General Information

Nanotechnology refers to the utilisation and study of atoms and molecules in order to design products, components and systems of nano metre size (millionths of a millimetre).

(Atoms: the smallest possible amount of a chemical element | Molecules: when two or more atoms form chemical bonds with each other.)

As such, nanotechnology is prominent in society as it can be implemented to address numerous problems that are currently floating around.

For instance, the use of nanotechnology has led to the growth/improvement of the following points:

  • Communications & Information Sector (Electronics)
  • Medical Sector (Medicine & Treating diseases)
  • Food Science/Technology
  • Fuel Cells
  • Automobiles
  • Improvement in products such as sunscreen & plastic bottles
  • Energy

Issues such as treating diseases and health problems in under-developed countries, major health issues, environmental issues, improving food supply and water consumption can be addressed through the advances and study of nanotechnology.

For more information regarding nanotechnology, feel free to watch the video above.

Nanotechnology – The 3 Ns’

[Nanomaterials | Nanophotonics | Nanoelectronics]

Nanotechnology can be subdivided into three main areas:

  • Nanomaterials
  • Nanophotonics
  • Nanoelectronics

Nanomaterials are materials that are produced and utilised at a very small scale. For instance, silicone and titanium oxide used in sunscreen would be classified as a nanomaterial. Being able to generate materials in a specific way to play a particular role as well as using unique properties that can only be discovered at nanolevel has impacted the utilisation of nanomaterials to spread across multiple industries. These industries range from the cosmetics field and healthcare field to the environmental field.

Advantages of Nanomaterials can include:

  • In the energy sector, the current method of generating energy (solar panels) can be further enhanced using nanotechnology in order to open up new ways to store and harness energy. This can also lead to the process becoming more cost-effective and efficient.
  • In the technology sector, nanomaterials can impact the development of new electronic products.
  • Nanomaterials is exceptionally useful in the medical field, as it permits the bonding of cells and active ingredients. This will result in an increase in the likelihood of successfully combating various diseases.

Disadvantages of Nanomaterials can include:

  • As nanotechnology is still new, there is not a large amount of information on the health and safety aspects of exposure to the materials.
  • Manufacturing process can be complex and difficult

Nanophotonics takes an in depth look at light and its behaviour on a nanometre scale. Components of nanophotonics include lasers, optical circulators, amplifiers and much more.

Advantages of Nanophotonics can include:

  • Extremely powerful interactive ability with almost every particle that deals with optics.
  • Uses light at its best for treating optics.

Disadvantages of Nanophotonics can include:

  • Not cost-effective
  • Huge laser consumption may encourage skin diseases.

Nanoelectronics is the use of nanotechnology in electronic items. Current trends in nanoelectronics are the developments of new applications and the miniaturisation of existing ones. Nanoelectronics can be seen used in some of the devices you may currently own such as mobile devices.

Advantages of Nanoelectronics can include:

  • Weight of devices decreases
  • Electronic devices display screens improved
  • Power consumption reduced

Disadvantages of Nanoelectronics can include:

  • Nanotechnology in electronics raises the possibility of microscopic recording devices, which would be virtually undetectable.

Impact of Nanotechnology

With Nanotechnology under constant and active development, no one is completely sure what will come of it. Predictions ranging from having the ability to reproduce food and cure world hunger to self-replicating nanobots completely consuming all of humanity have all been anticipated by experts. The future of nanotechnology depends on how responsibly it is developed. As such, if developed in a responsible way, it will impact humanity positively as it can present opportunities to deal with many issues in the economy.

For instance, it could solve issues relating to health. In the medical sector, researchers are looking to employ nanoparticles (particle with one or more dimensions at the nanoscale) into delivering drugs, heat, light or any substances to cells. This will decrease damage to healthy cells in the body and enable early detection for diseases. To add to that, nanotechnology may be able to solve important issues such as lack of food, water, housing and poverty in underdeveloped countries.

On the other hand, if nanotechnology is developed in a non-responsible way, it may be very detrimental to humanity. It may lead to the manufacturing of extremely small weapons with an unimaginable force of destruction. Therefore, cheap scientific tools could be used by terrorist groups and result in a dangerous outcome.

Nanotechnology is identified as a disruptive and emerging technology because it enables and has potential to many new developments. Experts and many individuals expressed that nanotechnology is “the next industrial revolution” and will influence a lot of changes in areas of social, economic and ecological. By combining different technology with nanotechnology, change can be accomplished. The use of nanotechnology provides the incentive for exponential growth of knowledge in the economy leading to the possibility of achieving new growth.

Back in 1959, an important lecture referred to as “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom”, was delivered by a visionary physicist, Richard Feynman which sparked the beginning of “nanotechnology”.

Richard Feynman

During this lecture, it was expressed that there were possibilities of manipulating matter on the molecular scale. Although little attention was attracted to this discussion, it wasn’t until 1974 in which Norio Taniguchi had referred to the term “nanotechnology” to describe ion-sputter machining.

(Molecular scale refers to the uses single molecules, or nanoscale collections of single molecules)

In 1980, Eric Drexler, a student studying at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) encountered Richard Feynman’s speech, in which he decided to promote the proposal presented during the lecture under the term “nanotechnology”. This proposal helped paved the way for the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope in 1981 and the discovery of fullerenes in 1985. As well as helping Eric Drexler with writing his book called “Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology”. From these inventions and sources, knowledge of nanotechnology has since then only expanded and become a stepping stone for the progression of nanotechnology.

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