Nanotechnology is the current edge technology which encompasses science, engineering, and technology at the nanoscale.Nanotechnology involves the use of materials which are in the size range of 1 to 100 nanometers (nm). Rod-shaped materials whoselengthranges in micrometers but diameter is in the range of 1-100 nanometer can also be considered as nanomaterials. What is nanometer or how small is that? A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter (A meter is 39.37 inches, or slightly longer than one yard).
The prefix “nano” means “one billionth”, or 10-9, in the international system for units of weights and measures. The abbreviation for nanometer is "nm." A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter and if we compare with the diameter of human hair, it is about 50,000 times thick than diameter of nanometer. Let’s suppose we have a sheet of paper which is already very less in thicknessand if we divide this thickness by nanometers then it will be about 100,000 nanometers thick. Depending on the shape, the application, or the components, nanomaterials may be called by a variety of different names, including nanoparticles, nanotubes, nanofilms, nanoshells, nanospheres, nanowires, nanoclays, nano-polymers, and much more. There is exponentially increase in the surface area of nanomaterials during synthesis from bulk materials which makes these materials highly reactive and gain novel properties. Because of very small size nanomaterials can behave differently, for example, a material’s melting point, color, strength, chemical reactivity, and more may change at the nanoscale.
Types of Nanomaterials
Nanomaterials are present in the environment since the history of earth and are produced by many natural activities. Nanoscale materials have been used for over a thousand years. For example, nanoscale gold was used in stained glass in Medieval Europe and nanotubes were found in blades of swords made in Damascus. Nanomaterials are produced by both natural and anthropogenic/man-made activities. Naturally,nanomaterials are formed from forest fires, volcanoes (hot lava),by means of gas-to-particle conversion, microparticles of size less than 100 nm, and also some of the biological molecules are in size range of nanomaterialssuch as DNA, RNA, and some proteins. Anthropogenic nanomaterials can further be classified as intentional and unintentional. Intentional nanomaterials are those which are produced intentionally for specific purpose forsuch as engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) for controlled size and shape, designed for functionality like gold, iron, titanium dioxide, carbon nanotubes, silica nanoparticles, metals, semiconductors, metal oxides, carbon, polymers, nanospheres, wires, needles, tubes, shells etc. These ENMs are designed for use in nanosensors for detection of very small quantity of analytes or molecules, for binding and delivery of drugs to targeted organs or tissues, to provide novel properties to the matter in terms of higher electric and thermal conductivity, increases durability, tensile strength, resistance, thermostability and also functions as novel catalysts for chemical reactions, etc. In contrary to intentional, some of the nanomaterials synthesized unintentionally by human activities such as from internal combustion engines, power plants, incinerators,metal fumes, polymer fumes, heated surfaces, electric motors,diesel exhaust, dust, environmental pollution,etc.
Nanotechnology Real Facts
What is nanotechnology and how small are the nanomaterials?
Nanotechnology is the combination of science and technology; that enables the control of matter on the nanoscale dimension such as atomic and molecular scale. Nanomaterials mean materials that are about 100 nanometers or smaller in size. Often, when people say about nanotechnology, they mean structures of thesize 100 nanometers or smaller. There are one million nanometers in a millimeter. Nanotechnology tries to make materials, machines or technologies utilizing those small-sized nanomaterials.
Is this technology a new discipline? Where did it come from?
Nanotechnology and nanoscale materials have been used for over a thousand years. For example, in Medieval Europe, nanoscale gold was used in stained glass and nanotubes were found in blades of swords made in Damascus. However, the invention of high-powered microscopes allowed us to see things at the nanoscale and begin working with these materials.
Do nanotechnology-based products are available to consumers?
Yes, nanotechnology is charmingtechnology and has found its way into countless profitable products which have widespread use in our daily lives e.g. sunscreens, mints, paints, food items, strong and lightweight materials made of nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes; hydrophobic touchscreens of smartphones and LED lights, targeted drug delivery for precise and safer treatment of diseases; nano-based membranes are used in water filters to clean drinking water; superfast computers with vast amounts of storage utilizing nanocircuits; antidust or self-cleaning windows; nanosensors to detect contamination in food through packaging, nanomaterial-based scaffold materials for better and fast regrowth of skin, bone, and nerve cells formedical purpose,and nanomaterial-based clothes & kitchenware etc.
What are the Governments Research & Development programs?
The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) is a U.S. Government research and development (R&D) initiative involving in the nanotechnology-related activities of 20 departments and independent agencies. Different agencies have invested through NNI for getting fast and better technologies and products. Since 2001, U.S. Federal agencies and Cabinet-level departments have invested huge money ($25 billion) in nanotechnology research, development, and commercialization.
What are the future perspectives of nanotechnology?
There is a high possibility that nanotechnology will create many new jobs in different sectors. Engineering, healthcare and food industries can be the main sectors utilizing nanotechnology and nano-based products and hence job providers in the market.Some of these jobs will require an advanced degree specialized in nanotechnology such as Ph.D./M.Tech./B.Tech.It was reported in a 2014 study funded by the National Science Foundation points out that 2-yr and 4-yr training with access to continuing and technical education will be sufficient for many of the future positions in nanotechnology, nanomanufacturing, and beyond.
Why myths occur?
It is because of the lack of knowledge and understanding in the field of nanotechnology. Some people spread myths to popularize the field of nanotechnology and gain the attention of researchers towards their research.
1. Nanotechnology is dangerous
There is considerable fear among people that nanotechnology has the potential to become out of control which can bring disaster like nuclear bombs or can give rise to new diseases etc. In reality, nanoparticles are part of ecosystem and present in environment since the formation of earth. Researchers around the globe are trying to explore the toxicity caused by exposure to these nanoscale molecules but nobody is able to give a concrete idea about the toxicity of these materials. There are different reports observed by different researcher because of the behavior or reactivity of nanoparticles keep on changing in accordance with the environment they are present.
2. Nanotechnology-based products have superior function
This myth is not always true as this is the marketing strategy. These kinds of myths are spread to take the attention of consumers and are publicity stunts for increasing sale of the product. As you must have heard about nano-based clothes or nanoparticle-based washing machines. These types of claims give attention and publicity to the product but real proof of beneficial effects of involving nanotechnology in the product is unknown.
3. The concept of nanomachines
This concept is used to make machines or instruments at a very small scale such as micro or nanoscale. But there is nothing like nanomachines but instruments or parts of small size which involved use of nanomaterials are available such as nano-paint, nano-ink, nanosensors, and microchips, etc.
4. It is ecofriendly technology
People think that it is a clean technology and no waste occurs at all. This is somewhat true but the use of nanomaterials in designing smart screens and many other electronic items causesthe production of lots of waste in the industry and also waste is generated when product is disposed of.
5.Nanotechnology is still in the “experimental phase”?
According to the US National Nanotechnology Initiative, the global market for nanotechnology-based products is in trillion dollars. There are around thousands of nanotechnology utilizing companies and more than thousands of nanotechnology-based products are available in the market. These productsare sunscreen, sunglasses, tires, clothes, and cosmetic products, etc. Still more and more research is going on to bring new products that are safe, fast, and possess novel properties.