Mohamed Hassan, who also serves as executive director of TWAS, the academy of sciences for the developing world, said the Arab region of the world faces a host of "daunting development challenges."
"Three of the most fundamental involve ensuring adequate supplies of water, energy and food," he said. "Advances in nanotechnology could help achieve progress by helping to address each of these challenges."
For example, he said nano-filters could enhance the efficiency of desalinization plants and nanotechnology could improve the capacity of solar panels. More abundant supplies of water and energy, Hassan said, would boost irrigation and help increase agricultural output.
But first there must be a strong commitment to training the next generation of scientists, he said. To boost science, he said each Arab country must create at least one world-class university and build at least one world-class state-of-the-art science center.
"Nanotechnology may not be the first thing that comes to mind in discussions dealing with strategies to address the Arab region's most pressing challenges," Hassan said. "But such investments in science and technology could be a key to the region's future."
He presented his remarks last week in San Diego during a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.