The word nanotechnology originally comes from the Greek word “νάνος,” which means “dwarf” and “technology.” Hence, its concept is: “The science that studies technology on a scale of the order of nanometres.” The term nano in the International System of Units (SI) is equal to 10-9. This nanotechnology branch aims to manipulate the structure and function of matter on a microscopic scale and thus obtain revolutionary new results. This is the case of graphene (a modified carbon that is harder than steel, lighter than aluminum, and almost transparent) or nanoparticles used in electronics, energy, biomedicine, and defense.
It is an inherently multidisciplinary and emerging field that brings together physics, biology, chemistry, engineering, and social sciences. It aims to understand, characterize, manipulate and exploit the physical characteristics of matter at the nanoscale to generate technological innovations, taking into account their social and environmental impact. It is a crucial technology that will bring the most significant development to the 21st century by giving rise to applications based on phenomena occurring at atomic scales (1 nanometre is one-millionth of a millimeter).
Uses of Nanotechnology
In basic terms, nanotechnology is a type of materials engineering at the atomic or molecular scale. This means that it allows the manipulation of matter on an infinitely small scale, between 1 and 100 nanometres, i.e., roughly the size of a DNA molecule (2 nm) and a bacterium genus Mycoplasma (200 nm). Therefore, the uses of nanotechnology are virtually infinite: from intervening in the chemical composition of living things, thus allowing the DNA of microscopic living things to be modified and “programmed” to carry out specific biochemical tasks, to the manufacture of novel materials with unique properties, called nanomaterials.
One of the most impressive uses of nanotechnology today is in the area of health. There are two experiments currently being studied that use nanotechnology: on the one hand, nanocarriers that will be responsible for transporting a particular drug to a pre-specified location in the body, which could be a breakthrough against cancer or diseases that are difficult to treat. On the other hand, we have molecular biosensors that will identify different body substances such as glucose or cholesterol levels in the blink of an eye.
The Environment – Nanotechnology has also become a strong interest for those who work day to day in environmental care tasks. Through this science, the aim is to develop new energies and materials that do not pollute and make use of nanotechnology to purify everything from the atmosphere to soil and water.
Food Industry – The application of this science in the food sector includes the creation of sensors and nanochips designed to guarantee the quality of the product and its safety, detecting from the level of freshness to the expiry date and shelf life.
Cosmetology – Nanotechnology could also offer a host of benefits in beauty and cosmetology, with the production of anti-wrinkle creams based on nanoparticles that could considerably improve the results obtained with their use.
Textile Industry – By incorporating electronic nanochips, a series of new properties could be obtained in fabrics such as stain repellency or even garments with self-cleaning and anti-odor systems. These “smart fabrics” would mean a considerable advance in the clothing market.
Nanotechnology In The Future
The future of nanotechnology has both light and some shadows on the horizon. On the one hand, nanotechnology is expected to grow globally, with increased governmental support, increased private investments, and growing demand for smaller devices.
The US, Brazil, and Germany will lead the nanotech industry by 2024, with a significant presence in the Top 15 in Asian countries such as Japan, China, South Korea, India, Taiwan, and Malaysia. . Right now, we are in the first generation of nanomaterials. Still, there will be a third and fourth generation, where we will truly see nanotechnology’s full potential. So its application could be far greater than we dare to dream of today. Moreover, it is almost a given that it will be combined with other emerging technologies; for example, nanorobotics will become more evident.
Nanotechnology is arguably at an early stage, but we do not doubt that it will boom in the coming years. All indications are that it will complement and challenge the technologies we already know and future ones. It will also have a notable impact on the design of the devices we use daily. Its applications may be very positive, but it may also have disadvantages arising from the relatively recent emergence of this branch of science and technology:
- Molecular nanotechnology is such a breakthrough that its impact could become comparable to the Industrial Revolution. Still, with one notable difference, it will be felt in a matter of a few years, with humanity’s danger being unprepared for the risks that such an impact entails.
- The power of nanotechnology could be the cause of a new arms race between two competing countries. The production of weapons and spying devices could cost much more.
- Major unfavorable changes in the economy.
- It could cause significant damage to the environment.
- The administration’s attempt to control these and other risks could lead to overly rigid regulation, which in turn would create demand for a black market that would be both dangerous and unstoppable because it would be so easy to traffic small and hazardous products such as nanofactories.
- There are many severe risks of various kinds to which the same type of response cannot always be applied.
- Simple solutions will not succeed. It is unlikely that this situation’s correct response will be found without first entering into a careful planning process.