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What is Nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology is the most exciting scientific innovation of the twentieth century. It has the potential of changing every aspect of our life on this earth, in a progressive as well as regressive way. It has already had some success in making better quality products in the field of sports and apparel field. What is Nanotechnology? Nanotechnology in its theoretical meaning, is building things from bottom up, with most utmost precision, i. e. atomic precision. The technology was envisioned by Richard Feynman in 1959. He theorized building tiny, miniature factories that could produce complex products at faster rates (http://www.

crnano. org/whatis. htm). Generally, nanotechnology refers to building structures, materials or devices of the size 100 nanometers or smaller. Presently, the research in this field is not much advanced. But, in near future the nano technology will be producing complex structures using computer-controlled mechano-chemistry devices. If the efforts in this direction bear fruit, soon we will have a second industrial revolution, in which highly complex products will be produced in numerous numbers by tiny ‘nanofactories’ with very less production expenditure (http://www.

crnano. org/basics. htm) The scientific basis for the technology is this: in the conventional method, we manufacture a material of device by mechanically (physical bonding) or chemically (molecular bonding or chemical reaction). Nanotechnology combines the best of two methods and uses the mechano-chemistry methods with the aid of computers. This will allow not just a physical bonding at the molecular levels, rather, it allows us to make that bonding with highest accuracy, i. e. exactly at the pre-determined locations of the molecules.

This is done by a special tool with a computer controlled tip that can position the required molecules or individual atoms only at those molecular surfaces where exactly the chemical reactions need to take place. This allows great flexibility, saves time, offers better results and reduces the size of the manufacturing equipment. In other words, it can be said that nanotechnology is nothing but molecular manipulation. It can makes changes in the molecular structures of various elements with computer aided controllers so as produce only the desired results.

This technique also gives the nanotechnology its other name, the molecular manufacturing. Among the major labs which undertake the nanotechnology R&D, the U. S. National Nanotechnology Initiative, is the pioneer and leader in developing various nanotechnologies. This organization has divided the developmental process nanotechnology into four progressive stages such as, (a) passive nanostructures ( products which can perform only one type of task. E. g. aerosols, colloids etc (b) active nanostructures (structures that can be multitasked). E. g.

actuators, drug delivery systems, 3D transistors etc (c) Systems of nanosystems (consisting thousands of multitasking nanostructures). E. g. robotics, 3D networking, guided assembling, and (d) integrated nanosystems or molecular nanosystems (mammoth hierarchical structures with system and subsystems consisting multitasking nanostructures). E. g. atomic designs, molecular devices etc Accordingly, the present state of development is said to be entering the second stage i. e. the active stage and the third stage is expected to begin by 2010 (http://www. crnano. org/whatis. htm)

? Advantages and disadvantages There is an ongoing debate in the international community about the supposed advantages and disadvantages of this great innovation. While the supporters are ecstatic about the benefits, the detractors point out a disastrous future. There are people who even questions the viability of the technology itself. As for any revolutionary technology, nanotechnology offers immense advantages in improving the efficiency and productivity and at the same time it has serious disadvantages as it has equal potential of being used for destruction purposes.

The advantages The nanotechnology can be applied to all types of industries and all areas of life. It can produce better, longer lasting, cleaner, safer, and smarter products for the home, communications, medicine, transportation, agriculture, and industry in general. The uses are universal in nature. Ideally speaking, just a single nanofactory will be able to produce a wide range of products from scratch with little expenses. It will be as simple as copying a file in the computer. Some of the future probabilities are,

(a) It can offer solution to many human problems: Better agricultural industry, cleaner water, better waste water management, easy and cheaper access to better technologies are some of the areas this technology can be used. Problems like food grain availability, better education are some of them. Efficient treatment of drinking water is possible and water born diseases can be contained. (b) Alternative energy sources: The production and storage of the energy using alternative energy sources like the solar energy will become cheaper.

(c) Prevention of environment pollution: Efficient devices at cheaper cost can be developed to monitor and control the environmental pollution. (d) Cheaper technology: the availability of computers will increase and everybody will be able to own computers (e) Cheaper and effective medical aids: The immediate and most relevant use of nanotechnology is in this field. The life saving medical tools will become more powerful and will be cheaper. The poor people will be able to get better treatment even for life threatening diseases.

(f) Better society: The ills of the society, like poverty, ill health etc can be reduced to a great length (http://www. crnano. org/benefits. htm). The disadvantages The disadvantages are numerous and serious. There are economic as well as social risks. (a) Disruption of the economy: The current economy depends on the materials, labor and capital invested by the manufacturers. With the advent of personal nanofactories, a wide variety of products can be produced at no or little cost which will disrupt the current economic set up. (b) Criminals and terrorists activities: this is most serious and immediate negative fallout.

The technology, in its all probability, will be used by the dark elements of the society. They could make chemical and biological weapons cheaply and the detection and prevention of such activity will be extremely difficult. (c) Abusive regulations of governments: In order to prevent such misuse, the government may introduce some thoughtless, sweeping restrictions which may even restrict the basic rights of the people. (e) Availability of ‘immoral’ products: the production of various brain enhancement drugs, sex devices may become cheaper and the morality of the society will be at greater risk than today.

(e) Nanotech weapons: with nations competing to produce deadly weapons with better accuracy, this technology will be nothing less dangerous than the weapons of mass destruction and an arms race will ensue. (f) Environmental damage: the mass production of cheap products will flood the market and a majority of them will become obsolete within a short span of time. So the unused things will pose a serious danger to the environment. http://www. crnano. org/dangers. htm

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