NANOTECHNOLOGY-THE NEXT FRONTIER
NANOTECHNOLOGY-THE NEXT FRONTIER
2005-09-12 at 11:05:00 am #12609
Nanotechnology-the next frontier
Although still in a
nascent stage, nanotechnology holds much promise in various industries
to help in the creation of innovative products, observes Abhinav Singh
A set of scientists at Cornell University in the US created a tiny
guitar the size of a human red blood cell. They made it by sculpting a
guitar shape out of silicon crystal, the same material used in computer
Scientists now expect to see microscopic parts being designed for use
in mobile phones to make them smaller and lighter, with less power
consumption. These are some examples where Nanotechnology has
Research in full force
Nanotechnology involves the manipulation of matter at nanometer lengths
(one billionth of a meter) to produce new materials, structures and
People like chemists, biologists, physicists and engineers are studying
things that are so tiny you need special microscopes to see them. Some
researchers are working on nanoscale devices that may lead to the
formation of ‘plastic’ circuit elements and circuit ‘sheets’ fabricated
with ink jet printers within three years. It is being estimated that
about $4 billion is being invested worldwide annually in the
nanotechnology research by governments and major corporations.
The huge potential payoff
It is being hoped that complex nanoelectronic devices, in memory,
displays, solar cells or passive drug delivery and diagnostics, as well
as improved implantable medical devices will hit the market in the near
future. Long-term product payoffs could come from new products in
sectors that do not yet exist, such as nanomedicine, nanotherapeutics
or nano-designed artificial chromosomes or quantum computers used in
the design of small-molecules.
Countries such as the US, Japan and Taiwan are racing to produce
nanomaterials that can be applied to electronics, optics, medical
devices and other industries.
For instance, nanoelectronic components will be able to form
nanocomputers with far greater data access speeds and storage density
than what is possible with the current micro-processing techniques.
Switchable nanostructures can be incorporated into nanoprocesssors,
random access memory and data storage media. In a similar fashion, the
use of nanotechnology in medicine will help in the diagnosis and
treatment of illness and injury; and enhancement of human health and
functioning. Nanopharmacology systems may diagnose conditions and
detect pathogens and identify optimal pharmaceutical agents to treat a
medical condition or pathogens; fuel high-yield production of matched
pharmaceuticals (potentially in vivo); locate, attach or enter target
cells, structures or pathogens; and dispense the optimal amount of
matched pharmaceuticals to target areas.
This may allow selective killing of cancer cells or viruses that
currently resist medical treatment, with minimal systemic drug
concentration and side effects.
A nanomachine which is an electro-mechanical device that functions on a
scale of nanometers may perform computations; sense and respond to
environmental stimuli and be capable of movement; communicate and
co-operate; perform molecular assembly; self-repair; and replication in
the near future.
A M Sudhakara, Systems Engineer at University Computer Centre,
University of Mysore explains, “Nanotechnology is still at an ‘under
development’ stage but we expect devices like nanorobots, if when
injected into human beings can find blood blockages and rectify them.
Nano Gel is yet another application, which can be applied on burn
injuries and will not allow any germs to sit on it and help in healing
injuries very quickly. Nanocomputing will enable the size of a chip to
be reduced substantially and will make access to the computer very fast
with less heat.”
Early days in India
Research activities in the field of nanotechnology in this country are
yet to catch up with western countries and even some Asian countries
such as Japan and China.
Sudhakara elaborates, “Initiative has been taken by some IITs, but
since research on nanotechnology involves huge investments, it is
taking place at a slow pace in India.
Indian research institutes need to realise that a lot of patents will
be filed by researchers in the west, which in turn will be transformed
into products-and would mean a lot of money flowing into these
countries. India must leverage on the future benefits of this
technology.” Whatever said and done, nanotechnology is too hard to be
resisted by researchers, and with so many potential benefits it is all
set to change the way we live.