Physics

Nanotechnology the Science of the Small



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What is nanotechnology? Nanotechnology is the science and the engineering achieving the manipulation of matters from atoms and molecules unit level. The physical dimension of nanotechnology is expressed in nanometer. A nanometer (nm) is one billionth of a meter. An analogy made between a meter and nanometer in a more understandable context, is the difference between the sizes of one small marble ball to the earth.

Moreover, matter in nanotechnology is anything that occupies space and has mass. The smallest unit of matter is an atom. For example, one can take a chair and try to break it down into its different elements, and when one gets to the atom, there are no more parts to be broken, no more elements, only the three subatomic particles: protons, electrons, and neutrons which make up the microscopic atom. Molecules are made of atoms, and rearranging the atoms in a particular molecule could lead us to other manufactured units that could be more needed at the time. For instance, rearranging the atoms in sand, and adding a few other trace elements can give us computer chips. Isn't it something amazing? Scientists could take so much advantage of that way of operating and fabricating. However, since the atoms are such microscopically particles; it is difficult to work with and manipulate them. Today, scientists use nanotechnology as an asset to work with something that requires special microscopes for them to be able to see. In other words, with nanotechnology, scientists are no longer tied hands when it comes to dealing with units less than 100 nm. Now, they are able to snap these units together in the way they desire and make their studies more precise. Nanotechnology is the control and manufacturing of those units that are less than about 1000 nanometers with advanced tech nano devices.


Nanotechnology is an extensive field and can be divided into two main approaches. One of those approaches is the construction of materials or devices from molecular components, which will chemically assemble themselves by recognition of their molecules-a larger to smaller perspective. The other approach will be the manufacturing of nano-objects from larger entities without any atomic level control-a smallest to complex perspective. Scientists tend to focus more on the molecular perspective, which is the simplest to complex approach where atoms will be used to construct new materials.

Using nanotechnology scientists are surprised through some of the benefits they are able to get with the manipulation of nanoscale materials. For instance, nanotechnology will afford the removal of the smallest contaminants from water supplies, which is less than 200 nanometers, air under the 20 nanometers, and the continuous measurements and mitigation of pollution in large areas. However, the fascination that scientists have when it comes to nanotechnology relies in the fact that matter at a nanoscale exhibit such an unique quantum (property at a certain discrete value) and a surface phenomena that will not have at a visible scale. For instance, this event can be observed with the gold molecule, which at normal scale is chemically inert and does not chemically react with anything. However, gold at the nanoscale can serve as a potent chemical catalyst. A chemical catalyst will increase the rate of chemical reactions. Thus, when working with these nonmaterial scientists have to take in mind that the properties of the materials change considerably at a nanoscale. This is where the biggest conflicts rely; the properties of gold at a nanoscale are known, but there are many others that are unknown and display highly toxicity and the risk of this is increasingly dangerous.



According to the Center on Nanotechnology and Society, little is known about the health and environmental impact of nanoparticles. Nevertheless, it is known that these nanoparticles comprise a harmful hazard. They can remain airborne (in the air) indefinitely and disperse all over the environment and get inside the human body for an unknown length of time. Inside the body, these particles could be able to affect body functions in destructive and deadly ways. It has already been proven in a study that a particular nanoparticles called fullerenes, molecules composed entirely of carbon in the form of hollow spheres (also known as buckyballs), can cause brain damage to fishes when exposed to it. If particles like this one are accidentally released to the environment, it may not only harm a fish, but other living organisms in our environment. In fact, as humans we are already exposed to nanoparticles that originate from natural events like volcanic eruptions and anthropogenic activities (effects, processes, objects, or materials that are derived from human activities, as opposed to those occurring in natural environments without human influences), like combustion processes. Table 1 lists the natural and anthropogenic particles that human have been exposed to. Humans have developed some kind of immunity to those particles, but only those. With the research and the advances made in nanotechnology humans will surely be exposed to many particles that are not protected against and could cause a major harm to our health.

In humans, the principal entry routes for nanoparticles are the lungs using respiration, the skin by exposing it (epidermal exposure) and the alimentary canal by eating and drinking. To think about this issue, any unknown virus, bacteria, or particle can harm entering the body through those mentioned methods. However, the size of the nanoparticles makes them have a greater impact in our health. Because of their diminutive size, nanoparticles are able to travel fast into the human body and to places where no other normal size particle could pass through. On the contrary, other larger particles are able to enter through the cell membrane without any problem and affect the physiological processes of the given cell. In other words, ingesting or breathing nanoparticles will lead to damage not only in the digestive/respiratory track but because it depth in traveling, damage could be found in the circulatory system, nervous system, and any thinkable body tissue. The passage to the brain from the blood is a very intricate one and the fact that nanoparticles are able to breach that barrier has to be taken into cautious study.



