Current Trends In Nanotechnology
Nanotechnology is a ‘catch-all’ description of activities at the level of atoms and molecules that have applications in the real world. A nanometre is a billionth of a metre, that is, about 1/80,000 of the diameter of a human hair, or 10 times the diameter of a hydrogen atom. Nanotechnology is now used in precision engineering, new materials development as well as in electronics; electromechanical systems as well as mainstream biomedical applications in areas such as gene therapy, drug delivery and novel drug discovery techniques.
This book presents carefully selected abstracts of the last 5 years in this frontier field. Special access is provide by author, title and subject indexes. Nanotechnology is an exciting new area in science, with many possible applications in medicine. This article seeks to outline the role of different areas such as diagnosis of diseases, drug delivery, imaging, and so on.
Nanotechnology (sometimes shortened to “nanotech”) is the manipulation of matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Generally, nanotechnology works with materials, devices, and other structures with at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometres. Quantum mechanical effects are important at this quantum-realm scale.
Nanotechnology is a key technology for the future and governments have invested billions of dollars in its future. Through its National Nanotechnology Initiative, the USA has invested 3.7 billion dollars. The European Union has invested 1.2 billion and Japan 750 million dollars.
Nanotechnology is very diverse, ranging from extensions of conventional device physics to completely new approaches based upon molecular self-assembly, from developing new materials with dimensions on the nanoscale to direct control of matter on the atomic scale. Nanotechnology entails the application of fields of science as diverse as surface science, organic chemistry, molecular biology, semiconductor physics, microfabrication, etc.
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.
1.1 Origin Nanotechnology
Although nanotechnology is a relatively recent development in scientific research, the development of its central concepts happened over a longer period of time. The emergence of nanotechnology in the 1980s was caused by the convergence of experimental advances such as the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope in 1981 and the discovery of fullerenes in 1985, with the elucidation and popularization of a conceptual framework for the goals of nanotechnology beginning with the 1986 publication of the book Engines of Creation.
The scanning tunneling microscope, an instrument for imaging surfaces at the atomic level, was developed in 1981 by Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer at IBM Zurich Research Laboratory, for which they received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986. Fullerenes were discovered in 1985 by Harry Kroto, Richard Smalley, and Robert Curl, who together won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Around the same time, K. Eric Drexler developed and popularized the concept of nanotechnology and founded the field of molecular nanotechnology. In 1979, Drexler encountered Richard Feynman’s 1959 talk “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom”. The term “nanotechnology”, originally coined by Norio Taniguchi in 1974, was unknowingly appropriated by Drexler in his 1986 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 of other items of arbitrary complexity. He also first published the term “grey goo” to describe what might happen if a hypothetical self-replicating molecular nanotechnology went out of control. Drexler’s vision of nanotechnology is often called “Molecular Nanotechnology” (MNT) or “molecular manufacturing,” and Drexler at one point proposed the term “zettatech” which never became popular.
In the early 2000s, the field was subject to growing public awareness and controversy, with prominent debates about both its potential implications, exemplified by the Royal Society’s report on nanotechnology,as well as the feasibility of the applications envisioned by advocates of molecular nanotechnology, which culminated in the public debate between Eric Drexler and Richard Smalley in 2001 and 2003. Governments moved to promote and fund research into nanotechnology with programs such as the National Nanotechnology Initiative.
The early 2000s also saw the beginnings of commercial applications of nanotechnology, although these were limited to bulk applications of nanomaterials, such as the Silver Nano platform for using silver nanoparticles as an antibacterial agent, nanoparticle-based transparent sunscreens, and carbon nanotubes for stain-resistant textiles
1.2 Fundamental Concepts
Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale. This covers both current work and concepts that are more advanced. In its original sense, nanotechnology refers to the projected ability to construct items from the bottom up, using techniques and tools being developed today to make complete, high performance products.
One nanometer (nm) is one billionth, or 10−9, of a meter. By comparison, typical carbon-carbon bond lengths, or the spacing between these atoms in a molecule, are in the range 0.12–0.15 nm, and a DNA double-helix has a diameter around 2 nm. On the other hand, the smallest cellular life-forms, the bacteria of the genus Mycoplasma, are around 200 nm in length.
