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Nanotechnology

NanotechnologySome say it is the technology of the future, but what exactly is nanotechnology, and how can it improve our lives?

’Nanotechnology’ is the manipulation of ‘micro’ structures - generally 100 nanometres or smaller. One nanometre (nm) is one billionth, or 10-9 of a metre. To put that scale in context, the comparative size of a nanometre to a metre is the same as that of a marble to the size of the earth. Or another way of putting it: a nanometre is the amount a man's beard will grow in the time it takes him to raise the razor to his face.

The history

The idea of nanotechnology was first suggested by Richard Feynman, an American quantum physicist. He suggested that it might be possible, in the future, to manipulate individual atoms and use them for building purposes. Later, a Japanese researcher called Norio Taniguchi expanded the definition to mean any manipulation of something at the atomic level.

Examples of nanotechnology

The Project of emerging Nanotechnologies claim that there are currently over 600 nano products around, and they are used in many things from food packaging to sunscreen. Three or four new nano products or materials are produced every week. They aren’t all microscopic robots though, as fiction would have us believe. Most nano products simply have part of their material made using nanotechnology.

A good example of this is the FX razor, made by Gillette. The blades are coated with ‘alpha diamond’, which is a material produced at the atomic level using nanotechnology, and it helps keep blades sharp for longer. The rest of the blade and the handle, however, is made in the traditional way. The Wilson Tour Davis Cup Official Tennis Ball simply claims to be produced using NanoPlay technology.

Nokia have released a video claiming that nanotechnology could be used in the future to make phones that can bend, mimic their environment, repel dirt and even smell! Check out the videohere.

Controversy?

Recent studies have shown that certain nano particles could act like asbestos – damaging the lungs of people who accidentally inhale them. It has also been shown that some silver-based nanoparticles, which are used in socks to prevent smells, may destroy beneficial bacteria in the environment once they have been washed into rivers and streams.

Prince Charles has famously warned against nanotechnology, saying that he worries that it could “offer similar upsets” to thalidomide, a sedative that was widely used by pregnant women until it was discovered it caused their children to be born with severe deformities. However, he says that he is not completely opposed to the technology, just that we should be careful about its uses. "Discovering the secrets of the Universe is one thing; ensuring that those secrets are used wisely and appropriately is quite another.”

Related links

Photo by NASA - Public domainSome say it is the technology of the future, but what exactly is nanotechnology, and how can it improve our lives?
’Nanotechnology’ is the manipulation of ‘micro’ structures - generally 100 nanometres or smaller. One nanometre (nm) is one billionth, or 10-9 of a metre. To put that scale in context, the comparative size of a nanometre to a metre is the same as that of a marble to the size of the earth. Or another way of putting it: a nanometre is the amount a man's beard will grow in the time it takes him to raise the razor to his face.
The historyThe idea of nanotechnology was first suggested by Richard Feynman, an American quantum physicist. He suggested that it might be possible, in the future, to manipulate individual atoms and use them for building purposes. Later, a Japanese researcher called Norio Taniguchi expanded the definition to mean any manipulation of something at the atomic level.
Examples of nanotechnologyThe Project of emerging Nanotechnologies claim that there are currently over 600 nano products around, and they are used in many things from food packaging to sunscreen. Three or four new nano products or materials are produced every week. They aren’t all microscopic robots though, as fiction would have us believe. Most nano products simply have part of their material made using nanotechnology.
A good example of this is the FX razor, made by Gillette. The blades are coated with ‘alpha diamond’, which is a material produced at the atomic level using nanotechnology, and it helps keep blades sharp for longer. The rest of the blade and the handle, however, is made in the traditional way. The Wilson Tour Davis Cup Official Tennis Ball simply claims to be produced using NanoPlay technology.
Nokia have released a video claiming that nanotechnology could be used in the future to make phones that can bend, mimic their environment, repel dirt and even smell! Check out the videohere.
Controversy?Recent studies have shown that certain nano particles could act like asbestos – damaging the lungs of people who accidentally inhale them. It has also been shown that some silver-based nanoparticles, which are used in socks to prevent smells, may destroy beneficial bacteria in the environment once they have been washed into rivers and streams.
Prince Charles has famously warned against nanotechnology, saying that he worries that it could “offer similar upsets” to thalidomide, a sedative that was widely used by pregnant women until it was discovered it caused their children to be born with severe deformities. However, he says that he is not completely opposed to the technology, just that we should be careful about its uses. "Discovering the secrets of the Universe is one thing; ensuring that those secrets are used wisely and appropriately is quite another.”
Related linksUnderstanding NanotechnologyFamous physicists: Richard FeynmanClothes that can take pictures