Allianz welcomes National Nanotechnology Strategy
3 May, 2007
Allianz Insurance congratulates the Australian Government on its forward-looking approach to nanotechnology through the establishment of a $21.5 million National Nanotechnology Strategy.
The transformation the nanotechnology revolution will have on our economy and society in the twenty-first century will be of the same magnitude as the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century and the IT and communications revolution of the twentieth century, according to Nicholas Scofield, General Manager Corporate Affairs.
A joint report between Allianz and the OECD, Opportunities and Risks of Nanotechnologies, found that sales of nanotechnology products was estimated to increase from less than 0.1% of global manufacturing output in 2005 to 15% in 2014.
The Allianz-OECD report found that there is much uncertainty about emerging risks associated with nanotechnologies and it will take years for studies about exposure routes, and the effects on human health and the environment to reach conclusive results.
The first step in the development of a risk management toolbox is to create an awareness of the risks and an understanding of the hazards. The next step is to determine how underwriters and risk engineers should deal with critical issues such as direct exposure to nanoparticles or their release into the environment. Following that, there is a need to identify and evaluate the risks in a continuing process that considers scientific, technical, legal and regulatory factors.
The report highlighted a number of findings that needed to be considered over the next few years to ensure the continued growth and insurability of nanotechnology. These include:
- The need for independent research into the risks of nanoparticles, exposure routes and the effects on humans and the environment.
- Strengthening of the evidence base and allowing public access to the results.
- Transparency will be a key factor for adequate risk management and public trust.
- The development of comparative risk classification schemes and databases.
- Focusing insurance underwriters’ and risk engineers’ efforts on critical issues such as direct exposure to nanoparticles or their release into the environment.
Mr Scofield said “the Government’s nanotechnology strategy will put in place the underpinnings for the research that is needed into the health and environmental effects of nanotechnologies through its establishment of a nanoparticle measuring capability by the National Measurement Institute.”
“Allianz also welcomes the Government’s commitment to address the issues of regulations and standards relating to nanotechnology, and the provision of independent and balanced advice to the community on nanotechnology”, Mr Scofield said.
The term nanotechnology describes a range of technologies performed on a nanometer scale with widespread applications as an enabling technology in various industries. Nanotechnology encompasses the production and application of physical, chemical, and biological systems at scales ranging from individual atoms or molecules to around 100 nanometers, as well as the integration of the resulting nanostructures into larger systems. The area of the dot of this ”i” alone can encompass 1 million nanoparticles.
What is different about materials on a nanoscale compared to the same materials in larger form is that, because of their relatively larger surface-area-to-mass ratio, they can become more chemically reactive and change their strength or other properties. Moreover, below 50 nm, the laws of classical physics give way to quantum effects, provoking different optical, electrical and magnetic behaviours.
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