The Amazing Potential of Nanotechnology
Could you imagine a new world of medicine where microscopic implants would guard our bodies? These implants would fight diseases and protect our arteries.
In this new world, we would also see the creation of computer chips that are no bigger than a grain of salt. And these tiny devices could not only monitor our climate, it could even monitor the atmospheres of distant planets.
What we are describing is the potential of nanotechnology. And its application has no bounds. Virtually every conceivable discipline in our civilization could utilize a nanotech application of some sort.
Putting Nanoscale into Perspective
Nanotechnology is best described as applying engineering and science at an atomic and molecular scale. It utilizes nanomaterials that are generally measured between 0.1 and 100 nanometers (nm). And one nanometer is equal to one billionth of a meter.
To put this scale into perspective, if a nanometer were the width of a grain of salt, then a meter would be the distance from Dallas to St Louis.
Thus, nanotechnology operates within the same scale as our biological world. And science discovered some years ago that these nanomaterials have unique properties.
Benefits of Using Nanomaterials
The magic of nanotechnology lies within its tiny size. Ordinary materials often exhibit amazing characteristics when reduced to nanoscale dimensions.
In the nanoscale world, these ordinary materials suddenly have extraordinary levels of strength, electrical conductivity, superparamagnetic behavior, and chemical reactivity — among others. Yet the same material does not have these properties at macroscale or microscale dimensions.
This profound change in material property is because its surface area becomes significantly larger relative to its overall volume as it reaches nanoscale proportions. And there are also quantum effects occurring at this atomic scale.
3 Amazing Nanotech Future Applications
While there are countless developments currently taking place in nanotechnology, some of the most fascinating are the potential developments we could see in the future.
As you might imagine, many of these are theoretical, but let us look at three (3) future applications that are quite astonishing.
Smart dust is a description given to extremely small computing particles and devices. These miniature devices contain cameras, sensors, and other properties required to share data with a base unit for processing.
Practical Applications of Smart Dust
To be able to release smart dust into a specific environment has incredible potential. Here are a few smart dust applications that we could see in the future:
- Monitor crops to assess watering and nutritional needs.
- Identify corrosion and structure weaknesses in various systems.
- Monitor equipment to facilitate more timely maintenance.
- Wireless monitoring of people and inventory for security purposes.
- Patrol country borders against enemy invasion.
As smart dust is considered for future use, there have been several concerns that must be addressed. Perhaps the biggest concern about using these tiny devices is their ability to invade a person’s privacy. Since they are microscopic and can record and measure almost anything, this concern is well-founded. They could enter our homes with ease.
After billions of smart dust particles are deployed, it is inconceivable to believe that all of them can be controlled or even retrieved. It would be like trying to put the toothpaste back into the tube. Also, what happens when smart dust is used by criminals and terrorists? Would authorities be able to stop such an operation?
Who would’ve ever imagined that the invisible cloaks depicted in science fiction movies would ever exist in our lifetimes? This is more of a reality than many people think.
The concept of creating a cloak of invisibility is to wrap objects in materials that cause electromagnetic waves to pass around it and recombine on the other side.
When light waves strike an object, the waves become rippled and render that object as visible.
To make something invisible, we need optical wavelengths to somehow not be disrupted by the object. Also, we must ensure that the object doesn’t absorb any of the light waves. Metamaterials have shown great promise in achieving these objectives.
Metamaterials are artificial materials that use a combination of components like semiconductors, crystals, and metals. These unique structures are designed to manipulate the dispersion of light waves.
As you might imagine, the military has heavily invested in developing this exciting new technology. While there are still many issues with this concept, the invisible cloak is becoming a reality.
Conformable and Deformable Nanomaterials
Having the ability to work with conformable and deformable nanomaterials is an ultimate goal for nanotechnologists. This would allow for the endless combining of nanomaterials that have different properties.
And what if these materials were malleable and could be bent into any desired shape? This is exactly what can be achieved with these types of nanomaterials.
One of the biggest benefits of using conformable nanomaterials is that they can be used to integrate multiple nanotech functions.
For instance, we could place an electronic device on top of the silicon. Then we could combine that with something like gallium, which harvests energy. And finally, we could add a photodetector made of yet another nanomaterial.
The traditional problem with combining these various materials is their atomic structure does not typically line up properly as required by functions like semiconducting. Some of these materials may not even have lattice structures — they could have crystalline, amorphous, or even non-planar structures.
Thanks to nanotechnology, methods have been developed to solve this problem. A diverse array of materials can now be placed on a template that can then be transferred onto another substrate.
This development is revolutionary. It gives nanotechnologists the ability to combine rigid and flexible nanomaterials which is very powerful.
In the future, cardiac mapping could be achieved by combing electronic and biological materials into a medical implant. The combination of rigid and flexible substrates could also greatly reduce the cost of devices that are used for solar energy.
Stay tuned for upcoming developments in the exciting world of nanotechnology. Not only will there be an assortment of amazing new technologies, but existing systems and processes will also become more efficient and cost-effective.