Nanotechnology For Dummies
Nanotechnology, which involves molecule-sized machines and processes, requires the study of many developments and applications in a variety of fields. To understand nanotechnology, become familiar with important terms; get an overview of the progress of nanotechnology — from recent discoveries to the possibilities it offers for influencing our future lives; and find websites that provide updates on the latest nano developments.
Nanotechnology Terms to Know
The field of nanotechnology has produced lots of terms. Some describe nanotechnology applications, others are the names of various types of nano-sized materials, and still others describe processes that involve the use of nanotechnology or nanomaterials. Here's a list of nanotechnology definitions that will help you become nano-savvy.
Nanocatalyst: Nanoparticles of a substance, such as platinum, that reduce the temperature at which various chemical reactions occur.
Nanocomposite: A matrix to which nanoparticles have been added to improve a particular property of the material, such as strength.
Nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS): Devices that integrate nanoscale mechanical and electrical components into a single component. NEMS are generally built on semiconductor wafers using integrated circuit manufacturing techniques.
Nanoelectronics: Electronic devices containing components such as sensors or transistors that have features less than 100 nanometers in size.
Nanoengineering: The study and practice of engineering at the nanoscale.
Nanolithography: The practice of printing nanoscale patterns on a surface.
Nanomaterials: Materials with one or more dimensions measuring less than 100 nanometers.
Nanomedicine: The use of nanotechnology for diagnosing, treating, and preventing disease.
Nanometer: A measurement equal to 10-9 meter, or 1 billionth of a meter. Approximately 800 100-nanometer particles placed side by side would match the width of a human hair.
Nanoparticle: Particles ranging from 1 to 100 nanometers in diameter.
Nanopores: Holes in a membrane or solid less than 100 nanometers in size.
Nanorobot: Robots approximately the size of the cells in our bodies that have a propulsion system, sensors, manipulators, and possibly an on-board computer that can perform tasks on nanoscale objects.
Nanorod: A nanoscale object in which all dimensions are between 1 and 100 nanometers in size with the length typically three to five times the diameter. Nanorods are typically synthesized from metal or semiconducting materials.
Nanosensor: Sensors that use nanoscale materials to detect biological or chemical molecules.
Nanoshells: Nanoparticles consisting of a gold coating over a silica core. Nanoshells can convert infrared light into heat to destroy cancer cells.
Nanotechnology: The study and use of structures between 1 nanometer and 100 nanometers in size.
Nanotube: Molecules composed of carbon atoms arranged on the surface of a cylindrical shape in a pattern of hexagons as seen in buckyballs.
Nanowire: A wire of any length with a diameter of less than 100 nm.
Nanotechnology Timeline and Predictions
In just the past ten years, numerous developments have been made in nanotechnology. This timeline will help you understand the recent past, present, and future of nanotechnology.
Recent advances in nanotechnology
2000: President William Clinton signs off on funding for the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). The NNI is created to be a coordinated program among several U.S. agencies that could bring much of their research together to move the field forward.
2003: Jennifer West and Naomi Halas at Rice University develop gold nanoshells that can be used to destroy cancer cells without harming adjacent healthy tissue.
2004: The National Cancer Institute establishes the Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer.
2005: Researchers at IBM develop vertical nanowire transistors that can be used to produce more powerful microprocessors.
2006: Researchers at Rice University develop a low-cost method of using nanoparticles to remove arsenic in drinking water.
2008: Researchers at Berkeley discover negative refraction to bend light in materials made from nanowires, for use in developing optical lenses with much higher resolution than conventional lenses.
2008: Hewlett Packard announces the development of a switching memristor for use in computer memory and logic applications.
2010: Harvard University researchers demonstrate a nanoscale transistor to measure electrical activity in a human heart cell.
2010: Researchers at New York University and China's Nanjing University demonstrate an assembly-line method using nanorobots built from DNA strands.
Looking into the future of nanotechnology
The dates given here are estimates based on popular opinion in the field, but of course, the future is anybody's guess.
Within 7 years: Techniques for medical diagnosis, targeted drug delivery, and targeted hyperthermia (heat treatment) could reduce cancer to an easily detected and treatable illness.
Within 10 years: Techniques for medical diagnosis, targeted drug delivery and treatment could reduce heart disease to an easily detected and treatable illness. Nanomaterials contained in the fabric of military battlesuits will transform the fabric as needed from flexible, comfortable material to rigid and bulletproof or sealed from chemical or bacterial agents.
Within 15 years: Nanorobots perform cellular repairs that could cure almost any disease. Carbon nanotube cables will be used in the space elevator, enabling inexpensive space travel.
Within 20 years: Replicators using molecular manufacturing could allow us to build almost anything inexpensively atom by atom. Diamonoid materials with a strength-to-weight ratio of about 50 times that of steel could make very lightweight cars, planes, and spacecraft available.
Useful Nanotechnology Information Websites
Because nanotechnology is a constantly changing field, these five websites will prove invaluable while you try to keep up with the latest applications and developments. From nanotechnology news to nanotechnology career listings, nano discussion forums to images of nanomaterials, these sites will keep you current.
Understanding Nano: Perhaps the best collection of information on nanotechnology applications. This site explores how nanotechnology is being used across a wide range of applications, including healthcare, manufacturing, energy, and the environment.
Nanowerk: An outstanding nanomaterials database, which provides a useful, extensive, and easy-to-navigate system for finding providers of different kinds of nanomaterials. The results often give specifics about the size or purity of materials.
Nanotechnology Now: One of the best sites for finding nanotechnology news stories and press releases. Click their News tab for stories, press releases, and interviews with various folks in the nanotechnology field. The columns are written by experts from a wide range of nanotechnology disciplines from nanoinvesting to nanoethics and nanosolar.
PhysOrg Nanotechnology: A visual slant to your nanotechnology updates. This site provides an image with most of the nanotechnology news stories on their summary page to draw you into the story.
The International Nanotechnology Society forum: Discuss nanotechnology news with other interested people around the world.