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[UNIT TITLE]

Year 1 Induction Activity


A report for
Peter Deacon
By
Andrew Hobbs
02/10/14

Table of Contents
1

Introduction..................................................................................................................................... 2

Nanotechnology.............................................................................................................................. 2
2.1

What is nanotechnology?....................................................................................................... 2

2.2

Advantages and potential future applications.........................................................................3

2.3

Limitations.............................................................................................................................. 5

Conclusions.................................................................................................................................... 6

Bibliography.................................................................................................................................... 7

Year 1 Induction Activity


[Unit Title] Report by Andrew Hobbs Year 2014/16 Electronic Design 02/10/14

1 Introduction
This report is being written to investigate the properties, benefits and potential
uses of nanotechnology. Modern nanotechnology is a relatively new science, with
its origins based on the development of the scanning tunnelling microscope
which enabled scientists to see individual atoms for the first time ever in 1981.
It is now an accepted technology and used in a wide variety of fields including
medicine, the games industry, the manufacturing industries and clothing
production. This report will first analyse what nanotechnology is and how it
started, before detailing the current and potential uses and how they weigh up
against its limitations.

2 Nanotechnology
2.1

What is nanotechnology?

The terms nanotechnology or nanoscience include any work that involves the
moving or manipulation of the individual atoms of a material. Clearly it is
impossible to see an atom with the human eye which is why nanotechnology
wasnt formally a science until the invention of really good microscopes like the
scanning tunnelling microscope and the atomic force microscope. These scopes
enabled scientists to see nano-particles (atoms) for the first time and
furthermore, to start actually manipulating them. Humans have actually been
manipulating atoms to change the properties of its material for centuries;
however it is only relatively recently that they realised and started observing the
process. For example, artists as far back as the 16 th century would create stained
glass windows using processes that actually changed the atomic composition of
the materials they were using, they just didnt realise it.
The nanoscale is defined as anything with at least 1 dimension that measures
between 1 and 100 nanometres. Anything bigger than that is on the micro scale
and anything smaller is on the atomic scale. In the SI system, a nano is 10 -9.
Therefore a nanometre is 10-9 metres or 1 billionth of a metre. An atom is
actually roughly 0.1nm in diameter and the atoms nucleus a tiny 0.00001nm
diameter! Below are some examples of how big some common items are
compared to a nanometre.
Item
DNA
Red Blood Cell
Strand of Hair
Head of a Pin

Number of Nanometres
2.5nm diameter
2,500nm diameter
100,000nm diameter
1,000,000nm diameter

Year 1 Induction Activity


[Unit Title] Report by Andrew Hobbs Year 2014/16 Electronic Design 02/10/14

Scanning tunnelling microscopes use a very weak electrical current to probe


materials and then feed information back to a computer for analysis. Automated
modelling then allows scientists and engineers to observe nanoparticles easily.
An alternative type of microscope is the atomic force microscope which traces
the surface of materials with an extremely finely machined tip or head. The
differences in distance towards the surface of the material are transmitted to a
computer to have the object graphically represented on to the display.
Such microscopes can also be used to move or manipulate tiny particles or
structures, for example, nanotubes. Carbon nanotubes are one of the most basic
structures to be created with nanotechnology and are a good example of what
nanotechnology really is. The fundamental principle is the action of rolling up a
1-2 atom thick sheet of carbon into a tube like shape. Structures with varying
properties can be created in this fashion, with the properties being determined
simply by which way the tube is rolled.
Nanoscale materials are also quite prominent in nature, either naturally
produced or introduced by technology and man-made items. Nanoscale
materials can be found in the smoke from fire, spray from the sea or in exhaust
fumes from cars.
Manufacturing at the Nanoscale is called nanomanufacturing and is carried out
by one of three different methods. Top-down nanomanufacturing is the process of
taking a (relatively) large amount of material and stripping it down to the
nanoscale level. Bottom-up nanomanufacturing involves manipulating individual
atoms or even sub-atomic particles to piece together nano-materials a particle at
a time. The newest thread of research is looking to self-assembly processes
which focuses on mixing certain atomic components together that will selfassemble into a nano-material from the bottom-up.

2.2

Advantages and potential future applications

The potential advancement of human life using nanotechnology is vast and not
yet completely chartered. There are many things the greatest scientists and
engineers still dont know. What we do know is that using nanotechnology we
can create new materials with enhanced properties over existing materials.
Materials that are stronger, lighter, more flexible or much harder.

Year 1 Induction Activity


[Unit Title] Report by Andrew Hobbs Year 2014/16 Electronic Design 02/10/14

An example of this is the carbon nanotube. A single layer of carbon atoms when
folded creates new bonds and, more importantly, a new type of structure with its
fellow carbon atoms. Different structures are created by folding (or rolling) the
tube in a different manner which then give the new materials new properties.
With the right arrangement of atoms, you can create a carbon nanotube that's
hundreds of times stronger than steel, but six times lighter (HowStuffWorks,
2014).
In the future, engineers hope to make new materials out of such nanostructures
which would enhance the transport industry alone by creating lighter and
stronger vehicles to increase fuel efficiency and passenger safety.
Another use currently being explored for nanotubes is as semi-conductors. Being
able to build even tinier transistors to power modern integrated circuits will lead
to more processing power and more memory in the same space for home
computing. Currently, intel are planning to release integrated circuits containing
transistors that are only 10nm wide to general manufactures and retailers by
2016 and plan to halve that to 5nm by 2020!
Below is a table showing some products already on the market that have been
enhanced by nanotechnology.

