Controlling Matter on atomic scale

Early history

The first time the ideas of nanotecgnologi was introduced was in 1950, when a physicist at Caltech, Richard Feynman, gave a talk at an American Physical Society meeting, called “There’s plenty of Room at the Bottom”. He never mentioned “nanotechnology”, but suggested that it could be possible to precisely manipulate atoms and molecules. He also thought that, in principle, it should be possible to create “nano-scale “ machines through billions of factories. In the end, Fayman’s talk has been viewed as the first academic talk that dealt with the main tenet of nanotechnology , the direct maniputation of individual atoms.

How small is one nanometer ?
One nanometer (nm) is one billionth , or 10-9, of a meter. By comparison, typical carbon-carbon bond lengths between these atoms in a molecule are in the range 0.12 – 0.15 nm, and a DNA double helix has a diameter around 2 nm. On the other hand, the smallest cellular life form, the bacteria of the genus Mycoplasma, are around 200 nm in length. To put the scale in another contex, the comparative size of a nanometer to a meter is the same as that of a marble to the size of the earth.

Molecular nanotechnology
Sometimes it is called molecular manufacturing, and describes engineered nano systems, operating on the molecular scale. In1979, Eric Drexler encountered Feynman’s talk on atomic manipulation and “nanofactories”. Feldman’s idea’s inspired Drexler to put these concepts into motion by expanding Feynman’s vision of molecular manufacturing with contemporary developments in understanding protein function. As a result, the term was yet to be established, and the field of nanotechnology was created.

Carbon fullerenes

Before the nanotechnology entry, the number of known carbon allotropes were limitid to grahite, diamond and amorphous carbon as soot and charcoal. In 1996. the Nobel Price in chemistry was awarded to Kroto, Curl ans Smalley for their roles in the discovery of what was called a C60 - fulleren, a new kind of a carbon allotrope. The fullerenene was named after a noted architectual modeler, who popularized the geodesic dome. In the nature, fullerene C60, C70, C76 and C84 molecules are produced, and can be found hidden in soot, and formed by lightning discharges in the atmosphere. The form of these fullerene molecules resembles a soccer ball of the type made of twenty hexagons and twelve pentagons. The nucleous diameter of a C60 molecule is about 0.71 nm. A fullerene is any molecule composed entirely of carbon, in the form of a hollow sphere, ellipsoid, or tube. Spherical fullerenes are also called buckyballs, and cylindrical ones are also called nanotube or buckytubes. Fullerenes are similar in structure to graphite, which is composed of stacked graphene sheets of linked hexagonal rings, but they may also contain pentagonal and sometimes hexagonal rings.

Carbon nanotubes
Nanotubes are cylindrical fullerenes. Such tubes of carbon are only a few nm wide, but they can range from less than a micrometer to several millimeters in length. They often has closed ends, but can as well be open-ended. Their unique molecular structure gives extraordinary properties, including high tensile strength, high electrical conductivity , high ductility, high resistance to heat and relative chemical inactivity. The use of carbon nanotubes in hightensil cables required for a space elevator has been proposed.

These pictures show what is called single-walled nanotubes. They are an important variety of


carbon nanotubes because they exhibit electric properties that are not shared by multi-walled carbon nanotubes. Most single-walled nanotubes have a diameter of about one nanometer, with a tube length that can be many million times longer. Such single-walled nanotubes are most likely candidate for miniaturizing electronics beyond the micro electromechanical scale currently used in electronics. They are still very expensive to produce, around $1500 per gram in 2000, but several suppliers produce such tubes (by arc discharge) for about $ 50 – 100 per grams in 2007.

In 2000, a multi-walled carbon nanotube was tested to have a tensile strenght of 63 gigapascal (Gpa) This means that a weight of 6300 kg is hanging in a cable with a cross- section of 1 mm2. The hardness of single-wall nano tubes (compressed SWNT) has been measured to be 462 – 546 Gpa, surpassing the value 420 for diamond. The temperature stability of carbon nanotubes in vacuum is estimated to be up to 2800 ºC , and about 750 ºC in air.

Production of nanotubes.
Nanotubes were observed in 1991 in the carbon soot of graphite electrodes during an arc discharge, by using a current of 100 amps, that was intended to produce fullerenes. However the first macroscopic production of carbon nanontubes was made in 1992 by two researchers at NEC’s Fundamental Research Laboratory. Because nanotubes were initially discovered using this technique, it has been the most widely- used method of nanotube synthesis. In the laser ablation process, a pulsed laser vaporizes a graphite target in hightemperature reactor while an inert gas is bled into the chamber. Nanotubes develop on the cooler surfaces of the reactor as the vaporized carbon condenses.


Nanotube based transistors have been made that operate at room temperature and are capable of digital switching. using a single electron. However, one major obstacle to realization of nanotubes has been the lack of technology for mass production.

Applications for nanotechnology
In 2008 (aug), over 800 manufacture-identified nanotech products was available, and new ones hitting the market at a pace of 3-4 per week. Most was limited to the use of “first generating” passive nanomaterials , including titanium dioxide in sunscreen, cosmetics and some food products. Carbon allotropes was used to produce gecko tape, silver in food, packaging, paints, clothing, disinfectants and household appliances, paints in outdoor furnish varniskers etc etc. According to David Berube, The National Science Foundation, there may be a danger that a “nano-bubble” will form, or is really forming, due to the use of the term by scientists and entrepreneurs to garner funding, regardless of inerest in the possibilities of more ambitios and far-sighted work.

Danger by use of nanotechnology
Suggestions for development of untraceable weapons of mass destruction, networked cameras for use by the government and weapons fast enough to destabilize arms races are some of the worries.

Health problems
A major study(2008) suggests that some forms of carbon nanotubes could be as harmful as asbestos if inhaled in sufficiant quantities. As a result, some academics have called for a stricter application of the precautionary principle, with delayed marketing approval, enhanced labelling and additional safety data development requirements in relation to certain forms of nanotechnology.


Tools and techniques
The atomic force microscope (AFM) and the Scanning Tunnelling Microscope (STM) are two early versions of scanning probs that launced nanotechnology, and made it possible to see structures at the nanoscale. The tip of a scanning probe can be used to manipulate nanostructures. This is still a slow process because of the low scanning velocity of the microscope. Various techniques of nanolithography. such as optical lithography, X-ray lithography dip pen nanolithography etc etc has been developed. Another group techniques include the farbication of nanowires, used in semiconductor fabrication sush as ultraviolet lithography focused ion beam machining and a lot of other techniques. The top-down approach nanodevices, able to build up piece by piece in stages, much as manufactured items are made, has been developed. At present, this is too time-consuming and expencive for mass production, but very suitable for experiments in the laboratory.

The Future of Nanotechnology
Over the next couple of decades, nanotech will evolve through overlapping stages of industrial prototyping and early commersialization. The first one, which began after 2000, involves the development of passive nanostructure materials with steady structures and functions, often used as part in a product. After 2010-2020 the field will expand to include nanosystems- heterogenous networks in which molecules and supramolecular structures serve as distinct devices. Computors and robots could be reduced to exstrordinary small sizes. New interface, linking people directly to electronics, could change telecommunications.

Skien, 5.mars 2010 Kjell W. Tveten



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