The microscopic world is truly alien and truly fascinating, but if we search more than the microscopic scale, there is a deep and relatively unrevealed world beyond what the human eye can see. Beyond the microscopic scale, we will explore the potentials of work at a nanoscopic level, a level of a billion times smaller than the average scale we work today, this level is the Manipulation of Atoms and Molecules, which means Science and Technology on a nanoscale that has applications in the real world, This is Nanotechnology.
Nanotechnology is the science of building small, really really small; it’s pretty difficult to imagine how small it is. It has major benefits as well as Potential risks too. Nanotechnology may create many new materials and devices with a vast range of applications; on the other hand, it raises many of the same issues as any new technology, How? Let’s know in deep.
Introduction to Nanotechnology
First of all, what is this Nanotechnology? The earliest, widespread description of nanotechnology referred to the particular technological goal of precisely Manipulating atoms and molecules for fabrication of macroscale products, also now referred to as molecular nanotechnology. Nanotechnology or “nanotech” is the use of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale for industrial purposes. It is the science, technology, and engineering conducted at the nanoscale, which is about 1 to 100 nanometers. Nanoscience and nanotechnology are the study and application of extremely small things and can be used across all the other science fields, such as chemistry, biology, physics, materials science, and engineering.
A more generalized description of nanotechnology was subsequently established by the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which defined nanotechnology as the manipulation of matter with at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers. This definition reflects the fact that quantum mechanical effects are important at this quantum-realm scale, and so the definition shifted from a particular technological goal to a research category inclusive of all types of research and technologies that deal with the special properties of matter which occur below the given size threshold. It is therefore common to see the plural form “nanotechnologies” as well as “nanoscale technologies” to refer to the broad range of research and applications whose common trait is size.
How Nanotechnology Started?
The ideas and concepts behind nanoscience and nanotechnology was coined in a talk entitled “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom” by physicist Richard Feynman at an American Physics Society meeting at the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) on December 29, 1959. In his talk, Feynman described a process in which scientists would be able to manipulate and control individual atoms and molecules. Over a decade later, in his explorations of ultraprecision machining, Professor Norio Taniguchi coined the term “Nanotechnology”.
Modern Nanotechnology began in 1981, with the invention and development of the Scanning Tunneling Microscope that could see individual atoms. Then in 1986, K. Eric Drexler used the term “nanotechnology” in his book Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology, which proposed the idea of a nanoscale “assembler” which would be able to build a copy of itself and other items of arbitrary complexity with atomic control.
In 1986, Drexler co-founded The Foresight Institute to help increase public awareness and understanding of nanotechnology concepts and it’s implications. He also emergence nanotechnology as a field through his theoretical, high-visibility experimental advances and public work, which developed and popularized a conceptual framework for nanotechnology and drew additional wide-scale attention to the prospects of atomic control of matter.
Fundamental Concepts in Nanotechnology and Nanoscience
One nanometer is a billionth of a meter, or 10-9 of a meter, so it’s really hard to imagine just how small nanotechnology is. However, here are a few illustrative examples that may help you understand how small nanotechnology is:
- There are 25,400,000 nanometers in an inch.
- A sheet of newspaper is about 100,000 nanometers thick.
- On a comparative scale, if a marble were a nanometer, then one meter would be the size of the Earth.
Nanotechnology and Nanoscience involve the ability to see and to control individual atoms and molecules. Everything on Earth is made up of atoms—the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the buildings and houses we live in, and our own bodies. But something as small as an atom is impossible to see with the naked eye.
In fact, it’s impossible to see atoms with the microscopes typically used in high school science classes. The microscopes needed to see things at the nanoscale were invented relatively—about 30 years ago. Once scientists had the right tools, such as the scanning tunneling microscope (STM) and the atomic force microscope (AFM), the age of nanotechnology was born.
Although modern nanoscience and nanotechnology are quite new, nanoscale materials were used for centuries. Alternate-sized gold and silver particles created colors in the stained glass windows of medieval churches hundreds of years ago. The artists back then just didn’t know that the process they used to create these beautiful works of art actually led to changes in the composition of the materials they were working with. Today’s scientists and engineers are finding a wide variety of ways to deliberately make materials at the nanoscale to take advantage of their enhanced properties such as higher strength, lighter weight, increased control of light spectrum, and greater chemical reactivity than their larger-scale counterparts.
