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The ideas and techniques of nanotechnology started in 1959, when physicist Richard Feynman gave a talk entitled "There is Plenty of Room at the Bottom" at the American Physical Society meeting in Caltech, California. During the lecture, Feynman pointed out that the universe would progress to a point where the scientist would be able to regulate and manipulate atoms and molecules at a minimum level. Ten years later, Professor Norio Taniguchi's theories were put into practice by his discovery of ultra-precision machining, which led to the invention of a scanning the tunneling microscope capable of seeing individual atoms. The discovery marked the start of modern nanotechnology. Many institutions including the Universities and Research Centers define nanotechnology in different ways. However, one thing that always stands out is that: "nanotechnology is the comprehension and manipulation of the meter at the smallest levels of between 1-100 nanometers to allow for the scientific, engineering and technology applications at the nanoscale.” The nano-technology is different from the other technologies based on the action scale; ranging from a one-tenth thousandth of the thickness of the human hair to a billionth of a meter. The nano-scale involves the fundamental activities of the individual atoms and molecules. The result is that the technology engages a simulated exploitation of the atomic and the molecular matter, or processes.
In the contemporary society, the manufacture of nanotechnology occurs at the levels of atoms and molecules. Photosynthesis in plants and respiration in human beings are the essential activities that occur naturally as the examples of the nanoscale. Because the process has proven to be a possible one, scientists are now working on the re-establishment of nanotechnology in the organic and non-organic world. The possibility of working on such unbelievably small scales has opened up opportunities in the extensive range of industries like life sciences, engineering, and technology, mechanization, ecology and physical administration. Besides, nanotechnology is regarded as a feature of all the scientific branches like chemistry, biology, material science, physics, and manufacturing (William and Rethwisch 21). The importance of nanotechnology has been extensive across industries assisting apart from being an industry itself.
Benefits of Nanotechnology
Nanotechnologies have gained importance in some field with the resultant benefits being evident. Various researchers affirm the fact that nanotechnology is beneficial in the manufacturing of new materials, medical, agricultural, pharmaceutical, electronic devices, sensors, environmental processes and computer technologies. There is a considerable advancement in the mobile telephony industry, with the developments focusing on nanotechnology. Small phones with more functions are also an application of nanotechnology. Furthermore, nanotechnology has widened the ways through which utilization of the atomic and molecular possessions of materials can enhance making of a diversified method and meaning of the current producing products. Through this technology, most successful innovations in the areas of science have been realized. People are increasing liking it due to convenience, accessibility, and the attractive designs that come along with the products.
Nanotechnology can transform the contemporary trends of the product manufacturing in a reasonable manner (Mitin, Kochelap and Stroscio 8). In the daily lives, nanotechnology is almost taking over to make the items like needles and sunscreens. The concept has also received a massive appreciation in the field of architecture. In the coming ages, building resources like coating, bricks and other essential materials to be made more directly. Through these ways and means, the initiatives of nanotechnology industry can create a change in the future of human beings and the use of the materials. Also, the emergence of nanotubes and other building equipment is likely to generate a difference in the building design and performance. Nanotechnology is creating new combinations of strength, durability, and toughness which can solve the problems of the contemporary society. For instance, the bio-mimetic materials are based on the natural compounds and structures and can adjust interfaces, the memory of shape, handle strain materials and self-repairing.
Applications of Nanotechnology in Our Lives
Nanotechnology plays a vital role in people’s daily lives, ranging from computer hard drives to clothes that we wear. The technology aids the manufacture of products that make life better. Taking, for instance, somebody going for a holiday, after checking into a hotel, one can decide to put on a wrinkle-free shirt without having to iron it. In this situation, one can use a scratch-resistant sunglass, a camera phone, listen to the Mp3 player, all of which the products of nanotechnology. Even though nanotechnology is still likely to be unimaginable, the person in this example has dealt with it throughout the trip (Hughes 124). The tour uses the concept; from reducing the particles that cover the plane's surface to the process of cleaning the hotel’s swimming pool. The technology provides the sunscreen with the ability to reflect the ultraviolet radiation, allows the shirt to appear ironed, and offer to the sunglasses protection against scratches. Furthermore, the MP3 was small in size, portable and convenient for use because of nanotechnology.
Even though many people are not aware that they are applying nanotechnology in their daily activities, it has become an essential part of everyday life. CD and DVD players use nanosize components, and these are gadgets that exist in almost every home (Maynard, Aitken and Butz 268). However, airborne nanoscale materials also exist. The elements are made of ultrafine particles originating from other sources including traffic pollution. When people breathe in the particles, they could deposit in lungs, and cause cancer and asthma (Ferrari 162).
