Nano-technology

Nano-technology involves re-arranging atoms and molecules that leads to new properties. It promises to have the greatest impact with the possibility of ending scarcity.

Nanotechnology cuts across many disciplines such as engineering, physics, chemistry, biology and materials science

"...the concept is that by manipulating matter at molecular level, literally rearranging atoms and molecules, you can create new materials and products with extraordinary properties - fibres with 30 times the tensile strength of steel at a fraction of its weight, chemical detectors that can sense a single molecule, precision guided smart drugs, and computer memories 1000 times greater than we have today..."

Gardiner Morse as quoted by AFRBoss, 2004

The nanotech's worth is

"...Between 1997 and 2005, investment in nanotech research and development by governments around the world soared from $US432 million to about $US4.1 billion"By 2015, products incorporating nanotech will contribute approximately $US1 trillion to the global economy. About two million workers will be employed in nanotech industries, and three times that many will have supporting jobs..."

Mihail Roco, 2006

Some uses of nano-technology include

- L'Oreal blending nano-particles into face creams to moisturise skin

- in 2003, Intel sold $US 20 billion worth of Pentium 4 and other chips, all of which had circuit elements smaller than 100 nm; after using nanotechnology to overhaul an insulating layer

- Levis, Dockers and Gap khakis use nano-fibres which bind to the cotton fibres in the fabric to create an individual barrier that protects clothes from liquid spillages and stains, such as coffee, wine, etc

- IBM has developed for its computer hard drives a nano-component known as GMR that dramatically improves memory performance (GMR stands for giant magneto-resistive effect)

- General Motors has used nano-fillers on its vans' running boards

- Chevrolet replaced the rubber strip (molding that protects car doors from other car doors) of the Impala with a nano-composite version

- Konarka is applying nano-tech to photovoltaics (conversion of sunlight into electricity) to make nano-crystals coated with light-absorbing dye and embeds them in an electrolyte. Furthermore, they can be put it into plastics, foils, textiles and other surfaces

- Cabot uses nanotechnology to provide high-gloss coating on certain types of paper

- GM is altering the molecules of clay so that it can now adhere to previously "untouchable" oils

- GE sells plastic which includes nano-fillers that will allow paint to bind more readily to plastics in the automobile industry

- HP has devised a system for chip-making that uses infinitesimal wires in a "cross bar" pattern in such a way that molecules trapped between the wires become the equivalent of a bit of memory and/or switch into a logic circuit. This creates an architecture that can tolerate a relatively high degree of defects and still function more smoothly than the traditionally-made chips

Nicholas Varchaver, 2004

It has been suggested that nanotech is going through 4 overlapping stages of industrial prototyping and early commercialization; the 4 stages:

i) from 2000, development of passive nanostructures - materials with steady structures and functions, such as particles of zinc oxide in sunscreens, carbon nanotubes in ultra- miniaturized electronics

ii) from 2005, active nanostructures that change their size, shape, conductivity or other properties during use, such as new drug-delivery particles that could release therapeutic molecules in the body only after they reached their targeted diseased tissues, electronic components, eg transistors

iii) from about 2010, cultivate expertise with systems of nanostructures, directing large numbers of intricate components to specific ends for use in medicine (improve the tissue compatibility of implants, create scaffolds for tissue regeneration, use in artificial organs, etc)

iv) around 2020 the field will expand to include molecular nanosystems (heterogeneous networks in which molecules and supramolecular structures serve distinct devices like proteins in cells to work together this way). Examples include computers and robots which will be extraordinarily small; medical applications will include genetic therapies and anti-aging treatments; new interfaces in electronic communications

 

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