Growth of Nanotechnology in the Modern Era
Two inventions sparked the growth of nanotechnology in the modern era. First, the invention of the Scanning Tunneling Microscope by Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer at IBM Zurich Research Laboratory, which provided unique visualization of individual atoms and bonds, and was also successfully used to manipulate individual atoms. In 1986 the developers of the microscope received a Nobel Prize in Physics. Later they also invented the Analogous Atomic Force Microscope.
Second, the discovery of “Fullerenes”(C60) by Harry Kroto, Richard Smalley, and Robert Curl, who together won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. C60 was not initially described as nanotechnology; the term was used regarding subsequent work with related graphene tubes (called carbon nanotubes and sometimes called Bucky tubes) which suggested potential applications for nanoscale electronics and devices. The discovery of carbon nanotubes is largely attributed to Sumio Iijima of NEC corporation in 1991, for which Iijima won the inaugural 2008 Kavli Prize in Nanoscience.
In early 2000, the nanotechnology field increased scientific, political, and commercial attention that led to both controversy and progress. The Royal Society’s report on nanotechnology said, Controversies appeared regarding the definitions and potential implications of nanotechnologies. Challenges were raised concerning the probability of applications imagined by advocates of molecular nanotechnology, which ended in a public debate between Drexler and Smalley in 2001 and 2003.
On the other hand, the commercialization of products based on advancements in nanoscale technologies began developing. These products are limited to bulk applications of nanomaterials and do not involve atomic control of matter. Some examples include the Silver Nano platform for using silver nanoparticles as an antibacterial agent, nanoparticle-based transparent sunscreens, carbon fiber strengthening using silica nanoparticles, and carbon nanotubes for stain-resistant textiles.
Governments bodies also moved to promote and fund research and development of nanotechnology, such as in the U.S. with the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which formalized a size-based definition of nanotechnology and established funding for research on the nanoscale, and in Europe via the European Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development.
By the mid-2000s new and serious scientific attention began to flourish. Projects emerged to produce nanotechnology roadmaps which center on atomically precise manipulation of matter and discuss existing and projected capabilities, goals, and applications.
In 2006, a team of Korean researchers from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and the National Nano Fab Center developed a 3nm MOSFET, the world’s smallest nanoelectronic device. It was based on gate-all-around (GAA) FinFET technology.
Over sixty countries created nanotechnology research and development (R&D) government programs between 2001 and 2004. Government funding was exceeded by corporate spending on nanotechnology R&D, with most of the funding coming from corporations based in the United States, Japan, and Germany. The top five organizations that filed the most intellectual patents on nanotechnology R&D between 1970 and 2011 were Samsung Electronics (2,578 first patents), Nippon Steel (1,490 first patents), IBM (1,360 first patents), Toshiba (1,298 first patents), and Canon (1,162 first patents). The top five organizations that published the most scientific papers on nanotechnology research between 1970 and 2012 were the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Russian Academy of Sciences, Centre national de la recherche Scientifique, University of Tokyo, and Osaka University.
Applications of Nanotechnology
Applications of nanotechnology mean the commercialization of nanotech products, although most applications are limited to the bulk use of passive nanomaterials. For example, titanium dioxide, cosmetics, and some food products; silver nanoparticles in food packaging, clothing, disinfectants, and household appliances such as Silver Nano; carbon nanotubes for stain-resistant textiles; and cerium oxide as a fuel catalyst. Over the next several decades, applications of nanotechnology will likely include much higher-capacity computers, active materials of various kinds, and cellular-scale biomedical devices. Some Applications of nanotechnology are explained below.
1. Nanotechnology in Energy
Nanotechnology in Energy is the development of more efficient and sustainable technologies for generating and storing energy. Dr. Wade Adams from Rice University says, “energy will be the most pressing problem facing humanity in the next 50 years and nanotechnology has the potential to solve this issue”. People in the fields of science and engineering have already begun developing ways of utilizing nanotechnology for the development of consumer products. Benefits already observed from the design of these products are an increased efficiency of lighting and heating, increased electrical storage capacity, and a decrease in the amount of pollution from the use of energy.
Nanofabrication, the process of designing and creating devices on the nanoscale is an important sub-field of nanotechnology-related to energy. It is the ability to create devices smaller than 100 nanometers. This technology opens many doors for the development of new ways to capture, store, and transfer energy. Some other examples are Lithium-sulfur Based High-performance Batteries, Silicon-based Nano Semiconductors, Nanomaterials in Solar Cells, Nanoparticle Fuel Additives.
