Nanotechnology: A Boon For Today And Its Innovations For Tomorrow’s World
Nanotechnology emerged by the implementation of nanoscience-which is the science of building materials and devices using single atoms and molecules .Thus knowledge and understanding of behavior and phenomena of the nanoscale world is nanoscience and when we study, observe, experiment and build materials from the individual atoms and molecules (nanoscale things) we come up with a technology termed as nanotechnology.
It has been already been observed that everything is made up of molecules which in turn are made up of atoms, now customization at these levels to get a useful product is what nanotechnology is helping us achieve.
WHAT ACTUALLY IS NANOTECHNOLOGY ALL ABOUT?
Nanotechnology has been understood by different scientists in different way and so we can have many definition if this technology by all intimately means to say only one thing that nanotechnology is really a boon and a gift which can be utilized in different field to given tremendous results .Nanoscience is an interdisciplinary subject and is used in many field for creating tremendous results
In early years When K. Eric Drexler popularized the word ‘nanotechnology’, he was talking about building machines on the scale of molecules, a few nanometers wide—motors, robot arms, and even whole computers, far smaller than a cell. Thus nanotechnology evolution was also categorized in four generations viz-‘Passive nanostructures’, Active Nanostructures’, ‘Systems of nanosystems’ and ‘Molecular nanostructures’.
Fig -2 www.h20technologies.com
The prefix ‘nano’ in both science and technology refers to the unit of 10-9 which means really small. It has been observed in research that at nanoscale (10-9m),the physical, chemical & biological properties of material differ in fundamental and valuable ways from the properties of individual atoms and molecules of bulk matter. Materials at nanoscale can behave very differently from when they are in larger form. Nanomaterials can be stronger or lighter, or conduct heat or electricity in a different way. Moreover, by changing just the molecular structure of a material it is even possible to control fundamental properties of materials like their melting temperature, magnetic properties, charge capacity and even colors without changing their chemical compositions; particles of gold can appear red or blue, depending on their size. Building something out of these materials is difficult but have tremendous results. Although nonmaterial processes occur at the nano scale level but the objects and result scan be much larger.
APPLICATION AREAS OF NANOTECHNOLOGIES-
Nanotechnology is not just a concept of material science but it has implementations of physics, chemistry, biology, computer science, mechanical and electrical engineering. Nanotechnology is distinguished by its interdisciplinary nature. Lot of work has already been done in nanotechnology field and there is tremendous scope for this technology in future. Scientists have already applied this technology in various fields and it holds many inventions for future. Let us have a look what all nanotechnology has in its shell.
- Natural nanotechnology-
Nanotechnology appears naturally without intervention of human beings. For e.g.-Chloroplast in plant cells.
- Nanotechnology in IT & Electronics-
Nanotechnology has proved to be a miracle in these fields as it is used in miniaturization of devices in the semiconductor industry. This technology holds major implications in the field of computers. For e.g.-Nanochips in computers .Nanotechnology offers the tools to understand / transform the silicon technology. It is the major reason of improvement in display screens and electronic devices. (Replacements of CRT by electron-producing Carbon Nanotubes).High resolution Recordable Compact Discs (CD-R) with progressive scans are built with nanotechnology that displays the best in picture quality. And only because of nanotechnology, nonvolatile random access memory cards have been designed that are almost 10 times better as compared to similarly sized regular RAM. Wireless laser mouse have also been designed with nanotechnology. This mouse is perfect for medical offices, libraries, and schools as well as for mobile professionals, gamers, and desktop users. As there is nano coating in the mouse it contains antimicrobial properties, which protect the mouse from bacteria.Nano robotics, is the technology of creating machines at or close to microscopic scale of nanometers. Researchers all over the world are working to come up with the best designs to actually build these nanocomputers(DNA & Quantum computers). Demand for better surface finish and accuracy has been increasing rapidly in recent years. Nano – surface finish has become an important parameter in the semiconductor industry.
It is not a new field as many chemical processes use it. Chemical catalysts coating, alloys, abrasives and glues are typical examples chemical nanotechnology.
Nanobiotechnology & Biomedical nanotechnology-
This technology studies element exists in nature to produce new devices. In life sciences this technology is used in nanocells e.g.: ‘Globblebot’- an artificial white blood cell. It is used in biomedicines, diagnosis & therapy of cancer. For e.g.-Nanotubes,nano medicines and nanogels. Tiny machines(nano robots) in your body can be used to cure cancer as cancer cells can be killed without painful side effects of chemotherapy. Thus we can now destroy tumors without killing healthy cells at the same time. Using nanotechnology in biometric sensors for medical therapies is now possible only because of nanotechnology. Carbon tubes are already helping to deliver drugs. Scientists have microscopic robots floating in our blood streams fighting against cancer cells, AIDS HIV virus, genetic disorders or even ageing. Nanotechnology has revolutionise the pharmaceutical industry by changing the ways drugs are produced and delivered.
