What is nanotechnology?

What is nanotechnology
(Image: © Johannes Plenio/Unsplash)

1. Nanotechnology definition

Nanotechnology definition refers to a field of study of very small things. A study of systems that measure less than forty nanometers (a nanometer corresponds to a billionth of a meter or 0,000,000,001 meters). However, nanotechnology does not just study these elements since it also aims at the manufacture and handling of nanoscale objects and nanomaterials. Indeed, the applications of nanotechnology are multiple, and this in different fields. This explains why nanotechnology is at the crossroads of several scientific disciplines such as electronics, mechanics, chemistry, biology, and, therefore, medicine.

2. History of nanotechnology

Besides the nanotechnology definition, it is important to go back to its history and how it was invented. The idea of ​​using nanotechnology began in the meeting of the American Physical Society at the “CalTech Institute” in 1959, by the physician “Richard Feynman.” He described a method by which scientists can control atoms and molecules. The term “nanotechnology” was first used in 1974 by professor “Norio Taniguchi.” In the 1980s, with the discovery of the scanning tunnel microscope (STM). Then that of the atomic force microscope (AFM). Since then, the nanoworld was really opened to researchers; thanks to the extreme precision of their tools, the scientists managed to manipulate the atoms one by one. The design, manufacture, and manipulation of objects, materials, and machines of nanometric dimensions could then begin.

3. Benefits and applications of nanotechnology

Nanotechnology is helping to improve significantly, and even revolutionize, many technological and industrial sectors. Information technology, internal security, medicine, transportation, energy, food security, and environmental sciences, among others. Below is some of the growing list of benefits and applications for nanotechnology.

3.1 Medical field

Nanotechnologies bring hope. Since scientists were able to make accurate machines to the size of blood cells to treat many diseases that require surgical operations such as blockages inside the arteries, as well as tumors. Or in the field of drug, nanotechnologies bring the treatment directly on their target, in particular in the therapy of cancer. We can also consider treating brain diseases thanks to the miniaturization of the electrodes by implanting them directly in the central nervous system. Nanotechnologies allow a rapid and sensitive diagnosis thanks to data provided by a set of biochips and molecular markers. In addition, nanotechnology also helps active repair of lesions, such as affected tissues or organs, which would allow faster repair of injuries.

3.2 Industrial field

Smart clothing that works to produce energy, or remove dirt and germs automatically. As well as manufacturing solid materials that exceed the hardness of steel with light weight, and the manufacture of dust-proof and non-conductive glass, in addition to the production of 3D screens characterized by its transparency and ability to bend.

3.3 Environment field

Thanks to nanotechnologies, it will be possible to create nanocides. The latter will be “intelligent”: they would not harm the useful insects like the bee, would require a much lower dosage than current pesticides, and would degrade more easily in nature.

3.4 IT and Electronics field

Nanotechnology has greatly contributed to major advances in computing and electronics. Leading to faster, smaller, and more portable systems that can manage and store ever-increasing amounts of information.

3.5 Energy field

Nanotechnology finds applications in traditional energy sources and dramatically improves alternative energy approaches to help meet growing global energy demand. It improves the efficiency of fuel production from petroleum raw materials through better catalysis. Also, it reduces fuel consumption in vehicles and power plants through more efficient combustion and reduced friction. Besides, nanotechnology provides more efficient lighting systems, lighter and stronger vehicle chassis materials for the transportation industry, reduced energy consumption in advanced electronics, and smart coatings sensitive to light for glass.

2. Risks and dangers of nanotechnology

We do not know exactly the effects of nanotechnologies on the human body, because, for us, they are still new. Certain nanotechnologies are very dangerous for the human body, because they have the same scale as the cellular components and that certain proteins could escape the natural defense mechanisms of the human body (or other organisms) and cause damage to internal organs.

Nanotechnology also causes:

  • The appearance of malignant tumors in those who deal with it directly.
  • The danger of materials manufactured using nanotubes on human health and its easy entrance in the pores of the skin or by inhalation due to its microscopic nature. And if it entered the body, it is difficult to get rid of them, so that there is no medical treatment for them.

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Originally published on Live Positively.