What Is Nano?

The first use of the concepts in 'nano-technology' (but predating use of that name) was in "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom," a talk given by physicist and chemist Richard Feynman at an American Physical Society meeting at Caltech on December , 1959. Feynman described a process by which the ability to manipulate individual atoms and molecules might be developed, using one set of precise tools to build and operate another proportionally smaller set, so on down to the needed scale. Nanotechnology and nanoscience got started in the early 1980s with two major developments; the birth of cluster science and the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope (STM). This development led to the discovery of fullerenes in 1986 and carbon nanotubes a few years later.In another development, the synthesis and properties of semiconductor nanocrystals was studied; This led to a fast increasing number of metal oxide nanoparticles of quantum dots. The atomic force microscope was invented six years after the STM was invented.

Molecular self-assembly is an important aspect of bottom-up approaches to nanotechnology. Using molecular self-assembly the final (desired) structure is programmed in the shape and functional groups of the molecules. Self-assembly is referred to as a 'bottom-up' manufacturing technique in contrast to a 'top-down' technique such as lithography where the desired final structure is carved from a larger block of matter. In the speculative vision of molecular nanotechnology, microchips of the future might be made by molecular self-assembly. An advantage to constructing nanostructure using molecular self-assembly for biological materials is that they will degrade back into individual molecules that can be broken down by the body.

Nanotechnology

The utilisation of the structure and properties of nanoparticles is a revolutionary and state-of-the-art technology that can be applied in a wide array of fields and human activities.

The term 'nanotechnology' generally refers to a technical field that explores the creation and use of nanometric technologies (usually approx. 1-100 nm), i.e. 10-9 m (a trillionth of meter), which equals about one thousandth of a human hair width.

Nanotechnology currently includes four principal areas: nanoelectronics, nanomaterials, molecular nanotechnology and microscopes with nanometer resolution.

Nanotechnology is basically a science of nanometer-sized materials.

Nanomaterials

(nanostructured materials) include those materials the new properties of which are defined by characteristic features (particles, clusters, hollows) measuring, at least in two dimensions, between 1 and 100 nm.

Examples of Nanotechnology Application

Nanomedicine

In medicine, nanotechnology will be used to help with diagnosing and treating diseases. For example, tiny gold-coated "nanoshells" could act like smart bombs, zeroing in on a tumor, entering cancer cells, and lying in wait until an infrared beam or radio wave signals the particles to release an intense, deadly dose of heat energy that destroys the cancer cells. Cancer patients often undergo radiation or chemotherapy treatments to kill cancer cells. But in the process, normal cells are killed as well, leaving the patient's immune system weak. Nanoparticles are able to "target" cancer cells, delivering the radiation or drugs to only these cells, while leaving normal cells untouched.

Chemistry and Environment

Chemical catalysis and filtration techniques are two prominent examples where nanotechnology already plays a role

Heavy Industry

An inevitable use of nanotechnology will be in heavy industry.

Aerospace

Lighter and stronger materials will be of immense use to aircraft manufacturers, leading to increased performance. Spacecraft will also benefit, where weight is a major factor.

Refineries

Using nanotech applications, refineries producing materials such as steel and aluminium will be able to remove any impurities in the materials they create.

Vehicle manufacturers

Much like aerospace, lighter and stronger materials will be useful for creating vehicles that are both faster and safer. Combustion engines will also benefit from parts that are more hard-wearing and more heat-resistant.

Textiles

The use of engineered nanofibers already makes clothes water- and stain-repellent or wrinkle-free textiles with a nanotechnological finish can be washed less frequently and at lower temperatures.

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