Nanomaterials in energy can increase the energy efficiency of fuel in several ways but there’s a drawback of their use i.e, the effect of nanoparticles on the environment. With cerium oxide nanoparticle additives in fuel can increase toxic particles in the environment. So more research is needed to determine whether the addition of artificial nanoparticles In fuels decreases the net amount of toxic particle emissions due to combustion or not.
2. Carbon nanotubes
Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are cylinders of one or more layers of graphene (lattice). Diameters of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) and multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWNTs) are typically 0.8 to 2nm and 5 to 20nm, respectively, although MWNT diameters can exceed 100 nm. CNT lengths range from less than 100nm to 0.5m.
Carbon Nanotube is used for applications in energy storage, device modeling, automotive parts, boat hulls, sporting goods, water filters, thin-film electronics, coatings, actuators, and electromagnetic shields.
Nanobiotechnology, bionanotechnology, and nanobiology are the parts of nanotechnology and biology. Bionanotechnology and nanobiotechnology have recently emerged subject that serves as blanket terms for various related technologies. This technical approach to biology allows scientists to imagine and create systems that can be used for biological research. Biologically inspired nanotechnology uses biological systems as the inspirations for technologies not yet created. However, as with nanotechnology and biotechnology, bionanotechnology it has many potential ethical issues associated with it.
Nanomedicine ranges from the medical applications of nanomaterials and biological devices to nanoelectronic biosensors, and even possible future applications of molecular nanotechnology such as biological machines, Thus Nanomedicine is the medical application of nanotechnology. However, Understanding the issues related to toxicity and environmental impact of nanoscale materials is major problems for Nanomedicine.
5. Nanotechnology to enhance the environmental sustainability
Nanotechnology can be useful for enhancing environmental sustainability, which means the use of the products of nanotechnology to enhance sustainability. It includes making green nano-products and using nano-products in support of sustainability. Green nanotechnology has been described as the development of clean technologies which means to minimize potential environmental and human health risks associated with the manufacture and use of nanotechnology products, and to encourage replacement of existing products with new nano-products that are more environmentally friendly throughout their lifecycle.
6. Nanotechnology in Industries
Nanotechnology is predicted to be the main driver of technology and business in this century and holds the promise of higher performance materials, intelligent systems, and new production methods with a significant impact on all aspects of society. Nanotechnology is impacting the field of consumer goods, there are a variety of items and products that include nanomaterials and people who use these products do not even know, it contains nanoparticles. Some examples are – products with novel functions ranging from easy-to-clean to scratch-resistant.
Some examples are; It made car bumpers lighter, clothing is more stain repellant, sunscreen is more radiation-resistant, synthetic bones are stronger, cell phone screens are lighter weight, glass packaging for drinks leads to a longer shelf-life, and balls for various sports are made more durable. Using nanotech, in the mid-term modern textiles will become “smart”, through embedded “wearable electronics”, such novel products have also a promising potential especially in the field of cosmetics, and has numerous potential applications in heavy industry.
7. Nanotechnology in warfare
Nanotechnology in warfare is a branch of nanoscience and tech in which molecular systems are designed, produced, and created to fit a nano-scale (1-100 nm). The application of such technology, specifically in the area of warfare and defense, has paved the way for future research in the context of weaponization.
Advancements in warfare by using Nanotechnology, have led to categorized development of such nano-weapons with classifications varying from; small robotic machines, hyper-reactive explosives, and electromagnetic super-materials. With this technological growth, has emerged implications of associated risks and repercussions, as well as regulation to combat these effects. These impacts give rise to issues concerning global security, safety of society, and the environment. Legislation may need to be constantly monitored to keep up with the dynamic growth and development of nano-science, due to the potential benefits or dangers of its use. Anticipation of such impacts through regulation, would ‘prevent irreversible damages’ of implementing defense-related nanotechnology in warfare.
Nanoelectronics refers to the use of nanotechnology in electronic components. The term covers a diverse set of devices and materials, with the common characteristic that they are so small that inter-atomic interactions and quantum mechanical properties need to be studied extensively. Some of these candidates include: hybrid molecular/semiconductor electronics, one-dimensional nanotubes/nanowires (e.g. silicon nanowires or carbon nanotubes), or advanced molecular electronics.
Nanoelectronic devices have critical dimensions with a size range between 1 nm and 100 nm. Recent silicon MOSFET (metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistor, or MOS transistor) technology generations are already within this regime, including 22 nanometer CMOS (complementary MOS) nodes and succeeding 14 nm, 10 nm and 7 nm FinFET (fin field-effect transistor) generations. Nanoelectronics are sometimes considered as a disruptive technology because present candidates are significantly different from traditional transistors.
