6 Ways Nanotechnology Is Shaping The Modern World
6 Ways Nanotechnology Is Shaping The Modern World
Everything, when miniaturized to the sub-100-nanometer scale, has new properties, regardless of what it is – Chad Mirkin, professor of chemistry at Northwestern University.
I intend to start the article with this profound quote because it forms the base of nanotechnology. It focusses on the behavioral change of every particle when it dimensions are altered. This ideology can reveal significant facets of human nature if taken to a metaphysical level. Don’t worry, we will only stick to physics.
In the recent decades, scientists have shocked the world by unfolding a universe of possibilities in the field of nanotechnology.
With proper application, nanotechnology can help man translate the ideas into reality which were once only conceptual in nature. We are quite far away from this though, but I assure you that it will be the most significant step forward in the history of mankind following the one was taken by Neil Armstrong.
So, let us look at some of the applications of nanotechnology which has the potential to shape the modern existence.
Nanoparticle-Filled Ink Conducts Electricity
Tiny shards of conductive metal lines sketched on circuit boards with utmost precision are essential elements of modern electronics. However, the progress by nanotechnology ensures that this meticulousness is not necessary for the posterity.
It promises that our future generations can draw circuit boards with hands forming a gateway to paper electronics, disposable antennas, and other items.
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are producing conductive ink derived from silver nanoparticles which is shrunk using acid. These nanoparticles are then suspended in a cellulose solution giving it a proper viscosity required for flowing from a pen.
This drawn line forms a silver wire that carries a current strong enough to power an antenna or even a small LED display. The pen also allows the designers to embed circuits on uneven surfaces.
With the full-fledged application, this technology will change the face of circuit designing.
Gold nanoparticle sensors are used for curing cancers and other diseases. As cancerous cells grow, genes and protein within cells change which leads to the emission of volatile organic compounds that can be detected. This is the reason why some of the dogs are trained to smell cancer using their olfactory genius.
Nanoparticles can sense it too. A couple of years ago, some Israeli researchers discovered that even nanoparticles can tell whether a person has cancer. It can also detect whether the person has lung, breast, prostate or colon cancer.
Scientists claim that doctors can detect cancers at its earliest stages (well before any tumors would show up on X-ray or monogram) by simply conducting a breath test.
These benefits are not only limited to cancer patients. Nanoparticles can help doctors detect several other important factors of human health such as diabetes or blood clots, thus helping doctors save time during urgent situations and avoiding medical history access. This way, patients can be treated better and significant costs can be saved.
Nano-absorption certainly demonstrates the strangest behavior of nanoparticles. This strange behavior at nanoscales is called Osorb.
Sarah Pollock, ABS Materials
It has already found its application in parking lots where it can absorb oil from car leakage and prevent it from washing into water. When used along with other materials like iron, it can help capture chemicals like phosphate which has come as a sort of huge revelation in the field of chemistry.
One weird thing that the researchers recalled was that Osorb generates a tremendous amount of force. It can lift to 60,000 times its own weight. If you put a coffee can on it, it has the capacity to lift a car. This anomalous behavior of Osorb has managed to find various applications in different fields.
Gene Therapy and Drug Delivery
Scientists announced a revolution in the nanoparticles technology – delivering genes, drugs, and chemicals right inside cells.
Yes, you’ve read it right. Nanoparticles of various shapes and chemical makeup can trace and target specific cells selected by the chemist, and perform several tasks.
Wei Qu, Northwestern University, cartoons; Xuan Jiang, Johns Hopkins University, microscopic images
This image highlights DNA molecules (light green), integrated with nanoparticles by using a polymer using two distinguished segments. One segment of it is charged positively binding the polymer to the DNA. Whereas the brown portion showcases a protective coating on the nanoparticle’s surface.
With proper adjustment of the solvent surrounding these molecules, scientists at Johns Hopkins and Northwestern universities have managed to control the shape of the nanoparticles.
Scientists conducted animal tests proving that a nanoparticle’s dimension can dramatically affect how well it delivers gene therapy. The reason behind this is that DNA behaves strangely among nanoscale particles.
To inject gene shards directly into cells, researchers must manipulate the cell, which is designed to block invasion. Although the idea is still nascent, if applied properly it can change the functionality of medical industry completely.
Protective Coating For Your Skin
Sunscreen is something we use every day in summer. With the help of nanotechnology, we can improve its efficiency. By adding titanium oxide dioxide and zinc oxide (these elements are highly reflective), sunscreen can prevent us from harmful solar radiation from penetrating your skin.
Nanoparticles such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide have been used in sunscreens for decades to reflect or absorb cancer-causing ultraviolet light.
The prime reason traditional sunscreens look white when you apply them on your skin is because the particles reflect visible light. But when these sunscreen ingredients are diminished into nanoparticles – usually 20 to 50 nanometers wide – their behavior changes significantly.
Even after mixing them into sunscreen, nanoparticles of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide not only manages to retain their highly effective UV light absorption capacity but also absorb and scatter visible light, rendering them transparent on the skin at the same time.
This has come as quite a revelation as it has enhanced the effectiveness of sunscreen lotions and its ability to prevent harmful sun rays is unbelievably astonishing.
Nanomaterials In The Food Supply
Nanotechnology has had a great influence on several aspects of food science. It has affected right from how food is grown to how it is packaged. Companies now are developing nanomaterials that will enhance not only the taste of food but also provide adequate food safety.
Researchers in Germany have demonstrated a method where carbon nanotubes are sprayed on flexible plastic surfaces to create sensors. This has led to a startling discovery of low-cost sensors such as the plastic film for wrapping food that could detect spoiled food.
Scientists also discovered that Zinc oxide nanoparticles can be fused with plastic packaging to obstruct UV rays and provide anti-bacterial protection. This will improve the strength and stability of the plastic film.
However, the most significant invention in food supply promises to change the scale of farming. Nanotechnology has pushed the envelope by introducing a cohesive network of Nanosensors and dispenser that will determine when a plant needs nutrients or water before there are any signs that the plant is deficient. The dispensers then respond by releasing fertilizers that will enhance the growth of each plant one by one.
Nanotechnology has opened the doors to infinite possibilities in science. However, we are quite far away from its complete implementation.
Although these uses and future promises are mentioned above, most people generally embrace nanotechnology in their everyday mundane life unknowingly. Even controversial applications like sunscreen are widely accepted by people who are unaware of the technology.