Image: Luc Viatour, Wikimedia Commons.
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Bark II

Image: Luc Viatour, Wikimedia Commons.
Image: Luc Viatour, Wikimedia Commons.

Nanotechnology, the study of manipulating matter on an atomic and molecular scale, and generally dealing with structures of 1–10 nm is one of the more exotic technological developments of the late 20th century. However, as a new industry it is not without concerns over health and environmental implications. Infamously, Prince Charles (England’s outspoken monarch-in-waiting) urged the UK’s Royal Society to investigate the ‘enormous environmental and social risks’ of nanotechnology amid fears that the world would end by ecophagy, in which we are all to disappear into a grey goo. These more sensationalist science fiction claims aside, the manufacture of gold nanoparticles, used in electronics, healthcare products and as pharmaceuticals to fight cancer, requires dangerous and extremely toxic chemicals, which are clear and legitimate sources of concern. Good news, then, that work by Nripen Chanda and co-workers (Pharmaceutical Research, doi:10.1007/s11095-010-0276-6) provides hope of a much less harmful production methodology, using ‘cinnamon’ (the spice derived from Cinnamomum spp.). The plant-based process uses no electricity or toxic chemicals and is considered ‘green’, in both senses of the word. Whether this green nanotechnology will allay the fears over the ‘grey’ variant remain to be seen.

Nigel Chaffey

I am a Botanist and former Senior Lecturer in Botany at Bath Spa University (Bath, near Bristol, UK). As News Editor for the Annals of Botany I contributed the monthly Plant Cuttings column to that august international phytological organ for almost 10 years. I am now a freelance plant science communicator and Visiting Research Fellow at Bath Spa University. I also continue to share my Cuttingsesque items - and appraisals of books with a plant focus - with a plant-curious audience at Botany One. In that guise my main goal is to inform (hopefully, in an educational, and entertaining way) others about plants and plant-people interactions, and thereby improve humankind's botanical literacy. I'm happy to be contacted to discuss potential writing - or talking - projects and opportunities.
[ORCID: 0000-0002-4231-9082]

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