Klimeck, McLennan, and Brophy note that not every aspect of nanotechnology can be attributed to human achievement (p. 18). Many biological reactions occur naturally at the molecular level with the aid of cells. For example, the molecular structure of Kevlar (found in frying pans and flak-jackets) was facilitated by the composition of silk which is a naturally existing nanotechnology. The ability of nature in nanotech is indeed, expanding the business arena. The scientists are currently studying the nanoscale structures that geckos and mussels use to create the adhesives that are compatible with both wet and dry surfaces (Anisa, Daar and Singer R9). Besides, the transparent wings of the cicada insects could be used to improve the materials that do not have reflective abilities. Copying the arrangements of molecules of the cyphochilus beetle can lead to the creation of non-toxic pigments for the manufacture of white paint and paper (William and Rethwisch 54).
The nanostructures are also found on the lotus leaves, and they act as dirt and water repellants. The repulsion effect can be applied in creating self-cleaning windows. Another species of beetles in the Namib desert use nanostructures to trap moisture from the morning frogs, and this is an idea that could be applied in trapping moisture for the inside use. Nanotechnology cannot be evaded whether in the office, at home, or even on vacation. Despite the fact that nature inspires the daily application of the concept, the potential has not been exploited.
Achievements of Nanotechnology in Science and Engineering
All the equipment that people use depends on the strength and surface properties of the same materials. The general synthesis of polymers began in the mid 20th Century, but the use spread ubiquitously by the turn of the century. Some researchers have argued that industrial revolution witnessed in China was as a consequence of the use of plastics (Zhang and Webster 69). Plastics and polymers share a property in common: they both use the surface interaction of the chains of hydrocarbons to achieve the features. Such interaction processes are affected by the new nanotechnology inventions like the carbon nanotubes which exhibit a robust carbonic bonding which is different from that of diamond (Anisa, Daar and Singer R9). The carbon bond provides a stable surface interaction and intrinsic properties and can also accommodate more significant strains as compared to steel.
The carbon tubes are used in plastics to increase their strength and improve their resilience as with the case with the tennis rackets. In the construction and building industry, composites like fiberglass, Kevlar, and concrete are combined to achieve a more desirable strength through the surface interactions. Through the system, the resultant products are made lighter while still maintaining their advantage through the use of cenospheres. Apparently, the excellent power that the materials possess is as a result of the nanoscale material and interface.
Catalysis is a central process in as far as ammonia production is concerned. In the contemporary world, zeolites play the same role. Zeolites are microporous solids that aid the catalysis of aluminum oxides and silicon (Ferrari 165). Many tons of the solids help in the mining of petroleum from the earth by fracturing it into gasoline and other hydrocarbons, thus reducing the hazards that oil mining poses to the environment.
The development in nanotechnology seemingly will lead to more benefits in energy production and consumption; communication, and promotion of health. Numerous advancements are already evident in the areas. Improvement in efficiency brought about by nanotechnology via the new materials; thin membrane helps in the fuel cells, batteries, photoelectrons and electro-energy conversions. In lighting, for instance, the semiconductor sources are much more efficient as compared to the incandescent light bulbs, and are more reliable and long-lasting. The sources can be seen in traffic lights and general lighting where they continue to resolve the cost-related and color spectrum issues (Klimeck, McLennan and Brophy 20). The new generation of photovoltaic cells also continues to benefit from the efficiency of the nanoscale. The example is the Gratzel cell which is a new type of solar cell which is promoting the transition from the laboratory to manufacturing through the use of nanocrystalline titania. The material is found in sandpaper and paint, at it absorbs photons efficiently.
With the advancements of the nanoscale properties; electronics, communication, and computing industries have significantly benefited. For the case of the data storage, the amount of data created daily in humanity is far much higher than that generated for the last two decades (Sahoo, Parveen, and Panda). Cameras, phones, music players among other devices use non-volatile semiconductor storage to keep and exchange information. The activities aiding the processes are achieved through tunneling, which is a quantum mechanical phenomena occurring at the nanoscale level. The field interaction and electron spin at the nanoscale make the vast storage of information possible. Nanotools can also be designed to isolate, control and grab scaffolds that can grow, pattern, and probe cells in two or three-dimensional assembly.
Achievements of Nanotechnology in Science and Health
Nanotechnology and nanoengineering continue to experience significant results in science and health across the world. The influence of nanotechnology ranges from the temporal to spatial scales, thus allowing a controlled manipulation of particular molecule and atom constituents concerning arrangement to form the macroscopic substrate (William and Rethwisch 98). The consequence is that the design of nanoengineered substrate can be transformed into specific controlled bulk chemical and physical properties.