By convention, nanotechnology is taken as the scale range 1 to 100 nm following the definition used by the National Nanotechnology Initiative in the US. The lower limit is set by the size of atoms (hydrogen has the smallest atoms, which are approximately a quarter of a nm diameter) since nanotechnology must build its devices from atoms and molecules. The upper limit is more or less arbitrary but is around the size that phenomena not observed in larger structures start to become apparent and can be made use of in the nano device.
These new phenomena make nanotechnology distinct from devices which are merely miniaturised versions of an equivalent macroscopic device; such devices are on a larger scale and come under the description of microtechnology.
To put that scale in another context, the comparative size of a nanometer to a meter is the same as that of a marble to the size of the earth. Or another way of putting it: a nanometer is the amount an average man’s beard grows in the time it takes him to raise the razor to his face.
Two main approaches are used in nanotechnology. In the “bottom-up” approach, materials and devices are built from molecular components which assemble themselves chemically by principles of molecular recognition. In the “top-down” approach, nano-objects are constructed from larger entities without atomic-level control.
Areas of physics such as nanoelectronics, nanomechanics, nanophotonics and nanoionics have evolved during the last few decades to provide a basic scientific foundation of nanotechnology
1.3 Larger To Smaller: A Materials Perspective
Image of reconstruction on a clean Gold(100) surface, as visualized using scanning tunneling microscopy. The positions of the individual atoms composing the surface are visible.
Main article: Nanomaterials
Several phenomena become pronounced as the size of the system decreases. These include statistical mechanical effects, as well as quantum mechanical effects, for example the “quantum size effect” where the electronic properties of solids are altered with great reductions in particle size.
This effect does not come into play by going from macro to micro dimensions. However, quantum effects become dominant when the nanometer size range is reached, typically at distances of 100 nanometers or less, the so called quantum realm. Additionally, a number of physical (mechanical, electrical, optical, etc.) properties change when compared to macroscopic systems.
One example is the increase in surface area to volume ratio altering mechanical, thermal and catalytic properties of materials. Diffusion and reactions at nanoscale, nanostructures materials and nanodevices with fast ion transport are generally referred to nanoionics. Mechanical properties of nanosystems are of interest in the nanomechanics research. The catalytic activity of nanomaterials also opens potential risks in their interaction with biomaterials.
Materials reduced to the nanoscale can show different properties compared to what they exhibit on a macroscale, enabling unique applications. For instance, opaque substances become transparent (copper); stable materials turn combustible (aluminum); insoluble materials become soluble (gold). A material such as gold, which is chemically inert at normal scales, can serve as a potent chemical catalyst at nanoscales. Much of the fascination with nanotechnology stems from these quantum and surface phenomena that matter exhibits at the nanoscale.
1.4 Simple To Complex: A Molecular Perspective
Modern synthetic chemistry has reached the point where it is possible to prepare small molecules to almost any structure. These methods are used today to manufacture a wide variety of useful chemicals such as pharmaceuticals or commercial polymers. This ability raises the question of extending this kind of control to the next-larger level, seeking methods to assemble these single molecules into supramolecular assemblies consisting of many molecules arranged in a well defined manner.
These approaches utilize the concepts of molecular self-assembly and/or supramolecular chemistry to automatically arrange themselves into some useful conformation through a bottom-up approach. The concept of molecular recognition is especially important: molecules can be designed so that a specific configuration or arrangement is favored due to non-covalent intermolecular forces. The Watson–Crick basepairing rules are a direct result of this, as is the specificity of an enzyme being targeted to a single substrate, or the specific folding of the protein itself. Thus, two or more components can be designed to be complementary and mutually attractive so that they make a more complex and useful whole.
Such bottom-up approaches should be capable of producing devices in parallel and be much cheaper than top-down methods, but could potentially be overwhelmed as the size and complexity of the desired assembly increases. Most useful structures require complex and thermodynamically unlikely arrangements of atoms. Nevertheless, there are many examples of self-assembly based on molecular recognition in biology, most notably Watson–Crick basepairing and enzyme-substrate interactions. The challenge for nanotechnology is whether these principles can be used to engineer new constructs in addition to natural ones.
