What is Nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology is a word that most of us are familiar with but do not have any idea of what it actually is. There many science fiction movies where the characters use small devices, usually robots to accomplish a task but that is not entirely accurate. Many people have a misconception that nanotechnology is just making devices on a smaller scale. While a part of it is true but it does not define how small a nanotech device is. This is a topic that is around for quite a while but it is also not defined in its entirety.

The idea of nanotech was first proposed by physicist Richard Feynman in 1959 while delivering his talk “ There’s plenty of room at the bottom”. During his speech, he has shared his desire to build things on a smaller scale. In the year 1960 two scientists, Mohammed Attala and Dawon Kahng created a MOSFET that was only 100 nm long. But the term nanotechnology was first used by Norio Taniguchi who worked as a professor at Tokyo University of Science. Just like the various fields involved in its study its applications are also very wide.

Even scientists have different definitions for nanotechnology as they do not know how to put it in simple terms. In easy words, nanotechnology is a technology or a device that is created by synthetic material at a very tiny size. The material or device is created has to be a size between 0.1 to 100 nanometers. To give you a perspective on how small it is, one nanometer is one-billionth part of a meter. It cannot be categorized into any branch of science or engineering because its research involves various fields like molecular biology, organic chemistry, molecular engineering, and energy storage. 

Let’s see what are some real-world applications of nanotechnology.

Medicine

Medicine is one field that can benefit immensely from nanotechnology. There is ongoing research on creating nanomaterials that can be used to treat diseases. The idea is to create nanoparticles that can be injected into a person’s bloodstream to diagnose his body. Researchers are using nanotubes with nano antibodies attached to it to detect cancer cells in the bloodstream. There is also a technique in development that uses gold nanorods with a functioning protein attached to it that can detect early kidney damage. The most fascinating development is definitely nanoparticles that are used for drug delivery. These nanoparticles are designed to detect dead cells. They are engineered in such a way that they find out cancer cells and provide drugs to them. These help in killing cancer cells without damaging healthy cells in the body.

Nanoelectronics

Nanotech will surely revolutionize electronics as it can be used to create devices that are as small as a molecule. This will surely be a huge benefit as the size of the devices is reduced dramatically. With the size of the equipment decreased the power consumption also decreases. Stanford University researchers have used nanotubes to create integrated circuits. Other than circuits and transistors there are nanoelectronic devices that store memory by manipulating the spin of electronics. Wearable electronics will also surpass their current boundaries and reach a whole new level. You can have a temporary tattoo that can tell glucose levels in the body or a nanosensor can be implanted on your tooth to examine bacteria in your mouth.

Food industry

The food industry can benefit largely from emerging nanotechnology as it resolves many complications of sellers and buyers. By using nanotechnology or nanoparticles properties of food can be enhanced. The safety of food is a major concern of consumers while buying food. With advanced nanotechnology, any type of contamination in the food can be detected immediately.  Nanoparticles can also be used to increase the shelf life of food which improves the ease of food storage. Nanosupplements can be injected into foods to improve the nutritional value of the food.

Fuel cells

People can stop worrying about the over-extraction of fuel cells as nanotech is set to replace old fuel cells. Automobile companies are trying to develop fuel cells that are smaller in size and work more efficiently than the fuel cells that are currently in use. The idea is to create fuel cells that contain membranes that only allow hydrogen ions to pass through them while blocking the rest of the ions. Once these fuel cells are created they are going to replace batteries in computers, laptops, handheld devices, and electric cars.

Space

The advancements in space research can be very easy with nanotechnology. The nanotech can be used to build lightweight aircrafts to explore space. The cost of traveling in space could decrease drastically as nanotech will reduce the amount of fuel required for a rocket. Scientists are also researching a new technique to propel rockets called electric propulsion which also uses nanotech. Bio-nanomachines can be deployed in inhabitable conditions to carry out research. This would allow scientists to explore new territories on which a human could never lay his feet.

Conclusion

Nanotechnology is the manipulation of materials at a molecular level. A device cannot be considered nanotech if it is not made by any synthetic material.  Even though there are some achievements in the nanotech industry it is still not at the level as we would like it to be. The nanotechnology is going to define the future of gadgets. Most of the nanotech devices that are used in current times are the products of years of research and development. People need to wait a little longer to witness the full potential of nanotechnology as it is not fully developed

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