Monday, July 11, 2016

How Nanotechnology Works

           Nanotechnology has much to offer. To understand how it all works you must first understand how small a nanometer really is. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter, which is smaller than the wavelength of visible light. Or, a hundred-thousandth width of human hair. Nanotechnology deals with anything measuring between 1 and 100 nm. At the nanoscale particles do not behave as they should, they move erratically. Although troublesome to pick and place atoms, once you succeed with that, you can build and produce almost anything with exact precision. On the nanoscale, everything that you think you know, do or may not apply.
           Nanoparticles are so small that you can not see them with a light microscope. Nano scientists must use a scanning tunneling microscope or a atomic force microscope. Scanning tunneling microscopes use a weak electric current to probe the scanned material. Atomic force microscopes scan surfaces with an precise fine tip. Fortunately, both microscopes send their data back to computers, which can analyze the information and display it on a monitor.
           Nanowires and Carbon Nanotubes have sparked a particular interest in scientists. Nanowires are a string of wires with a diameter of about one nanometer. Electronic devices, like computer chips or cell phones, would improve with the help of nanowires. A carbon nanotube is a cylinder of carbon atoms. Their properties all depend on the direction and way they were rolled. With the right alignment of atoms, the carbon nanotubes material is hundreds of times stronger than steel, and six times lighter. Engineers are trying to make building material out of it, especially for planes and car. It would increase efficiency and strength.
          There are many products that are being benefited from nanotechnology. In older sunscreens, the particles were much larger, which is why the color was white. Newer sunscreens have nanoparticles of zinc oxide or titanium oxide which leaves no color behind. Also, scientist have created clothing that protects from UV radiation and stains. They coat the outside of the fabric with zinc oxide nanoparticles, same as sunscreen, for better UV protection. Other clothes have nanoparticles of tiny hairs that repel water and other materials.
           Nanotechnology is drastically going to change the world. Like in the world of "Star Trek" replicators can be a very real thing, it is called molecular manufacturing.  The goal is to place millions of atoms together by nano-machines, then, a desired product can be produced. Professor Richard Smalley explains that in order for molecular manufacturing to actually take place, there must be trillions of assemblers working together. With one assembler it could take up to millions of years. Eric Drexler believes the assemblers could first replicate themselves, then exponentially reproduce to manufacture products. Manufacturing costs would decrease, leaving consumer goods cheaper and stronger. Nanotechnology might have its biggest impact on the medical industry. By working on the nanoscale, one can attack and reconstruct the body. There are speculations that nanorobots can enter the body reversing the effects of aging and increase the average life expectancy.
            Before any production of nanotechnology is created, we must learn more about their materials and properties at the nanoscale. Elements behave differently at the nanoscale so, there is some concern about whether or not nanoparticles could be toxic. Doctors are skeptical because they are not sure if the particles could easily pass through the blood-brain barrier, a membrane that protects the brain from harmful chemicals in the bloodstream. Not only can nanotechnology be used for medical purposed but if harnessed properly, it may allow us to create more powerful weapons. The most important thing we do is to carefuly examine the challenges, risks, and ethical dilemmas.

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