1.5 Molecular Nanotechnology: A Long-Term View
Main article: Molecular nanotechnology
Molecular nanotechnology, sometimes called molecular manufacturing, describes engineered nanosystems (nanoscale machines) operating on the molecular scale. Molecular nanotechnology is especially associated with the molecular assembler, a machine that can produce a desired structure or device atom-by-atom using the principles of mechanosynthesis. Manufacturing in the context of productive nanosystems is not related to, and should be clearly distinguished from, the conventional technologies used to manufacture nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes and nanoparticles.
When the term “nanotechnology” was independently coined and popularized by Eric Drexler (who at the time was unaware of an earlier usage by Norio Taniguchi) it referred to a future manufacturing technology based on molecular machine systems. The premise was that molecular scale biological analogies of traditional machine components demonstrated molecular machines were possible: by the countless examples found in biology, it is known that sophisticated, stochastically optimised biological machines can be produced.
It is hoped that developments in nanotechnology will make possible their construction by some other means, perhaps using biomimetic principles. However, Drexler and other researchers have proposed that advanced nanotechnology, although perhaps initially implemented by biomimetic means, ultimately could be based on mechanical engineering principles, namely, a manufacturing technology based on the mechanical functionality of these components (such as gears, bearings, motors, and structural members) that would enable programmable, positional assembly to atomic specification. The physics and engineering performance of exemplar designs were analyzed in Drexler’s book Nanosystems.
In general it is very difficult to assemble devices on the atomic scale, as all one has to position atoms on other atoms of comparable size and stickiness. Another view, put forth by Carlo Montemagno, is that future nanosystems will be hybrids of silicon technology and biological molecular machines. Yet another view, put forward by the late Richard Smalley, is that mechanosynthesis is impossible due to the difficulties in mechanically manipulating individual molecules.
This led to an exchange of letters in the ACS publication Chemical & Engineering News in 2003.Though biology clearly demonstrates that molecular machine systems are possible, non-biological molecular machines are today only in their infancy. Leaders in research on non-biological molecular machines are Dr. Alex Zettl and his colleagues at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories and UC Berkeley. They have constructed at least three distinct molecular devices whose motion is controlled from the desktop with changing voltage: a nanotube nanomotor, a molecular actuator, and a nanoelectromechanical relaxation oscillator. See nanotube nanomotor for more examples.
An experiment indicating that positional molecular assembly is possible was performed by Ho and Lee at Cornell University in 1999. They used a scanning tunneling microscope to move an individual carbon monoxide molecule (CO) to an individual iron atom (Fe) sitting on a flat silver crystal, and chemically bound the CO to the Fe by applying a voltage.
5.0 Conclusion and Recommendation
As a conclusion to this topic I would like to say that Nanotechnology is a brand new technology that has just began, it is a revolutionary science that will change all what we knew before. The future that we were watching just in science fiction movies will in the near future be real.
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.
- This new technology will first of all, keep us healthy because of nanorobots that will repair every damage that we have in our body.
- Secondly it will give scientists the ability to manipulate the combination of atoms in an object and to turn it into a lighter, stronger, and more durable object than before, just by using carbon nanotubes that are known to be a hundred times stronger than steel and in addition to that they are very flexible. That will lead to the creation of objects that can change their forms and have multiple purposes as the Nokia Morph for example which is a prototype that will soon be out on the market.
- Thirdly, Nanotechnology will give us an abundant energy because it will transform energy more effectively, for example windmills which are known to have the ability to transform wind energy into electrical energy, well new windmills that will use Nanotechnology will have lighter and stronger blades (using carbon nanotubes) that will transform a lot more energy than before.
- Nanotechnology covers a lot of domains today and will cover a lot more in the near future, it is infinitely big and will make a lot of inventions come true like teleportation for example which scintists are working on today.
Current Trends In Nanotechnology
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