Nanotechnology involves working with matter at the atomic or molecular scale.Materials and devices designed and made at the molecular level would be quite different from those of daily use today. Nano technology is set to bring about a fundamental change in several areas- materials science, electronics, biology, medicine- and is expected to profoundly change the pattern and standard of life of people. US National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), one of the largest founders of nanotechnology research in the world uses the definition: nanotechnology is the understanding and control of matter at the dimensions between approximately 1 and 100 nanometers, where unique phenomena enable novel applications.
Though the term Nanotechnology was coined in 1974 by a Japanese scientist Norio Taniguchi, it has nothing to do with the present day usage. The prefix of nanotechnology derives from the unit of length, the nanometer.
One nanometer is a billionth of a meter or one thousandth of a micrometer, sometimes called a micron. For instance, a human hair is roughly 20,000 nm in diameter. A bacterial cell might be up to a few thousand nanometers in size. They are too small to see with the eye, or even with the microscopes that use visible light.
The technologies like the scanning tunneling microscope and the atomic force microscope are not only for seeing but also manipulating things at this small scale. The nano technology has wider applications and products produced by nano technology have serious implications too for contemporary world- economically, ethically and politically.
The world of nano technology is broadly divided into two major application areas- wet and dry areas.
The wet area includes the biological domain, where nano structures may function within biological cells. The dry area includes hydrophobic architectures and strategies that govern improvement of materials including computer chips. Dry nano technology applications have preceded the biological use. Initially, biology and electronics are likely to be the major areas of application. Nano technology is also expected to provide a new tool to read the genetic code. The discoveries that have been made so far in the science of nano scale, offer new possibilities for a multitude of industries
Nano technology has tremendous development in the fields of material science, electronics, biomedical science, biotechnology, military and the environment.
The science of metals, ceramics, colloids and polymers, has always concerned itself with controlling the structure of materials on the nanoscale. Here, nanoscale science and technology will largely facilitate incremental advances on existing materials and technologies Some specific areas in which Nano science technology is contributing to materials science now include: new forms of carbon; nanocomposites; quantum dots and wires; and nanostructured materials produced by self-assembly. The cosmetics and paints industries are perhaps perceived as being the most developed in incorporating nanoparticles into their products, for example, the shampoos, skin creams, and sunscreens already being used by consumers.
The medical area of nanoscience application is projected as one of the most potentially valuable, with many projected benefits to humanity. With the advent of new materials, and the synergy of nanotechnologies and biotechnologies, it could be possible to create artificial organs and implants that are more akin to the original, through cell growth on artificial scaffolds or biosynthetic coatings that increase biocompatibility and reduce rejection. These could include retinal, cochlear and neural implants, repair of damaged nerve cells, and replacements of damaged skin, tissue or bone. The diagnostics and drug delivery is likely to benefit from the development of nanotechnology. With nanoparticles it is possible that drugs may be given better solubility, leading to better absorption.
Cosmetics and personal products companies have been extremely active in using nanotechnology to improve their existing products and to develop new ones. Cosmetics companies were among the first to get products that were labelled as being nano-enhanced to market. Shampoos and skin creams, containing nanoparticles with the ability to deliver the desired ingredient to where it is needed.
In the field of military, improved materials, lighter but with tough, heat resistant properties, are being used in the design and construction of spacecraft and satellites, and this process will gain from nanotechnology. The Institute of Nanotechnology suggests fingerprinting will become cheaper, quicker and more effective using DNA techniques involving nanotechnology, and there is also the possibility that nano-based sensors could be used as electronic detectors (‘sniffer dogs’) for improved airport security. Quantum dots, fluorescent nanoparticles which glow when exposed to ultraviolet light, may be used as tags and labels to prevent theft and counterfeiting, and to trace the course of drugs within the body.
In the field of biotechnology researchers are looking to nanotechnology as the basis of new implants that will replace lost hearing or vision, as new ways of delivering ‘smart drugs’ to parts of the human body, and as ways of carrying ‘body repair’ cells to areas where tissue has been damaged. As researchers master this new field, revolutionary concepts such as replacement arteries, nanofibre bone reinforcements, powerful microscopes the size of a pen, and new diagnostic technologies are becoming more and more probable.
