Nanotechnology is the construction or use of functional structures designed at the molecular and atomic scales, at least one dimension of which can be measured in nanometers. The important point here is that the structures in question are synthetic, that is, they were built by human hands. Atomic and molecular structures found in nature do not fall under this definition. It’s hard to imagine how small nanotechnology is. One nanometer is equal to one billionth of a metre. The average thickness of a human hair is fifty thousand, and the thickness of a paper is one hundred thousand nanometers. Application Areas and Benefits of Nanotechnology
Mihail C. Roco, founder of the American National Nanotechnology Initiative, classifies the development of nanotechnology in four generations:
- First Generation: Passive Nanostructures, materials designed to perform only one task.
- Second Generation: Active Nanostructures, “Multi-task” substances that can perform multiple tasks.
- Third Generation: Nanosystems, systems consisting of thousands of different substances working in communication with each other.
- Fourth Generation: Unified nanosystems, nested nanosystems that can perform very complex tasks.
Humanity, on the other hand, uses second generation nanostructures for now with its technology. But even at this level, nanotechnology has revolutionized many different industries and technologies. Advances in information technologies, medicine, environmental sciences and security are examples of this.
Advances in Electronics and IT
Nanotechnology has contributed to major advances in computer and electronic technologies by enabling the development of systems that are faster, smaller, portable and capable of storing more data.
- Transistors, the simple switches that make all modern computers work, are getting smaller and smaller thanks to nanotechnology. While the size of a transistor was between 130 and 250 nanometers at the beginning of this century, Intel developed a 14 nanometer transistor in 2014. IBM created the first 7 nanometer transistor in 2015, and Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory introduced a 1 nanometer transistor to the world in 2016. Smaller and faster transistors may soon enable all of a computer’s memory to be housed in a single tiny chip.
- Electronic items that can be stretched, bent and folded are gradually entering our lives. Developments such as flexible phones, foldable electronic papers, and photovoltaic (technology that converts light into electrical energy) that can be sewn into clothes increase our quality of life.
- The very high-definition displays and televisions currently on the market use only a few nanometers of quantum dots (QD) to produce much more vivid colors and consume less energy.
Advances in Medicine and Health Services
Nanotechnology extends and improves the medical tools, knowledge and methods we currently have. Nanomedicine offers definitive results for the application of nanotechnology to the medical field, preventing, diagnosing and treating diseases.
- Gold nanoparticles are being clinically investigated as potential cancer treatments.
- Better imaging and diagnostic tools created by nanotechnology are paving the way for earlier diagnosis of diseases and the use of personalized treatment
- Nanotechnology researchers are trying to develop nanoparticles that will prevent damage to healthy tissue by delivering the necessary drug directly to the cancerous cell. This will change our approach to cancer treatment and eliminate the risks of chemotherapy.
- Research on the use of nanotechnology in the field of regenerative medicine (restorative medicine) has spread too many different application areas such as bone and nerve tissue engineering. Researchers are working on the production of complex tissues with the aim of producing organs that will one day be used for organ transplants.
- Nanomedicine researchers are trying to develop vaccines through nanotechnology. Needle-free vaccine systems and universal flu vaccine are among the projects.
Developments in the Field of Energy
Nanotechnology is used in the development of alternative energy sources to meet the increasing energy needs of the world, as well as in the use of traditional energy sources. Many scientists are working to develop clean, cheap and renewable energy sources, to reduce energy consumption and to reduce the damage of energy production on the natural environment.
- Nanotechnology increases the efficiency of producing gasoline from crude oil. It also reduced gasoline consumption in automobiles and power plants, with more efficient combustion and lower friction.
- Research is being carried out to produce electrical wires with much lower resistance thanks to carbon nanotubes. In this way, the power lost during the transfer on the power lines will be reduced.
- Thanks to nanotechnology, the efficiency of solar panels will be increased and their prices will be reduced. The new panels will be paper-thin. In fact, recent studies show that solar panels can be used as “paint”.
- Nanotechnology is used to produce batteries that hold more energy, are lighter, charge faster and stay charged longer.
- By using materials produced with nanotechnology, the arms of windmills are made longer, stronger and lighter, thus increasing the electricity produced.
- The efficient lighting systems produced aim to reduce energy consumption worldwide.
Nanotechnology can increase efficiency in energy production as well as help us detect and clean up environmental waste.
- Nanotechnology will ensure that the pollution in the water is detected and cleaned at low cost, and will enable the need for clean and cheap drinking water to be met.
- Nanoparticles have been developed that render industrial pollutants in groundwater harmless by chemical reactions. This process is much cheaper than pumping the water out for cleaning.
- Researchers have produced nano-fabric “paper towels” knitted with small wires from potassium manganese oxide. These towels have the capacity to absorb twenty times their own weight in oil.
- Air filters used in aircraft cabins are filters that perform “mechanical filtration” produced with nanotechnology. The fiber materials inside the filters have nano-scale pores and do not allow the passage of larger particles. In addition, the charcoal layers of the filters prevent the passage of odor.
- Sensors and solutions made with nanotechnology identify chemical or biological agents in soil and air much faster and with greater precision than before. A sensor developed by NASA allows firefighters to measure the air quality around fires via a smartphone extension.
- Engineers have made possible energy-efficient desalination (desalination) with thin-film membranes with nanopores they have developed. This membrane, called molibendum disulfide (MoS2), filters two to five times more water than normal filters.
Developments in the Field of Transportation
Nanotechnology promises to produce multifunctional materials for making lighter, safer, smarter and more efficient vehicles. In addition, the development of transport infrastructure has also been the subject of research.
- Nano-engineered aluminum, steel, asphalt, concrete and other cementitious materials and their recycled forms hold promise for extending the life, performance and durability of highways and other transportation infrastructure components. In the future, self-repairing and energy transfer paths will be possible.
- Very light and very strong materials produced with nanotechnology can be used in the production of all vehicles, thus increasing the efficiency of vehicles. According to calculations, a twenty percent reduction in the weight of a commercial aircraft will reduce fuel consumption by fifteen percent.
As you can see, Nanotechnology has made great strides in its short journey spanning several dozen years. This technology, which is used in many scientific disciplines and different industries, will continue to progress by accelerating in the future.