- Nanotechnology is molecular manufacturing or more simply, building things the size of one atom or one molecule with programmed precision. It involves working with matter at the scale of one-billionth of a meter (1 nm = 10-9 m).
- The idea of nanotechnology is therefore to master the characteristics of matter in an intelligent manner to develop highly efficient system. It is an interesting confluence of biology, chemistry & electronics.
- The trick is to manipulate atoms individually and place them where needed, to produce the desired structure. Therefore, it is often termed as the ‘bottom-up” manufacturing. The concept was conceived in 1959 by Nobel Laureate — physicist Richard P. Feynman.
- Scientists debate the future implications of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology may be able to create many new materials and devices with a vast range of applications, such as in medicine, electronics, biomaterials and energy production.
- 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.
Nanoscience: It is a term used to describe the interdisciplinary fields of science devoted to the study of nanoscale phenomena employed in Nanotechnology.
Molecular Nanotechnology (MNT):
- It is an anticipated manufacturing technology that would allow precise control and positional assembly of molecule-sized building blocks through the use of nano-scale manipulator arms.
- It is considered distinct from more inclusive term nanotechnology.
- These microscopic devices would manipulate individual atoms and molecules for variety of applications.
APPLICATIONS OF NANOTECHNOLOGY
It finds its application in diverse areas like medicine, computers, industry, environment etc. which are as follows:‑
- Computer: Nanotechnology will enable creation of a new generation of computer components capable of storing trillions of bytes of information in a structure the size of a sugar cube. It is also useful in developing compact robots which can perform delicate human functions.
- Medicine: – Doctors will be able to use nano-electronics to get a better view of human body, allowing for early detection of potential problems. The patients will drink fluids containing nanobots programmed to attack and reconstruct the molecular structure of cancer cells and viruses to make them harmless. Nanomedicine can offer alternative to chemotherapy in cancer treatment. Nano robots can be injected, that would destroy cancer cells. Nanomedicine promises healthy life by virtue of in vivo microscopic nano-robots that could repair body of essential maladies at the cellular level.
- Military: – In the military arena smart dust may be deployed for stealthy monitoring of a hostile environment, e.g., for verification of enemy whereabouts from their movements. It could also be used to detect the presence of chemical or biological agents on the battlefield.
- Environment: – Scientists believe that swarms of microscopic nano-robots can sweep the oceans, disassembling pollutants to protect and preserve the marine environment; others will scrub air to carbon dioxide and others restoring forests. The nano-filters made from ceramics are presently routinely used to clean up wastewater before discharge. They have better corrosion resistance, withstand leaching and higher temperatures.
- Textiles: Nanoparticles can be used in stain resistant Nano-care, to provide stain- repellent surface by coating them on surface fibres. The new fluorescent nanoparticles used to provide range of visible colours in a single dye.
- Space: Nano composites will reduce weight of space capsules and make it cheap to send them in space.
- Automobiles: Plastic nano composites are used for strong but lighter and anti-rust components. Toyota has been using nano composites in bumpers that are lighter and twice resistance to scratching. Due to high surface area, they have been used in automotive catalytic converters.
- Smart Materials: Nanotechnology will help to create exotic smart materials with the ability to encode assembly or repair instructions in material itself. Imagine products and engine components that repair themselves.
THE SAFETY, HAZARDS AND PUBLIC ISSUES WITH NANOTECHNOLOGY
- There are some argumentations relating to think of the social impact of nanotechnology as a ‘technological tsunami’ an enormous impact that will change dramatically the fabric of society.
- People dealing with the ethical aspects of nanotechnology argue that such transformative technology could exacerbate the division of rich and poor known as ‘nano-divide’.
- The critics of nanotechnology point to the potential toxicity o new classes of nano substances that adversely affect the stability of cell membranes or disturb the immune system when inhaled or ingested.
- The Titanium Oxide nanoparticle used in sunscreen can get into human food chain, which causes quicker aging of colon cells.
- The Cadmium Selenide nanoparticles, also called quantum dots, can cause cadmium poisoning in humans.
- The Centre for Responsible Nanotechnology warns of the broad societal implications of untraceable weapons of mass destruction, networked cameras for use by the government, and weapons developments fast enough to destabilize arms races.
- Another area of concern is the effect that industrial-scale manufacturing and use of nanomaterials would have on human health and the environment, as suggested by nanotoxicology research.
- For these reasons, groups such as the Centre for Responsible Nanotechnology advocate that nanotechnology be regulated by governments. Others counter that over regulation would stifle scientific research and the development of beneficial innovations.
- Some nanoparticle products may have unintended consequences. Researchers have discovered that bacteriostatic silver nanoparticles used in socks to reduce foot odour are being released in the wash.
- These particles are then flushed into the waste water stream and may destroy bacteria which are critical components of natural ecosystems, farms, and waste treatment processes.
- In general, smaller particles are more bioactive and toxic. Their ability to interact with other living systems increases because they easily get into the body, and there may be further biochemical reactions like creation of free radicals that damage cells.
- There is no doubt that nanoparticles have interesting and useful properties strong economic drives and competition in the marketplace may be taking precedence over methodical scientific prudence when it comes to public health and possible dangers of nanotechnology.