. It is important to include a wide range of interests, values, and perspectives in the overall decision process that charts the future development of nanotechnology. Involvement of members of the public or their representatives has the added benefit of respecting their interests and enlisting their support [18].

Nanoethichs Health and Environmental Issues

Health and environment is the area that nanotechnology is highly used. Nanomaterials can be used for different medical application, such as tissue engineering, medical diagnosis and treatment and medical devices as well. Medical application of nanotechnology contributes to increase human life expectancy. There are numerous nano products offered in order to keep environment clean, such as water filter catalist which made out of nanomaterial, solarcell, etc. Nanotechnology offers amazing benefits to human life and environment on the other hand nanomaterials lead unintendent consequences[14]. We can say that small world has big ethical issues from the production to end of its life. The previous toxicity result shows enginered nanomaterials can cause several damages to the human body as well as ecology ( soil, air and water). The silver nanoparticle is the most used nano material in the worlwide. Antibacterial property makes nanosilver attractive for providing sterility (e.g., hand sanitizer and treatment of burns). At this point, ethical issues show up the question if the person who is utilizing from nanomedicine or any nano products is informed before use. Person may choose to be ill rather than using nanomedicine. According to Senjen, there were 700 nanoproducts on the market at 2006, but most of them were not labeled or publicly known[17]. According to EPA(Environmental Protection Agency) the manufacturers removing nano label from the products, Is it ethical, if it is not who will take care of it?[16]. The advances that nanotechnology provide in medical area is double-edge so that it can be used or misused. For instance, nanotechnology able to provide implantable computer chip for the patient which has Alzheimer to improve their medical competence then same chip can be used for healty person to increase his/her mental performance.

Nanoethics Safety Issues

Some key question of nanoethics respect to safety include, What are the potential health and safety risks with nanotechnology applications and who is responsible? What are the rights of individuals in affecting nanotechnology applications? What responsibilities do we have to protect society from the risks of nanotechnology advancement?[22]. Figure 1 exhibits nanosafety policy and the path that people can follow. All of the elements are merged to provide safe nanotechnology for producer as well as user and environment. In this case we can protect the rights of every body which involves nanotechnology active and inactive.

The figure explains that we need a basic research to understant nanomaterials beheviour into the human body and environment. Developing tools that measures nanomaterial and define possible exposure and monitor it. Reviewing safety of chemicals,food,drugs,medical devices etc.[15]

Figure 1:Nanosafety strategy framework.

Source: Teparkum, S. 2009

The actions which suppose to provide by government are; increase awareness safety issues linked with the fast changing science and application of nanotechnology. Provide education associated actions to high schools and universities. Development of programs and materials for public outreach. Provide technical training to people who works in nanotechnology. The research and regulatory agencies should share information provide decision expert and making mechanism on nanoresearch [15].


It can't deny that nanotechnology benefits to human life which start to involve with electronics,sports equipments, clothes that people use in regular life through health application which is vital for human life. Scientists can't stop their researches in nanotechnology which already started break through to number of areas. In order to prevent potential harm of nanotechnology, guideline should provide, follow and supervise. Nanotechnology shows greate attraction for any application due to nanomaterials electrical property, volume/weight ratio etc. Instead of stopping this bright technology scientisist define physical harm of it and establish ethical set of guidelines. The guideline respect to nano ethical issues will provide safe environment for the developing as well as using this technology respect to human life and environment [21].