Professor Sir M Welland, Professor R Clegg et al.
Foresight review of Nanotechnology

Is nanotechnology the next industrial revolution? Whatever its revolutionary claims the technology is here now. It heralds the ability to manufacture things – materials, components, systems – with atomically precise control. It is the ultimate in miniaturisation; molecular manufacturing.

Imagine a material orders of magnitude stronger than steel yet a fraction of the weight; materials that can heal themselves and self-repair when damaged; structures made from materials that can ‘feel’ the forces acting on them and communicate; liquids that can transform into solids and back again at will thus able to absorb shocks; wires and electronics as tiny as molecules; ultra-high density energy storage batteries and capacitors; artifi cial intelligence; DNA-based computing; nanoelectromechanical actuators and nanorobots. All of these are already existing or foreseeable applications of nanotechnology.

It is convergence of the sciences spanning chemistry, physics, materials science, biology, and computational sciences that is making nanotechnology possible. Its applications will impact almost every industry including energy, transportation, manufacturing, medical, computing and telecommunications.

Nanotechnology and its applications depend on creating the necessary tools to position atoms and molecules and build complex structures and machines with atomically precise control. Underpinning this are the modelling and simulation, imaging, and metrology instruments and methods needed to manipulate matter at the atomic scale. This report has been commissioned as a foresight exercise to look at the worldwide developments being made in nanotechnology and what the impact of its applications might be in the engineering-related sectors of relevance to the Lloyd’s Register Foundation. 

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