Nanotechnology In space –
There is a tremendous improvement in shuttles & Satellites using ‘Nano satellites\’ -Biosensors (as a solution to Columbia shuttle tragedy & Fabrication to space shuttle material that can withstand 1000 degree centigrade.)Nano foods (food which can be preserved without refrigeration & protection from bacteria and diseases),Space suites and Space Elevator ‘Climbing the Sky’ -Ultra high strength materials allow tower to be built into space ! is only a new step of nanotechnology.
Nanotechnology and Defense-
Nanotechnology is now being used in defense to make more secure, lighter and accurate sensors. It is a promise from nanotechnology that the weapons will improve as the conventional material can be replaced with more rigid & lighter material using this technology.
NANOTECHNOLOGY IN MARKET-TODAY AND PROMISES FOR TOMMORROW
Currently more than 370 products on the market are utilizing nanotechnology. These range from car tires and sports equipment to electronics, clothing with stain-resistant fibers and cosmetics.
Nanotechnology is used in - The cars we drive, The food we eat, the clothes we wear-there are jackets available in the market which will keep us cool in summers and warm in winters, The sunscreens we use-which use nano sized zinc oxide particles to absorb and reflect UV rays which makes lotions transparent and smooth and non-sticky which will therefore make it more appealing to the consumer. We have Anti-ageing creams and the food shortly will be available that contain chemicals which are said to prevent wrinkles by promoting skin cell regrowth, Nano health supplements are also available -such as antioxidants. In sports, nanotechnology is used in Tennis balls, which are coated with nano sized material which make them more lighter and bouncy as molecular barrier is formed by the tiny particles that trap air molecules making the balls extra bouncy. Self-cleaning windows will be in the market soon, which are coated with a material, which has unique chemical properties. When the sun shines on these windows, a chemical reaction is triggered which breaks down dirt. Rain, instead of forming droplets, will spread evenly over the panel and wash away the broken down dirt. (as they are photocatalytic and hydrophilic).We have Washing Machines available e.g. Samsung Silver care which exhibits bacterial growth on the clothes it washes. Contact lenses are being developed that let you check your blood sugar by looking in a mirror. Intelligent nano coating for windows will serve as protector that reflect solar heat in the summer and transmit it in winter. Automobiles fuel lines are available in the market which are made up of carbon nano tubes which inhibits static electricity and reduce the risk of explosion.
In future you might be reading on electronic folded paper, according to an American Scientists, build from thousands of Carbon nanotubes. Researchers all over the world are working to come up with the best practices and results using this amazing technology and making our daily lives easy and interesting. Additional applications are underway in the areas of medical diagnostics and treatment, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, environmental protection (transformation of wastage into useful products), energy production, storage and lightning, manufacturing and product design.
Scientists believe that it is possible to build supercomputers that can replicate human brains or to develop nanotechnology that can lead to an implantable chip for interfacing with neurons and other types of cellular networks.
Nanotechnology has contributed towards the betterment of human lives and the environment as reduction in production of waste as now it is not impossible to have devices that can convert house hold waste into fresh food, diamond rings or antique works of art. Thus a pollution free environment can be created
RISKS OF THE BOON-A CONTROVERSAL ISSUE!!
We have already seen the benefits of nano structuring. But to fully utilize these materials we should be cautious while using and a defined framework should be used to maximize the potentials of nanotechnology. Due to the high surface area the reactivity of the materials, get increased which can create risks to the health and environment. Ultra fine particals can catalyze chemical reactions in the body. Carbon nanotubes can cause infections-gallium & arsenic is used in it, which could prove toxic.They could easily cross blood brain barrier(a membrane that protects the brain from harmful chemical in blood stream. Changes in proteins due to the presence of nano particles in the blood stream could trigger dangerous effects like blood clotting.)
Apart from the health risks we have the risks associated with our social environment also like ‘Grey-goo scenario’ proposed by Eric Drexler, where a synthetic nano-size device replaces all organic material. This scenario specifies that there will ‘Two Races of People’-as the people who use nano technology products such as cosmetics etc. will feel superior to those who are not using it.Is this scenario good for the society. Apart from this fact we should observe a question -Are More powerful weapons good ? and What about the manufacturing jobs?
We don’t have answers to these questions, but several organizations are urging nanoscientists to consider these implications now, before it becomes too late.
Whether we actually need to answer all of these questions is a matter of debate. Many experts think that concerns like ‘Grey goo’ and ‘Trans-humans’ are at best premature, and probably unnecessary. Even so, nanotechnology will definitely continue to impact us as we learn more about the enormous potential of the nanoscale and nano-stucturing.
It can be said very confidently that nanotechnology is considered as the key technology of the 21st century. It has offered and will offer many solutions to many current problems by means of smaller, lighter, faster and better performing materials, components and systems. Nanotechnology has opened up new market opportunities and has also made essential contributions to environmental and health protection. Nanotechnology with all its challenges and opportunities will become a part of our future. Besides all risks and confusions, the researchers are optimistic for the products based upon this technology
I have no doubt in saying that Nanotechnology is slowly but steadily ushering in the new industrial revolution.
About the Author
This article has been written by Shiva Sharam . She is an Assistant Professor, Department of PGDM(IT), Accurate Institute of Management and technology, Greater Noida.