Nanotechnology is a science or technology that’s managed at the nanoscale which is about 1 to 100 nanometers. Nanotechnology is also called nanoscience which is the study of extremely small things and it can be used across all the other science fields like chemistry, biology, physics, and engineering.
How did it start?
The ideas behind nanotechnology started with a talk on the topic There’s plenty of room at the bottom by physicist Richard Feynman at an American physical society meeting at the California Institute of technology. At that time he described a process in which scientists would be able to control individual atoms and molecules. Over a decade later, Professor Norio Taniguchi presented the term nanotechnology.
Important concepts in nanotechnology
It is really hard to imagine how small nanotechnology is because One nanometer is a billionth of a meter. Here are a few examples.
- There are about 25,400,000 nanometers in an inch
- The paper of the newspaper is about 100,000 nanometers thick
- If we consider marble as a nanometer, then one meter would be the size of the earth
Nanoscience or nanotechnology is the ability to control and to see individual atoms. As we all know that everything on earth is made up of atoms like the food we eat, the clothes we wear, our own bodies, and even the buildings we live in.
But something that small is impossible to see with the naked eyes. Also, it’s nearly impossible to see them with the microscope we use in our high school laboratories. The microscopes that are used to see such things at the nanoscale were invented in the early 1980s.
Although this technology is quite new the nanoscale materials were used for centuries. The artists back then just don’t know that the process they used to create these works of art. And they don’t know that this process will change the compositions of the materials they were working with.
Nowadays, scientists and engineers are trying to find new ways to manufacture things at the nanoscale to take advantage of their amazing properties such as higher strength, lighter weight, and great chemical reactivities.
Types of nanotechnology:
The different types of nanotechnology are classified according to how they process.
- Descending (top-down)
- Dry nanotechnology
- Wet nanotechnology
Examples and applications of nanotechnology:
Nanomaterials can be applied in all kinds of sectors. But they are mostly found in these areas.
Carbon nanotubes are about to replace silicon as a material for making smaller, faster, and more efficient microchips and devices. They will also be used in making more stronger quantum nanowires. They are also very helpful in making flexible touchscreens.
A new semiconductor is developed that makes it possible to manufacture solar panels that double the amount of sunlight converted into electricity. Nanotechnology also lowers the cost and produces stronger and lighter wind turbines that will improve fuel efficiency and can save energy too.
The properties of some nanomaterials make them amazing for improving the early diagnosis and treatment of diseases like cancer. They have the ability to attack the cancerous cells selectively without harming other healthy cells. Some nanoparticles are also used to increase pharmaceutical products like sunscreen.
Air purifications with ions and water purification with nanobubbles are some of the environment-friendly applications. Nanocatalysts are also available to make chemical reactions quicker and less polluting.
In this field, nanosensors are used to detect the presence of pathogens in the food. Nanocomposites are also used to improve food production by increasing thermal and mechanical resistance and decreasing oxygen transfer in the packaged products.
Nanotechnology is also making it possible to develop smart fabrics that don’t stain or wrinkle. They are also stronger, lighter, and more durable to make motorcycle helmets and sports equipment.
Future of nanotechnology:
There are both dark and bright sides to nanotechnology. On the one hand, this sector is expected to grow globally and increase government support. On the other hand, the environmental, health, and safety risks of nanotechnology could stop its expansion.
At the end of 2024, the United States, Brazil, and Germany will lead the nanotechnology industry, with an important presence in the Top 15 Asian countries like Japan, China, India, South Korea, Taiwan, and Malaysia. The cosmetics sector is also thinking to apply this in their products.
Disadvantages of nanotechnology:
The manufacturing process turns raw materials into many useful products but some of the by-products of manufacturing and the leftover products during all this process can be harmful to the environment. Many manufacturing processes involve heating raw materials to transform them into the right product. Oil refining is the process called fractional distillation in which petroleum is heated to high temperatures to separate various products of the petroleum. During this process, sulfur dioxide is released into the air that causes air pollution.
Some manufacturing processes use large quantities of water. Wastewater from these processes is released into the lakes and rivers that add pollutants into the water causing water pollution.
The Clean Air Acts of 1970 and 1990 and the clean water act of 1972 limited the amounts of pollutants released in the environment. According to these acts, refineries had to install scrubbers to remove sulfur and other chemicals that disturb the air. Water had to be filtered and cleaned before it had to be discharged into the waterways. Regulators also measure the pollutants in the smoke and those who are violating these rules will have to face the consequences.