Nanotechnology Issues and Effects
Nanotoxicology research says, Nanotechnology is a great technology but it has many Issues and Effects that the industrial-scale manufacturing and use of nanomaterials would have a bad effect on human health and the environment. For these reasons, some groups advocate that nanotechnology be regulated by governments, while others say that overregulation would choke scientific research and the development of beneficial innovations. Public health research agencies, such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are actively researching potential health effects arising from exposures to nanoparticles.
Researchers have discovered that bacteriostatic silver nanoparticles used in socks to reduce foot odor are being released in the wash and then flushed into the wastewater stream and may destroy bacteria which are critical components of natural ecosystems, farms, and waste treatment processes. A newspaper article reports that workers in a paint factory developed serious lung disease and nanoparticles were found in their lungs.
Public deliberations on risk perception in the US and UK carried out by the Center for Nanotechnology in Society found that participants were more positive about nanotechnologies for energy applications than for health applications, with health applications raising moral and ethical difficulties such as cost and availability. Engineered nanoparticles in food may cause many types of complications.
Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies David Rejeski, have testified that successful commercialization depends on adequate oversight, risk research strategy, and public engagement. Berkeley, California is currently the only city in the United States to regulate nanotechnology; Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2008 considered enacting a similar law, but ultimately rejected it.
Inhaling airborne nanoparticles and nanofibers may lead to a number of pulmonary diseases, e.g. fibrosis. UCLA’s School of Public Health found lab mice consuming nano-titanium dioxide showed DNA and chromosome damage to a degree “linked to all the big killers of man, namely cancer, heart disease, neurological disease and aging”.
A recent study published in Nature Nanotechnology suggests some forms of carbon nanotubes – a poster child for the “nanotechnology revolution” – could be as harmful as asbestos if inhaled in sufficient quantities. Anthony Seaton of the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh, Scotland, who contributed to the article on carbon nanotubes said “We know that some of them probably have the potential to cause mesothelioma. So those sorts of materials need to be handled very carefully”.
Stakeholders concerned by the lack of a regulatory framework to assess and control risks associated with the release of nanoparticles and nanotubes have drawn parallels with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (“mad cow” disease), thalidomide, genetically modified food, nuclear energy, reproductive technologies, biotechnology, and asbestosis. Dr. Andrew Maynard, chief science advisor to the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, concludes that there is insufficient funding for human health and safety research, and as a result, there is currently limited understanding of the human health and safety risks associated with nanotechnology. As a result, some academics have called for stricter application of the precautionary principle, with delayed marketing approval, enhanced labeling, and additional safety data development requirements in relation to certain forms of nanotechnology.
The Royal Society report identified a risk of nanoparticles or nanotubes being released during disposal, destruction, and recycling, and recommended that “manufacturers of products that fall under extended producer responsibility regimes such as end-of-life regulations publish procedures outlining how these materials will be managed to minimize possible human and environmental exposure”.
The Center for Nanotechnology in Society has found that people respond to nanotechnologies differently, depending on application – with participants in public deliberations more positive about nanotechnologies for energy than health applications – suggesting that any public calls for nano regulations may differ by technology sector.
Nanotechnology may be able to create many new materials and devices with a vast range of applications, such as nanomedicine, nanoelectronics, biomaterials energy production, and consumer products. On the other hand, nanotechnology raises many of the same issues as any new technology, including concerns about the toxicity and environmental impact of nanomaterials, and their potential effects on global economics, as well as speculation about various doomsday scenarios. These concerns have led to a debate among advocacy groups and governments on whether special regulation of nanotechnology is warranted. Scientists currently debating the future implications of nanotechnology, they have to work on to improve nanotechnology.
There is a significant debate also about who is responsible for the regulation of nanotechnology. Some regulatory agencies currently cover some nanotechnology products and processes (to varying degrees) – by “bolting on” nanotechnology to existing regulations – there are clear gaps in these regimes. Davies (2008) has proposed a regulatory road map describing steps to deal with these shortcomings. There’s tighter regulation of nanotechnology have occurred alongside a growing debate related to the human health and safety risks of nanotechnology.
Scientists have numerous challenges to overcome Nanotechnologies Issues and Effects. They is still much research and development needed to take Nanotechnology to its full potential. However, if past progress has anything to go by we don’t think we’re so far off because Nanotechnology sounds like a solid solution to many modern medical and technological issues. It makes you wonder how prominent they’ll be in daily life in the future.
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This Article was Published On: 10 October, 2020 And Last Modified On: 12 January, 2021