Furthermore, in the field of medicine and technology a molecule known as "nanotubes" from the previously mentions fullerene family, have made a huge impact recently. Nanotubes are carbon manufactured nano sized tubes, which have become major technological development. They are as little as a few nanometers. They are major advancement in science, engineering technology, and medicine. These nanotubes have great strength and are really good heat conductors and exhibit efficient electrical properties. Because of these properties they are use in many common products like clothes, sport gears such as tennis rackets, combat jackets, computer chips and integrated in some electronic devices. Carbon nanotubes are classified into single-walled and multi-walled nanotubes. When it comes to medicine, they can be filled with pharmaceutical and other desirable materials for delivery to body tissues. However, there are conflicts that have not been fully assessed; carbon nanotubes are insoluble nanomolecules and represent a major risk in biological applications. Recent studies, conducted by Alexandra Porter in the University of Cambridge, have shown that these nanotubes may be harmful to cultured cells and SWCNTs (single-walled carbon nanotubes) act as a strong cytotoxic (toxicity to cells) when exposed to cells. They inhibit proliferation, cell reproduction, and while inside the cells they accumulate in the cytoplasm and induce cell death - apoptosis.

Electronic devices are products that are used excessively and in high demand amounts nowadays. Because of its heat conductivity, nanotubes are used in chips that one can find in cell phones and computers. These two devices are in almost every household in the planet. This means that tons of these products are recycled or thrown to wasted everyday when broken, and in addition to the insolubility of the nanotubes in those devices, they have a high risk in harming the environment. Every living organisms in our environment is composed of cells and the harm that nanotubes could represent to them is deadly. However, these studies have been omitted and the manufacturing of nanotubes has continued because of the great properties and advantages of the use of the nanotubes. It seems like companies are not taking actions by acquiring safety measure. As result, is the hasty manufacture and introduction to medicine and technology of the nanotubes can continue.

When it comes to society, there is a very complex conflict. Nanotechnology could be able to make people super humans by developing devices to adapt inside their body that will makes them think better and perform better physically. Perfectly desired human beings will be created. This could create a rebellion in society since not everybody could afford nano-treatment to make themselves better or perfect. Many will argue that is human to err and being perfect as machines will extinct human race as known today. In addition, surveillance devices could be made in a small scale from what is available in today's market; prices would be lower, and high numerous-leading questions of persistent invasion of privacy are going to be made if any regulation is not made to prevent those problems. Moreover, criminals and terrorist with stronger, more powerful, and more compact devices could do serious damage to society. Chemical and biological weapons could become much deadlier and easier to conceal. The anthrax toxin could use nano-robots to be processed from fragment by fragment or molecule by molecule, making it almost impossible to be detected before production. Many others types of terrifying devices are possible, including several varieties of remote assassination weapons that would be difficult to detect or avoid. If such devices were available from black market or a home factory, it would be nearly impossible to detect them before they were used; a random search capable of spotting them would be a clear violation of current human rights standards in most civilized countries.

Surveillance devices could be made microscopically small, low-priced, and very numerous-leading to questions of pervasive invasions of privacy, from illicit selling of sexual or other images to ubiquitous covert government or industrial spying. Attempts to control all these risks may lead to abusive restrictions, or create black market that would be very risky and almost impossible to stop, because small nanofactories will be very easy to smuggle and fully dangerous.
According to the National Science Foundation, some of the engineering problems could significantly affect molecular understanding of nanoscale process that take place in the environment; the generation and remediation of environmental problems through control of emissions; the development of new "green" technologies that minimize the production of undesirable by-products; and the remediation of existing waste sites and streams. In addition, as the size of the desired product increase in complexity, new engineering methods could be needed. The goal that was set for the product could also be unreachable because of the molecule/particle intricacy.

Nanotechnology is revolutionizing the way products are fabricating with a bang, but there are just too many conflicts and issues that need to be addressed. In order to do something quick, the integrated understanding of the environmental role of nanoscale phenomena, scientists and engineers studying the fundamental properties of Societal implications of nanoscience and nanotechnology nanostructures will need to work together with those attempting to understand complex processes in the environment. Model nanostructures can be studied, but in all cases the research must be justified by its connection to naturally occurring systems or to environmentally beneficial uses. Environments for investigations are not limited and might include terrestrial locations such as acid mines, subsurface aquifers, or polar environments.

If the problems and conflicts that implicate nanotechnology now are not addressed, consumers will continue using those cosmetics, foods and products containing nanoparticles. A high amount of those products' consumers could display illness and immunologic reactions to the hazard toxics of the nanoparticles. The most dangerous effect is that doctors may not understand or detect the reason of the patients' health deterioration. It's understandable that this could happen because of the little research and knowledge in nanotechnology and the impact of the nanoparticles. Products like cosmetics, sun-block creams and canned goods or any other food with preservatives are normally used in everyday life, which makes the risks more accentuated and prominent. People will be getting sick and the particles responsible for the sickness will be unknown and that will make cures impossible to find.

There are precaution principles that have to be developed to continue the use of nanoparticles and the practice of nanotechnology as a whole. Extensive researches have to be conducted before the implementation of nanoparticles to products. Not only cell in vitro studies should be done; but also when it comes to food, an in depth in vivo animal experimentation must be conducted prior to possible approval. It is also mandatory that certain food products containing insoluble nanoparticles like TiO2 are suspended, so no possible harm is done to the consumers. A case-by-case investigation of their safety and possible risk must be developed when employing nanomaterials in the fabrication of new products. This is not only for the sake of the people using the products but also for the workers employed to manipulate, process, and assemble those products.

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