In medicine and health, the design of the materials can be such that they can interact with the cells and tissues at a molecular level, with a lot of specificities thus enabling integration between technology and biological systems that could not be attained in the old days. Nanotechnology has seen many achievements in health science in various ways some of which will be discussed.
Firstly, the technology helps in facilitating scientific and application-oriented research (Klimeck, McLennan and Brophy 22). Living cells exhibit complex functioning at the nanoscale. The cells are made up of macromolecules that include proteins like the DNA. The proteins help in the transfer of information, metabolism, and substance transportation. Through nanotechnology, there have emerged new tools for observing the operations of the cells through the atomic force microscopes which makes it easier to measure the bonding forces between hormones, and the relevant receptor proteins that behave like switches in the cell membranes. In this area, the research focuses on obtaining information on essential biochemical and biophysical in cells (both healthy and dead) (Zhang and Webster 69). The outcomes of the studies can act as a critical tool that aides the development of new prevention strategies and therapies.
Secondly, nanotechnology has found its application in disease diagnosis (Ferrari 169). The increasing knowledge in genomics and proteomics allows for easy tracking of diseases to the abnormalities that occur at the levels of a molecule, and this makes diagnosis and treatment of diseases possible at the earliest stages. An example is the neonatal screening for the metabolic illnesses which has tools for the detection of the molecular biomarkers. Nanotechnologies help in disease diagnosis in the laboratory (using DNA to measure gene expression); in the vivo diagnostics and imaging (where nanoparticles of perfluorohydrocarbons are used for imaging purposes).
Thirdly, nanotechnology can also be applied in therapy to deliver drugs, use nanoparticles as medicines, to facilitate passive implants and tissue engineering. The nanoparticles can be administered as active substances. Once they find their way into a tumor via the bloodstream, near-infrared radiations can then be used to heat the metal-containing particles so that the cells of cancer can die. The single-wall nanotubes could also be used to perform the same functions. Indeed, vitro-studies have indicated that the cancer cells take up the tubes selectively when folic acid is used as the targeting molecule.
Fourthly, the artificial joints like those of the hips have a lifespan of about 10-15 years beyond which complications like implant loosening may occur. Under such circumstances, further operations may be required (Sahoo, Parveen and Panda 27). Nanotechnology can help in reducing some of the complications. In applying the technology, the implants are provided with a thin layer of nanocrystalline structure which is harder, smoother and resistant to wear. The coat would also ensure that the human body can accommodate the implant. Even though the suitability of materials for coating is still under study, hydroxyapatite has been used for some time, with the new production techniques making it possible to apply layers at the nanometer scale (William and Rethwisch 102).
The Future of Nanotechnology
Nanotechnology is an emerging technology whose world is easily predictable. Due to the inventions, the efficiency of computers is increasing, the strength of materials is improving, the diseases that had been labeled as incurable are being diagnosed and treated. Nanotechnology has a prominent role to play in this future, by facilitating a massive improvement in the technologies already discussed. The processes of nanotechnology have reduced the size of things that were previously difficult to carry. By 2022, the importance and contribution of nanotechnology top development shall have improved to the extent that it would be possible to assign nanotech a budget of up to $1 trillion to facilitate production and development of the products. Nanotechnology will also contribute significantly to job creation thus helping with the problem of unemployment that most countries across the globe still face. In fact, the estimation by Sahoo, Parveen, and Panda puts the number at 8 million workforces employed in nanotech business, and other sectors that support the activities of the technology (p. 30).
Over the next ten years, nanotech will transform from industrial prototyping to commercialization (Sahoo, Parveen, and Panda). The process began in the year 2000 when there was a development of the passive nanostructures which are still under use as parts of artifacts. The materials can be as different as the particles of zinc oxide, but can also act as fibers in the new complex or carbon nanotube wires in the electronics. The next stage happened in 2005, which saw the development of the active nanostructures which helps in size modification, and conductivity within the period of manufacturing. Since the year 2010, the workforce has been developing expertise with the organisms of nanostructures directing complex constituents to well-defined ends. It is anticipated that after 2020, the field will grow to the extent of taking nanosystems and heterogeneous that have super molecular separate device organizations (Sahoo, Parveen and Panda 31).
Nanotechnology is indeed changing the world by its means and design. The technology has made it possible for people to build large numbers of products that are incredibly powerful by the standards of modern society, and also easy to carry and handle as compared to the older generations. For instance, we now have the pocket PC’s which are incomparable to the old generation frame computers. The impact in the medical industry is just incredible with the new diagnosis and treatment procedures coming up to help in the management of most challenging diseases like cancer. The technology presents both opportunities and risks; however, the paper has discussed the different aspects of nanotechnology in man’s lifestyle, together with what lies in the future.
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