The concept of nanotechnology sounds straight out of fiction, but in reality, many industries are already using it. It also holds a lot of promise in many high-budget applications, from space explorations to medicine.
What Is Nanotechnology?
Nanotechnology is any technology that works at a nanoscale, which measures between 1 and 100 nanometers. To achieve this, scientists and engineers have to manipulate the atomic structure of the material.
When did it start? The history is long, contrary to many people’s beliefs. According to trynano.org, many scientists already worked on it as early as the 1800s. Manufacturers used it to make steel, while artists applied it to their paintings.
However, it was only in 1959 when an American physicist named Richard Feynman defined it systematically. For this reason, some consider him as the father of the technology. Meanwhile, the term “nanotechnology” appeared first in 1974 in a paper published by Japanese scientists.
In the 1980s, IBM Zurich created the scanning tunneling microscope, which allowed scientists to capture an image of a surface down to its atoms.
Uses of Nanotech Today
Nanotechnology still has a long way to go before everyone can genuinely appreciate it. However, it’s already doing wonders in the following fields:
1. Space Exploration
Space exploration isn’t just about learning fascinating facts about Mars. Because of it, humans gain more ideas about how the universe works or the potential dangers brought by some interstellar objects.
Because of people’s knowledge of space, countries can launch satellites for land-based navigation, broadcast transmission, and weather monitoring.
However, exploring space is expensive. In 2018 alone, NASA allocated a whopping $19 billion budget for its projects. Much of it goes toward building a rocket that will take rovers and humans outside Earth.
Nanotechnology can help bring the costs down. For example, scientists can already develop solar electric propulsions like solar sails to avoid building different types of engines.
Nanobots are also less likely affected by the extreme environments of other planets. They can gather data more effectively and safely than humans.
2. Medical Treatments
Nanotechnology also helps save lives. In 2019, experts at Michigan State University used it to improve the delivery of chemotherapy, especially to critical-care patients.
With it, they can monitor the distribution of the drug and determine whether they’re giving the right dose to the patient. Since the information is available fast, they can adjust it quickly.
Doctors can also track the condition of vital organs, such as the liver and kidneys, which reduce the toxic effects of chemotherapy.
In 2010, UK researchers created a type of wound dressing with nanotech. The dressing features nanocapsules that release antibiotics depending on the actual bacteria present in the wound.
3. Industry Applications
This technology finds incredible success in various industry applications. Take, for example, electronics. In a 2017 study by Osaka University, nanomaterials help make metals stable, so they become more energy-efficient.
Because of this, manufacturers can now create mobile devices that are high performing but won’t need a lot of recharging in between.
In 2011, Queen’s University researchers harnessed nanotech to decrease friction in machines and engine automobiles. It could make equipment and vehicles last longer and easier to maintain, providing significant savings to users.
As nanotechnology improves, it won’t take long before it becomes more mainstream and benefits a greater population.