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Australians positive about nanotechnology

Australians remain “excited and hopeful” about nanotechnology, the government has concluded following a survey.

The survey, carried out by Market Attitude Research Services, found that 85 per cent of participants described themselves as “excited and hopeful” about the field.

This compares with 81 per cent in 2005 and 86 per cent in 2008.

The survey of 1,100 Australians was the fifth in a series started in 2005. It was followed up by a series of focus group discussions.

Respondents were positive about the potential of nanotechnology, with 70 per cent saying they believed it could improve quality of life in Australia.

Concern about the unknown risks involved in nanotechnology was voiced by 58 per cent, down from 72 per cent in 2005.

Awareness of nanotechnology has increased: the survey showed that 76 per cent had heard the term “nanotechnology”, compared with 51 per cent in 2005.

However, awareness of products that included nanotechnology or were made with nanotechnology remained at around 29 per cent, the survey found.

Those who were aware of the use of nanotechnology in specific products, such as in anti-bacterial surfaces for consumer products or solar panels, were generally positive, although some products—including sunscreens and cosmetics—were more divisive than others.

The survey is aimed at informing the decisions of the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, particularly regarding a nanotechnology strategy for Australia.

“There is a high level of belief within the Australian community that nanotechnology will provide long-term benefits for the quality of life in Australia, and will also help achieve economic and employment benefits,” the survey report concluded.

“Nanotechnology is not an issue that most people consider or discuss, but few risks or concerns about nanotechnology are foreseen, although most people recognise that risks could arise (and should then be addressed). Despite a low level of knowledge the vast majority of the Australian community express ‘excited’ or ‘hopeful’ views about nanotechnology, and that nanotechnology benefits will exceed or equal the potential risks.”