• Nanotechnology is a set of enabling technology
• Interest in Nanotechnology
• Development in last 10 years
• Brief History
• Implications of Nanotechnology
• Unifying themes
• Molecular electronics
• New technologies for clean and efficient energy generation
• Nanoassembled products
• Growth in world investment in nanotechnology
• Social, ethical and safety concerns.
• Health and environmental impacts
• Social and ethical issues arising from Nanotechnology-based products.
• Conclusions on the global nanotechnology scene.
• ...view middle of the document...
This latter example is illustrated in Figure 1. The Gecko foot pad is covered with aggregates of hair formed from nanofibres which impart strong adhesive properties.
Figure 1. Examples of nanostructures in nature and nanotechnology
One nanometre (1 nm) is defined as one billionth of a metre (10-9 m). This is the diameter of several atoms, and on the scale of individual
molecules. A human hair is approximately 80 000 nm wide, a red blood cell is 7000 nm wide, a DNA molecule is approximately 2 nm wide.
Nanotechnologists use similar principles to deliberately engineer at the nanoscale to create products that make use of these unusual properties. Starting with nanostructures, scientists rearrange them and then assemble functional systems that can be incorporated into products with unique properties. Figure 1 shows two examples. Firstly, the propensity for carbon to form tubes at the nanoscale can be used to generate arrays over micron sized conductors that illuminate flat panel displays for mobile phones, and secondly nanoparticles can be manipulated to create effective, fully transparent sunblock creams. These are but two of many examples of stronger, stickier, smoother and lighter products being developed.
Nanotechnology is a set of enabling technologies
Nanotechnology is not confined to one industry, or market. Rather, it is an enabling set of
technologies that cross all industry sectors and scientific disciplines. Probably uniquely, it is classified by the size of the materials being developed and used, not by the processes beingused or products being produced. Nanoscience is inherently multidisciplinary: it transcends the conventional boundaries between physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, information technology, and engineering. This also means it can be hard to define – is the introduction of foreign genes or proteins into cells biotechnology or nanotechnology? And since genes have genetic memory, might this also be a form of information technology? The answer is probably ‘all of the above’. The important point is that the integration of these technologies and their manipulation at the molecular and sub-molecular level will over the next decade provide major advances across many existing industries and create whole new industries.
Why is there so much interest in nanotechnology?
Nanotechnology is not new – nanoproducts are already in the marketplace, such as stainresistant and wrinkle-free textiles. Given its fuzzy definition, there is also an element of rebadging traditional products under the nanotechnology banner.
However, because nanotechnology is ubiquitous but also far-reaching, it has real potential to transform the way we live. There are very significant economic, social and environmental implications from this technology. To quote The Economist (January 2005): ‘Nanotechnology will indeed affect every industry through improvements to existing materials and products, as well as allowing the creation...