An Overview of Nanotechnology

Written by Zoya Khan

Nanotechnology is a field of research and innovation concerned with building 'things' - generally, materials and devices - on the dimension of atoms and molecules. A more precise description of nanotechnology was established by the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which defines nanotechnology as the manipulation of matter with a minimum of one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers. This definition reflects the fact that quantum mechanical effects are important at this quantum-realm scale, then the definition shifts from a selected technological goal to an inquiry category inclusive of all kinds of research and technologies that affect the special properties of matter which occur below the given size threshold. It's therefore common to fix the plural "nanotechnologies" also as "nanoscale technologies" to ask the broad range of research and applications whose common trait is size.

Nanotechnology is hailed as having the potential to extend the efficiency of energy consumption, help clean the environment, and solve major health problems. It's said to be ready to massively increase manufacturing production at significantly reduced costs. Products of nanotechnology are going to be smaller, cheaper, lighter yet more functional, and need less energy and fewer raw materials to manufacture, claim nanotech advocates.

The concepts that seeded nanotechnology were first discussed in 1959 by renowned physicist Feynman in his talk during which he described the likelihood of synthesis via direct manipulation of atoms.

In 1960, Egyptian engineer Mohamed Atalla and Korean engineer Dawon Kahng at Bell Labs fabricated the primary MOSFET (metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistor) with a gate oxide thickness of 100 nm, alongside a gate length of 20 µm. In 1962, Atalla and Kahng fabricated a nanolayer-base metal-semiconductor junction (M–S junction) transistor that used gold (Au) thin films with a thickness of 10 nm.

The term "nano-technology" was first employed by Norio Taniguchi in 1974, though it had not been widely known. Inspired by Feynman's concepts, K. Eric Drexler used the term "nanotechnology" in his book Engines of Creation: the approaching Era of Nanotechnology, which presented the thought of a nanoscale "assembler" which might be ready to build a replica of itself and other items of arbitrary complexity with atomic control. In 1986, Drexler co-founded The Foresight Institute (with which he's not affiliated) to assist increase public awareness and understanding of nanotechnology concepts and implications.

In the developing world, Brazil, Chile, China, India, the Philippines, South Korea, South Africa, and Thailand have shown their commitment to nanotechnology by establishing government-funded programs and research institutes. Researchers at the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics have classified these countries as 'front-runners' (China, South Korea, India) and 'middle ground' players (Thailand, Philippines, South Africa, Brazil, Chile). Additionally, Argentina and Mexico are 'up and comers' although they need research groups studying nanotechnology, their governments haven't yet organized dedicated funding. In May 2004, the Thai government declared plans to use nanotechnology in one percent of all consumer products by 2013. Their market price by then is predicted to be 13 trillion baht (more than US$320 billion at contemporary exchange rates). Indeed, Thailand has wholeheartedly embraced nanotechnology and its development may be a major commitment of the Thai government. Similarly, China announced in May 2004 that nanotechnology is central to its long-term national science and technology plan.

Nanotechnology and nanomaterials are often applied to all sorts of industrial sectors. They're usually found in these areas:

1) Electronics- Carbon nanotubes are on the brink of replacing silicon as a cloth for creating smaller, faster, and more efficient microchips and devices, also as lighter, more conductive, and stronger quantum nanowires. Graphene's properties make it a perfect candidate for the event of flexible touchscreens.

2) Energy- A new semiconductor developed by Kyoto University makes it possible to manufacture solar panels that double the quantity of sunlight converted into electricity. Nanotechnology yields stronger and lighter wind turbines, it improves fuel efficiency and, because of the thermal insulation of some nano components, can save energy.

3) Biomedicine- The properties of some nanomaterials make them ideal for improving early diagnosis and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases or cancer. They're ready to attack cancer cells selectively without harming other healthy cells. Some nanoparticles have also been wont to enhance pharmaceutical products like sunscreen.

4) Environment- Air purification along with ions, wastewater purification with nanobubbles, or nanofiltration systems for heavy metals are a number of its environmentally-friendly applications. Nanocatalysts are also available to form chemical reactions more efficiently with less pollution.

5) Food- In this field, nano biosensors can be used to detect the presence of pathogens in food or nanocomposites to enhance food production by increasing mechanical and thermal resistance and decreasing oxygen transfer in packaged products.

6) Textile- Nanotechnology makes it possible to develop smart fabrics that do not stain or wrinkle. They are also used to develop stronger, lighter, and more durable materials to form motorcycle helmets or sporting goods.

In the future, nanotechnology could also enable objects to reap energy from their environment. New nano-materials and ideas are being developed in the meantime which show potential for producing energy from movement, light, variations in temperature, glucose, and other sources with high conversion efficiency. In the current scenario, let us amaze ourselves with the prevailing applications of Nanotechnology.