Nanotechnology

| Another fast-emerging technology is nanotechnology, basically the design of technology at the molecular level. A Greenpeace report (Arnall, 2003) identified two broad classes of nanotechnology production technologies: top-down and bottom-up. Topdown includes optical techniques, lithographics, and the “scanning probe microscope”, which are used to create elaborate surface patterns on a nanometer scale. Bottom-up processes are molecular engineering and may include self-organization and self-assembly of molecules. Perhaps the most well known examples of nanomaterials are “buckyballs”, or fullerenes, and “buckytubes”, or nanotubes, which are curved carbon-carbon surfaces wrapped into a sphere or a tube, respectively, with remarkable properties, especially for absorption and lubrication.

Nanotechnology


Some current and near-future applications of nanomaterials include catalysts, dry lubrication, coatings, clothing, and materials. The most important current applications, as measured by the number of patents, are in micro-electronics: massive storage devices, flat panel displays, electronic paper, extended semiconductor approaches, and information processing, transmission, and storage devices. Beyond this, there are more far-reaching ideas about “DNA-computing” and computational self-assembly. The main drivers for these developments are computing, telecommunications, consumer electronics, and military applications. 

In chemistry and pharmaceuticals, nanotechnology promises new forms of drug development and delivery, medical diagnosis, and cancer treatment. Nanotechnology in combination with biotechnology underpins rapid advances in genomics, combinatorial chemistry, high throughput robotic screening, drug discovery, gene sequencing, and bioinformatics and their applications. Targeted drug delivery (delivering a drug to a specific place in a body) is a very promising area. The size of the market is the main driving force. 


For the energy sector, lighting technologies based on nanotechnology could reduce the energy demand for lighting. In photovoltaics, nanotechnology could raise efficiency and lower costs. In the military sector, nanotechnology may contribute to surveillance, sensors and barrier systems, small anti-tank weapons, and smart munitions. Nanotechnology may also contribute to virtual reality systems; automation and robotics; chemical, biological, and nuclear sensing; and aerospace, food processing, and construction industries. One of the most evocative possible applications could be “nanobots”, or robots on a nanoscale, which could be introduced into the bloodstream to clean unwanted substances from blood cells or veins. 

As with many other new technologies, nanotechnology may have wide and pervasive implications, especially in combination with other emerging technologies such as genetic engineering and information and communication technologies (Fleisher et al., 2004; Merkerk et al., 2005; Royal Society, 2004). There are obviously environmental and health concerns about nanotechnologies (Glenn, 2006): the effects of infiltration in humans (through tanning creams among other possibilities), the possible attachment of high concentrations of toxic substances, the effects on living systems, the possibility of slipping past the immune system, the potential damage to lungs by nanotubes. More frightening potential dangers are runaway self-replication in nature and a nanotech arms race. Many writers stress the need for more attention to ethical issues, even for a moratorium on research in order to first create better regulation (ETC, 2003).

by: Meyda Azzahra