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 user 2005-09-12 at 11:05:00 am Views: 64
  • #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.