Nanoscience and nanotechnology
Nanoscience and nanotechnology is a very promising field. It is the study of extremely small things in different domains of science. Glass staining with gold or silver particles are kind of ancient nanotechnology. Richard Feynman has been credited with coming up with the concept of nanotechnology.In 1959 he gave a talk called "There´s Plenty of Room at the Bottom" where he described a process in which scientists would be able to manipulate and control individual atoms.
Nano is basically a unit of measurement like kilo, mili or micro we use regularly. So, how small nano is? Its really hard to imagine one billionth of a meter that is 10^-9 of a metes is a nanometer. For the amusement you can say there are 25,400,000 nanometers in an inch, or a newspaper is 100,000 nanometers thick.
This technology is very sophisticated and to play with this technology scientists require the right tools. In 1980 IBM scientists invented STM(Scanning Tunneling Microscope. Using such a machine, they could observe a molecule structure. In 1981 Professor Norio Taniguchi coined the term "Nanotechnology".
Let’s have a closer look at what is so special about nanoscale. In nanoscale, materials act differently. Quantum effect takes over the natural properties. Melting point, fluorescence, electrical conductivity, magnetic permeability, and chemical reactivity change as a function of the size of the particle. Thus, it is possible to fine tune this properties of material on the scale.
Most of the biology occurs at nanoscale. Like, the oxygen carrying molecule hemoglobin is only 5.5 nanometers in diameter. DNA, the building block of life is only two nanometers in diameter. In order to understand life at the nanoscale, researchers are working on designing tools, treatments, therapies that are more precise and personalized with fewer side effects than the traditional ones.
Nanoscale materials have far larger surface areas than similar masses of larger-scale materials. As surface area per mass of a material increases, a greater amount of the material can come into contact with surrounding materials, thus affecting reactivity.
Nanotechnology has given rise to various new forms of materials called as nanomaterials. For example we can say about nanoparticles, quantum dots, nanowires, nanofibres, ultrathin-films etc. Nanotechnology shows that the good old carbon can carbon has exciting new forms apart from from diamond and graphite. Fullerenes are special because their antioxidant properties can be of potential medical use. Its heat resistance and conductivity is a matter of study for mechanical engineering. The idea of fillerene structure lead the discovery of carbon nanotube. Carbon nanotubes are important in reinforced composites, sensors, nanoelectronics and nanomechanical devices.
Production of nanomaterials is called nanomanufacturing. Large scale nanomanufacturing is only applied in semiconductor industry. There are two notions of manipulating materials at the nanoscale. One is called top-down another is called bottom-up. Top-down method is to produce a sophisticated form by continuously cutting and removing pieces from a large entity. It is similar to creating statue out of a big stone. This method uses too much energy, toxic chemicals and generates wastes. On the other hand, bottom-up approach is like playing with lego. Pick and connect shapes one by one until getting a desired piece. This bottom-up approach is achieved by self-assembly or molecular assembly techniques.
Nanotechnology can bring huge impact on the energy sector. Heavy-duty motor blades, rotor, probes can enhance the efficiency of renewable energy sources such as wind, geothermal, water etc. In the solar cells, it can improve performance by providing anti reflection layers for higher light yield. Alternative cell types such as thin layer solar cells, dye solar cells or polymer solar cells will profit from nanotechnology. Conversion of energy from primary source to usable form like heat, electricity, kinetic energy requires utmost efficiency. In these conversion process nanoscale heat and corrosion protection can increase efficiency through increased operating temperature and lightweight construction. Nano-optimized membranes can induce climate protection in sophisticated systems. Along with production and conversion, various nanomaterials such as carbon nanotube can improve power distribution. Nano batteries, super-capacitors can improve power storage.
Without responsible use, every technology can be potential dangers. Nanotechnology also has some health and environmental issues. Free nanoparticles in environment can be inhaled, swallowed, injected or absorbed through skin. These are highly mobile inside body can even travel beyond the barrier of brain membrane. They can overload phagocytes and other defensive mechanism. Though there is not sufficeint data about environmental impact, it is assumed that nanoparticles can accumulate in the soil, water or plant life and cause hazard. Regardless of the potential hazards associated with nanatotechnology, it can certainly help mankind with most desired gifts, may be the best gift of the century, can be the cancer drug.