Year 1 Induction Activity


[Unit Title] Report by Andrew Hobbs Year 2014/16 Electronic Design 02/10/14

Self-Cleaning

Some glass is now being manufactured to be photocatalytic

Glass

and hydrophilic. The photocatalytic effect is the energizing of


nanoparticles to loosen organic materials from the materials
surface and occurs when rays of sunlight interact with the
surface of the material. The hydrophilic effect is an
arrangement of nanoparticles that helps to spread liquids
(namely water) evenly across its surface. The combination of
these two effects gives the glass a self-cleaning property.

Sun Cream

Modern sun creams now contain nano-particles of zinc oxide


and dont leave white marks on the skin when applied.
Traditional sun creams used larger particles which give them
their whitish colour!

Clothing

Some clothing now also contains a layer of zinc oxide


nanoparticles to help repel UV rays. Other clothing can also use
nanoparticles in the form of fibres to help increase the items
resistance to water or dirt.

Year 1 Induction Activity


[Unit Title] Report by Andrew Hobbs Year 2014/16 Electronic Design 02/10/14

Some scientists have even theorized that once we create nano-machines that
can assemble different atoms together on command (by computer) we will be
able to create anything from anything. Of course even if one nano-machine (or
nano-bot) could piece together many atoms per second it would still take millions
of years to create anything life-sized. The theory continues to state that if 1
nano-bot was created and instructed to recreate itself, then those two nano-bots
were instructed to recreate themselves again and so on, they would expand at
an exponential rate and soon be able to work collaboratively to create life-sized
items in realistic timescales. Although these are only theories (that many
discount), if they were proved true, they could spell the end of famine, disease,
poverty and even genetic disabilities.

2.3

Limitations

For each potential use or advancement in technology nanotechnology presents,


it also has a potential limitation. The main limitations discussed at large in the
scientific community are social, ethical, and economical and health related
drawbacks.
Presuming nanotech evolves as far as scientists theorise and one day we can
create any item we want, be it food, water, money or weapons. Many theorists
warn of the dangers of such a situation as they believe it would be uncontrollable
if easily accessible or even if not. Is it ethical to develop nanotechnology if it can
be used to create even more devastating weapons then we have now?
Being able to can create food, water and other consumables out of the
surrounding environment for very a minimal energy cost would affect the
economy massively. With less need for money and more for self-replicating
nanobots perhaps currency would be completely obsolete? Other theories centre
around the idea that as nanotech evolves it will become available to the richest
in society first and therefore create a large rich/poor divide with the rich have
easy access to powerful new technologies/ self-enhancing and non-invasive
surgery techniques, clean energy and never ending food and water supplies and
the poor remaining to struggle to make enough money to feed their families in a
world that is based on a currency system no longer supported by the rich.

Year 1 Induction Activity


[Unit Title] Report by Andrew Hobbs Year 2014/16 Electronic Design 02/10/14

There are a number of other more realistic limitations too. Ultimately,


industries working with nanotechnologies are in danger of advancing the
technology quicker than they can research the potential health and
environmental impacts. Particles on the nanoscale dont follow the normal rules
of physics and therefore need to be treated differently to normal technologies.
For example, it could be possible that a material that is harmless at the macro
level is actually poisonous or toxic at the nanoscale level. Another example is
nanotechnology in surgery and medicine. Some doctors are worried that
nanoparticles are so small that if used to interact with the human body or
bloodstream they could penetrate some of the bodys vital barriers and do untold
damage. For instance, nanoparticles in the bloodstream could slip though the
blood-brain barrier and enter the nervous centre (or brain) of a human body.
A particularly futuristic and frightening theory of the future of nanotechnology
comes from Eric Drexler, the man who coined the phrase nanotechnology. The
Grey Goo theory states that the damage on a massive scale, potentially
apocalyptic, could occur by introducing the self-replicating nanobots into the
earths atmosphere. If let out of control the nanobots would continue to replicate
themselves, consuming the surround environment as they did so, until they ran
out of atoms to consume.

3 Conclusions
In conclusion, the potential for nanotechnology is absolutely huge, however, so
are the associated risks if not correctly researched and precautions put into
place. Nanotechnology is a quickly expanding field of research backed by
scientists, engineers and educational bodies collaboratively and, in the future,
could serve as a viable answer to world poverty and the renewable energy race.
The successful development of nanotechnology relies upon careful research into
each potential application and by studying the physics and quantum mechanical
properties of each material to ascertain the potential risk to health and
ecological environments before recklessly pursuing the new technologies.

Year 1 Induction Activity


[Unit Title] Report by Andrew Hobbs Year 2014/16 Electronic Design 02/10/14

4 Bibliography
Bonsor, K. & Strickland, J., 2014. How Nanotechnology Works [online]. Atlanta,
GA: HowStuffWorks. Available from:
http://science.howstuffworks.com/nanotechnology.htm [Accessed 02/10/14]
NNI1, 2014. What Is Nanotechnology? [online]. Arlington, VA: NNI. Available from:
http://www.nano.gov/nanotech-101/what/definition [Accessed 02/10/14].
Pheonix, C. & Treder, M., 2003. Safe Utilization of advanced nanotechnology
[online]. Virtual2: CRN3. Available from: http://www.crnano.org/safe.htm
[Accessed 02/10/14].
1 National Nanotechnology Initiative
2 A no bricks or mortar company. A company that is fully virtualised and online with no physical or geographical location.
3 Center for Responsible Nanotechnology

Year 1 Induction Activity


[Unit Title] Report by Andrew Hobbs Year 2014/16 Electronic Design 02/10/14