Nanotechnology can be used to prevent, monitor and alleviate a wide range of environmental problems, while significantly reducing cost and improving performance. Current and future applications of nanotechnology will allow us to:
• Develop new “green” processing technologies that minimize the amount of undesired by-products;
• Detect and remove the finest contaminants from air, water, and soil, which would enhance the ability of governments to respond to terrorist threats and ensure the safety of water supplies;
• Attain sustainable development by reducing the use of raw materials;
• Design cars that are lighter and more resistant to denting and scratching, resulting in fuel savings and increased longer-lasting vehicles;
• Extend the shelf life of food and beverages by creating barriers against water vapor and oxygen;
• Save energy through “smart” insulation and construction materials
Nanotechnology provides unprecedented control of light and power. Light emission and/or absorption are crucial for optical communications, display technologies, information storage, solar energy collection, genome sequencing, and even targeted drug delivery. The integration of organic/inorganic/mechanical properties can result in self-intelligent systems and self-correcting systems with internal control.
Miniaturization is a critical concern for microelectronics, computing and telecommunications industries. Optical routers, large-scale displays, and ultra-dense molecular memory are only some of the short-term applications.
A cool flat-panel screen will replace your bulky television set at an affordable price, thanks to carbon nanotechnology. This technology will produce better displays at a lower cost, for home theatres, office equipment, portable computing tools, and many other applications. Based on a fusion of biology and photonics, there are also potential applications in non-invasive cancer therapies, laser tissue welding, drug delivery, and diagnostics.
The term nano technology was popularized by a book written by K. Eric Drexler, nanotechnology visionary in a book of ‘future history’ called Engines of Creation. Drexler used the word to describe his vision of a world where molecular manufacturing would allow people to manufacture anything they might need – from automobiles to food articles– simply by feeding waste material into a box that would use nano scale assemblers to re-configure it into the necessary form.
The writing on nanotechnology has been discussed in terms of two dimensions: its conception of nanotechnology and its perception of the possible social and economic effects.
There is an emerging concern that the needs of society to be considered as part of the development process and that nanotechnologists not be left alone to dictate what materialises. This implies that any assessment of possible social and economic effects be incorporated into this process as early as possible, and hence that social science, as a major provider of such understanding, can help shape the future of nanotechnology.
While nanotechnology offers opportunities for society, it also involves profound social and environmental risks, not only because it is an enabling technology to the biotech industry, but also because it involves atomic manipulation and will make possible the fusing of the biological world and the mechanical. There is a critical need to evaluate the social implications of all nanotechnologies. There is a possibility that domination of nano-robos in every day life will make human intervention difficult, if not impossible. The first concerns the biological and chemical effects of nanoparticles on human bodies or natural ecosystems; the second concerns the issue of leakage, spillage, circulation, and concentration of nanoparticles that would cause a hazard to bodies or ecosystems.
The potential dangers of nano technology include rampant nano-devices, military weapons, or invasive surveillance. On ethical side, the issues of intellectual property as well as the access of nano technology to developing countries have to be addressed. The public policies to protect our society from harmful developments are another concern based on strong foundations of ethics. If technology is fascinated towards control and over taking of nature, nanotechnology is mainly concerned with the control of nature at the most basic level, i.e. level of atomic building blocks. However, Nanotechnology has been generating new ethical dilemmas and in future we have to necessarily negotiate with a big deal of uncertainties. The ethical theories have to be reformulated with changing context that had predominantly influenced by nanotechnology.
Nanoethics have emerged as a new field of applied ethics that looks at the issues of right and wrong in the development and application of nanotechnology.
Nanotechnology is an important development in our society that going to revolutionize our lives in a grand way. Nanotechnology involves working with matter at the atomic or molecular scale. It is a technology of rearranging andprocessing of atoms and molecules to fabricate materials to nano specifications such as a nanometre. Nanotechnology projects a new world and also brings with it new social problems. From these ethical dilemmas evolved a new discipline called nanoethics.
Philosophers are predicting that we have to negotiate with a big deal of uncertainties and chaotic situation with the advent of nanotechnology. Apart from the risks and threats of nanotechnology, control and monopoly of this technology in the hands of advanced nations and corporate companies’ interests is another critical concern. Democratization of nanotechnology, in its design and application, is the prime concern in the discourse of philosophy of technology and the struggles from civil society.
Nano technology, Nano scale, Atomic rearrangement, Scanning Tunneling Microscopy, Nano particles,Technological Determinism, Social construction, Democratization, Public participation.