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Volume 407: debated on Monday 23 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent research his Department has commissioned in the field of nanotechnology. [117011]

There is no universally agreed definition of nanotechnology. The term is used to cover a group of sciences and technologies where the dimensions of component parts can be measured in millionths of millimetres. Elements of nanotechnology may be present in many parts of the research programmes.We expect nanotechnology will help enhance or improve capabilities such as:

Chemical and biological agent detection and protective clothing;
Precision munitions;
Secure communications; and
Improved energy efficiency and waste reduction.

An understanding of nanotechnology is also essential in enabling us to develop effective countermeasures to the application of nanotechnology.

The following programmes relating to nanotechnology are funded in the Corporate Research Programme (CRP):

  • Semi-Conductor Wires and Dots;
  • Quantum Coherent Electronic devices;
  • Molecular electronics;
  • Single Photon sources;
  • Nanophotonics;
  • Dendritic polymers as Chemical Warfare Agent Protective materials;
  • Development of nano-scale metallic materials;
  • Hydrogen storage in Carbon nano stacks; and
  • Carbon nano-tubes for military applications.

To help us maintain an awareness of the overall field of nanotechnology, the MOD has jointly funded, with the Department of Trade and Industry and three of the UK Research Councils (the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Medical Research Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council), the establishment of two Interdisciplinary Research Centres in nanotechnology. These are being led from the Oxford and Cambridge Universities and are Biological and Physical science-based respectively.

Nanotechnology is also a major element of around 10 per cent. of the Joint Grant scheme projects, which are jointly funded by MOD and the Research Councils. Projects are currently under way at a wide range of universities and include Cambridge, Exeter, Imperial College London, Loughborough, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Salford, Sheffield and Surrey.