Threshold ’05 Page
3 Nanotechnology is an umbrella term that covers many areas of research dealing with objectsthat are measured in nanometers. It’s a term coined in 1974 by Norio Taniguchi at theUniversity of Tokyo.
A nanometer (nm) is a billionth of a meter, or a millionth of a millimeter.
To put thatscale of measurement into perspective, a human red blood cell is about 7,500 nanometersacross, and one nanometer is roughly 10 atoms wide. The letter "I" printed here is about onemillion nanometers wide.
NANOTECHNOLOGY: HOW IT WORKS
Manufactured products are made from atoms. The properties of those products depend onhow those atoms are arranged. If we rearrange the atoms in coal, we get diamonds. Rearrangingthe atoms in sand (and adding a pinch of impurities) we get computer chips. Rearranging atomsin dirt, water and air we get grass. In special cases we can already arrange atoms and moleculesexactly as we want.Nanotechnology is a hybrid science combining engineering and chemistry. Atoms andmolecules stick together because they have complementary shapes that lock together, or charges that attract. As unlike magnetic poles attract, a positively charged atom sticks to anegatively charged atom. As millions of these atoms are pieced together by nanomachines, aspecific product begins to take shape. The goal of nanotechnology is to manipulate atomsindividually and place them in a pattern to produce a desired structure. There are three steps toachieving nanotechnology-produced goods:
Manipulation of individual atoms. IBM researchers positioned 35 xenon atoms on thesurface of a nickel crystal, using an atomic force microscopy instrument.
Trillions of Assemblers which are nanoscopic machines, that can be programmed tomanipulate atoms and molecules at will need to be developed.
Replicators,used to build more assemblers for consumer manufacturing will be required.Trillions of assemblers and replicators will fill an area smaller than a cubic millimeter,and they’ll be invisible to the naked eye. Assemblers and replicators will work together likehands to automatically construct products, and will eventually replace all traditional labour methods. This will vastly decrease manufacturing costs, thereby making consumer goodsabundant, cheaper and stronger.
THE CURRENT SCENARIO:
The methods and equipment of nanoanalysis are major contributors to the advances beingmade in nanotechnology.Scientists are working not just on the materials of the future, but alsothe tools that will allow us to use these ingredients to create products. Experimental work hasalready resulted in the production of molecular tweezers, a carbon nanotube transistor, andlogic gates.Theoretical work is progressing as well. Molecular computers,Exponential AssemblyProcess ,Building of artificial muscles using nanotubes are all results of cutting edge researchthat’ll take us forward.Let’s have a look at a few of these tools: