The government has put nanotechnology on the political agenda pledging to ensure the "safe and ethical development" of the science.

Nanotechnology is a major new industrial procedure for building structures a few millionths of a millimetres in size. These devices can be used in faster computer chips, more efficient batteries, "carriers" for medicines or ultra-thin coatings with multiple properties.

Science and Innovation Minister Lord Sainsbury responded to insurers' and industry's concerns over the risks posed by nanotechnology by introducing a review of safety regulations. He will also establish a group to co-ordinate research to underpin safety assessments.

Swiss Re nano-expert Annabelle Hett said: "Insufficient research has been done to say with any certainty whether, and if so to what extent, nanoparticles pose a threat."