Monday, July 27, 2009


Nanotechnology is the application of scientific and engineering principles to create and utilize very small things. Such small things are usually of the size between 1 and 100 nm (10-9 m). The principle underlying nano-science is that some substances exhibit surprising and useful properties when reduced nano-scale. For instance, some substances that behave as insulators in their bulk form when reduced to nano-scale become semi-conductors. Scientists could leverage this peculiar phenomena in various applications.

Currently, two particular nano-structures are dominating the research. These are the nano-wires and the carbon nano-tubes. Nano-wires are wires whose diameter equals 1 nm or so. These wires could be used to create extremely small transistors for computer chips. It would enable us create small and powerful computers at cheap rates. In contrast, nano-tubes are obtained by rolling a sheet of carbons atoms into a cylinder like structure. Depending upon how you roll the sheet, you could obtain different properties from the nano-tube. For instance, by a particular arrangement, we could obtain nano-tubes that are a 100 times stronger than steel but six times lighter. Such nano-tubes could be used in the building material of air-crafts and cars rendering them lighter and fuel-efficient.

Some of the other current applications in nanotechnology include

1. Sunscreen

Sunscreen lotions made of zinc oxide nano particles do not give the traditional white tinge when applied to the skin.

2. Clothing
By coating fabrics with zinc oxide nanoparticles, we can obtain better protection from UV radiation.

By coating fabrics with titanium dioxide nano particles, we can obtain clothes that clean themselves. That is the particles break down food and dirt stains in the presence of sunlight.

Some other nanoparticles could be utilized to produce stain resistant, wrinkle resistant clothing.

3. Scratch resistant coatings
Adding aluminum silicate nanoparticles to the scratch resistant polymer coatings improve their effectiveness considerably. Such scratch resistant coatings could be found on cars and eye lenses

4. Health
Nanosized robots could be inducted into the body to fight cancerous cells or malignant foreign bodies.

5. Environment
Nanosized robots could be introduced into the atmosphere to rebuild ozone layer, reduce CO2 concentrations or they could be used to clean ocean waters off pollutants.

The above applications are only a small indicator of what this technology could accomplish. In fact we could pretty much create anything we want - diamonds, food etc by manipulating the atoms. Such applications could have certain ethical concerns and impact the world in a tremendous manner. Moreover, some nanosubstances are considered toxic. Nevertheless nanotechnology is here to stay and we haven't seen its complete potential yet.

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