Among all the technological wonders of modernity, there is one that, in perspective, can literally revolutionize reality. During the recent two centuries, there have been several such discoveries: electricity, radio waves, flight, nuclear energy, the Internet, and others. But today humanity stands on the edge of something completely new: nanotechnology.
To start the explanation of nanotechnology in a proper way, let us figure out what is this “nano” part of the word. “Nano” is a prefix used in the metric system, meaning one billionth part of something; so, nanometer, a standard measurement unit, is a 0,000000001 part of a meter. In order to be able to imagine how small this value is, let us refer to examples. One inch is 25,400,000 nanometers. Even a more illustrative example: a sheet of regular office A4 paper is 100,000 nanometers thick (Nano.gov). Human hair is about 80,000 nanometers thick (Nanowerk.com). Generally speaking, “nano” in “nanotechnology” means “very small, tiny.”
So, in this case, what exactly is nanotechnology? According to the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative, nanotechnology implies the ability to understand and control matter at dimensions between approximately from 100 up to one nanometers; it also involves imaging, measuring, modeling, and manipulating matter at the estimated length scale (Nanowerk.com). At the nanoscale, matter possesses unique properties; properties of materials behave under atomic and molecular rules, and this is why nanotechnology is so advanced: researchers can gain control over these unique properties to create new tools and products in areas of science and engineering (nnin.org). For example, nanotechnology allows to construct materials and structures at an atomic scale; this means scientists can “build” materials from atoms and molecules.
Nanotechnology is still in the process of development, but nevertheless it can already surprise humanity with wonders that were impossible several decades ago. For example, there are special carbon nanotubes that are able to turn into an artificial muscle; there is a 3D printer that can print new cancer drugs; there already exist self-healing materials, such as concrete that fills in its own cracks to ship hulls that knit back together; viruses were created that convert pressure into electrical energy, and so on. These and other inventions are the beginning of a new technological era (io9.com).
Nanotechnology is a relatively new branch of science that can revolutionize the reality we live in today. Nanotechnology operates with matter at dimensions between one to one hundred nanometers. This allows scientists to gain control over the unique properties that matter at such a small scale possesses. Self-healing materials, artificial muscle, and other wonderful inventions are only the beginning of the new era of technology.
“What is Nanotechnology?” What Is Nanotechnology? N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Aug. 2015.
“What is Nanotechnology?” Nanowerk. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Aug. 2015.
“What is Nanotechnology?” National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Aug. 2015.
“8 Incredible Nanotechnologies that Actually Exist Today.” Io9. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Aug. 2015.
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Writing an Expository Essay
Everyday Applications of Nanotechnology
Compiled by Paul Bradley
Here are a few examples:
One application of nanotechnology in medicine currently being developed involves employing nanoparticles to deliver drugs, heat, light or other substances to specific types of cells, such as cancer cells. Particles are engineered so that they are attracted to diseased cells, which allowdirect treatment of those cells. This technique reduces damage to healthy cells in the body and allows for earlier detection of disease. For example, nanoparticles that deliver chemotherapy drugs directly to cancer cells are under development.
Nanoelectronics holds some answers on expanding the capabilities of electronics devices can be expanded while reducing their weight and power consumption. These include improving display screens on electronics devices and increasing the density of memory chips. Nanotechnology can also reduce the size of transistors used in integrated circuits. One researcher believes it may be possible to put the power of all of today’s present computers in the palm of your hand.
Nanotechnology is being used in several applications to improve the environment. This includes cleaning up existing pollution, improving manufacturing methods to reduce the generation of new pollution, and making alternative energy sources more cost effective. Potential applications include:
- Cleaning up organic chemicals polluting groundwater. Researchers have shown that iron nanoparticles can be effective in cleaning up organic solvents that are polluting groundwater. The iron nanoparticles disperse throughout the body of water and decompose the organic solvent in place. This method can be more effective and cost significantly less than treatment methods that require the water to be pumped out of the ground.
- Generating less pollution during the manufacture of materials. Researchers have demonstrated that the use of silver nanoclusters as catalysys can significantly reduce the polluting byproducts generated in the process used to manufacture propylene oxide. Propylene oxide is used to produce common materials such as plastics, paint, detergents and brake fluid.
- Increasing the electricity generated by windmills. Epoxy containing carbon nanotubes is being used to make windmill blades. The resulting blades are stronger and lower weight and therefore the amount of electricity generated by each windmill is greater.
- Producing solar cells that generate electricity at a competitive cost. Researchers have demonstrated that an array silicon nanowires embedded in a polymer results in low-cost but high-efficiency solar cells. This may result in solar cells that generate electricity as cost effectively as coal or oil.
Nanotechnology has already found its way into numerous consumer products you use every day, from clothing to skin lotion. They include:
- Silver nanoparticles in fabric that kill bacteria making clothing odor-resistant.
- Skin care products that use nanoparticles to deliver vitamins deeper into the skin
- Lithium ion batteries that use nanoparticle-based electrodes powering plug-in electric cars
- Flame retardant formed by coating the foam used in furniture with carbon nanofibers.
If you’re a tennis or golf fan, you’ll be glad to hear that even sporting goods have been improved by nanotechnology. Current nanotechnology applications in the sports arena include:
- Increasing the strength of tennis racquets by adding nanotubes to the frames which increases control and power when you hit the ball.
- Filling any imperfections in golf club shaft materials with nanoparticles; this improves the uniformity of the material that makes up the shaft and thereby improving your swing.
- Reducing the rate at which air leaks from tennis balls so they keep their bounce longer.