Friends of the Earth have raised concerns that a Government sponsored “dialogue” on nanotechnology and energy to be held in Brisbane today, risks only telling one side of the story. Five nanotechnology scientists have been invited to speak, yet experts on the potential risks associated with the technology have not been given a platform.

Dr Gregory Crocetti from Friends of the Earth’s Nanotechnology campaign said “Nanotechnology scientists with a vested interest in the technology have been invited to speak at the forum, yet no risk scientists, or groups with a more critical perspective, have been given a platform. We are concerned that members of the public attending the forum will only be given one side of the story.”

Friends of the Earth and other community groups have been invited to participate in workshops, but have not been offered the same opportunity as nanotechnology researchers to voice their long-held concerns.

“In a world increasingly concerned about climate change, nanotechnology has been marketed as a techno-fix that will enable high-tech prosperity with no environmental footprint – yet our research shows that often these claims don’t stack up.”(1)

“The federal government has touted nanotechnology’s green credentials as a key reason to justify generous public funding of the sector. Yet while they have shown much interest in the industry’s economic prospects, they have shown little interest in asking the key question: does nanotechnology actually deliver for the environment?”

“For example, we hear that carbon nanotubes may be used to strengthen wind turbines and to store energy. But when you take into account how extraordinarily energy intensive they are to manufacture, or how they behave like asbestos, we’ve got to have a critical discussion about their role in our energy future.”

Manufacturing carbon nanotubes requires 95-360 times the energy required to make steel on an equal mass basis and US researchers have concluded they may be one of the most energy intensive materials known to humankind.

“Public funding should be directed to research that offers the immediate potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – around proven technologies like solar thermal and wind – not creating new environmental burdens with energy-intensive nanotechnologies, which at best are still a decade or more away from commercialisation.”

Nanotechnology scientists that will be speaking at the forum include John Bell, Head of the Applied Nanotechnology Group at Queensland University of Technology; Prof. Lianzhou Wang from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Functional Nanomaterials; Prof George Zhao and Professor Max Lu from the University of Queensland; and Shelley Brown from the Very Small Particle Company (VSPC).

(1)    FoE (2010) Nanotechnology, climate and energy: over-heated promises and hot air?