Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Nanotechnology: Industry of the very small

First time I heard of this term, well that was only around a few years ago. Just around during the time I re-ignited my interest in Science and Technology. Sci-fi films also gave me some idea on how this works. It's like building a machine so small that you cannot see it with the naked eye, yet so powerful that it is still able to do its task. For newbies like me, this might seem impossible, but in reality lots of scientists are already engaging in a promising technology, that would shape this century.

Theoretical model of a Nanotech machine

So what excatly is Nanotechnology? *Wikipedia has a simple definition of that " is the manipulation of matter on an atomic and molecular scale. ". The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (http://www.crnano.org/) defines Nanotechnology as the "engineering of functional systems at a molecular scale". The National Nanotechnology Initiative of the United States, gave a clearer view on what Nanotech should be. For NNI, it is the manipulation of matter with at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers.

A nanometer is a unit of length in the metric system, equal to one billionth of a metre. Imagine that! A billionth of a metre. It is like slicing a metre of wood in a billion equal parts. That is tremendously small. 


It is not well known but the concept of nanotechnology was first proposed by the Nobel laureate Richard P. Feynman in 1959 at the Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society.

Richard Feynman

 **Richard P. Feynman said that:

“Now, the name of this talk is ``There is Plenty of Room at the Bottom''---not just ``There is Room at the Bottom.'' What I have demonstrated is that there is room---that you can decrease the size of things in a practical way. I, now want to show that there is plenty of room. I will not now discuss how we are going to do it, but only what is possible in principle---in other words, what is possible according to the laws of physics. I am not inventing anti-gravity, which is possible someday only if the laws are not what we think. I am telling you what could be done if the laws are what we think; we are not doing it simply because we haven't yet gotten around to it…..

 I want to build a billion tiny factories, models of each other, which are manufacturing simultaneously. . . The principles of physics, as far as I can see, do not speak against the possibility of manoeuvring things atom by atom. It is not an attempt to violate any laws; it is something, in principle, that can be done; but in practice, it has not been done because we are too big…”

 He talked about the problem of manipulating and controlling things on a small scale. Extrapolating from known physical laws, Feynman envisioned a technology using the ultimate toolbox of nature, building nanoobjects atom by atom or molecule by molecule.

Norio Taniguchi

The term nanotechnology created by Norio Taniguchi in 1974 at the University of Tokyo. His definition was; "Nano-technology" mainly consists of the processing of separation, consolidation, and deformation of materials by one atom or one molecule." After years Eric Drexler published a paper in 1981 about the basic concepts of nanotechnology. By 1992, Drexler was using "molecular nanotechnology" or "molecular manufacturing" to distinguish his manufacturing ideas from the simpler product-focused research that was borrowing the word. This research, producing shorter-term results, came to define the field for many observers, and has continued to claim the term "nanotechnology."

Eric Drexler

Cylindrical nanotubes consisting of carbon atoms which were first suggested by Richard P. Feynman (the possibility of manipulating atoms to create objects new nanomaterials) were developed in 1991 by a researcher, Dr. Sumio Iijima, at the electronics maker NEC Corp and are now in use in applications such as sports stadium flood lights.

By concerning the reality of nanotechnology, the National Science and technology Council (NSTC) of the White House created the Interagency working Group on Nanoscience Engineering and Technology (IWGN) in 1998.

In January 2000 at the same institute President Bill Clinton announced $500 million worth of funding in support of the U.S. government's investment in nanotechnology research and development.

Opinions differ about whether Clinton was influenced by Drexler's descriptions of advanced manufacturing. Instead of focusing on molecular manufacturing, the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) chose to fund nanoscale technology, which it defined as anything with a size between 1 and 100 nanometers with novel properties. This broad definition encompassed cutting-edge semiconductor research, several developing families of chemistry, and advances in materials.


Nanotechnology fascinated scientists in the search of materials that we know that shows quite different properties when they are reduced to nano size. Like inert materials such as platinum catalysts become, stable materials such as aluminum becomes combustible, rigid material such as gold at room temperatures in nano size it turns into a liquid state, and insulators becomes conductors as with the case of silicone. These new features allow the discovery of new materials, hence offering humanity overwhelming possibilities in the Advancement of Science. 


Techno enthusiasts most often mentioned example of manipulation at the nano level, the manufacturing process means that the processor in nanometers, and indicates the size of the transistor array. Smaller transistors mean more of them on a wafer, which entails a lower cost processors or more processors. Only two years ago the current processors were produced in 90nm process, and today begins production of 45nm processors, enabling a drastic increase in CPU power, but also reduce production costs. World GPU graphics processor chips that are almost always Kaskai for Intel and AMD CPUs in terms of miniaturization technology of production is now also in the 65nm process. We assume that development will continue in that direction because manufacturers still complain that they are not stuck, and somewhat slower progress of the processed volume of information dealt with parallel processing (more than one core per processor).

Visit this site for more real-life applications of Nanotechnology:


Nanotechnology initiatives can take more than 20 to maybe 50 years to become commercial, however the development process may cause the next industrial revolution.

Moreover the development of nanotechnology will probably change the manufacturing process of almost every product. Whatever happens nanotechnology is likely to be the human race's greatest scientific achievement to date and will completely change all our lives.



www.nano.gov (National Nanotechnology Initiative)

www.nano.org.uk (Institute of Nanotechnology)

**Richard P. Feynman, There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom, Engineering and Science (February 1960), California Institute of Technology.