By Catharine Paddock PhD Nanotechnology, the manipulation of matter at the atomic and molecular scale to create materials with remarkably varied and new properties, is a rapidly expanding area of research with huge potential in many sectors, ranging from healthcare to construction and electronics. In medicine, it promises to revolutionize drug delivery, gene therapy, diagnostics, and many areas of research, development and clinical application. This article does not attempt to cover the whole field, but offers, by means of some examples, a few insights into how nanotechnology has the potential to change medicine, both in the research lab and clinically, while touching on some of the challenges and concerns that it raises. The prefix "nano" stems from the ancient Greek for "dwarf".
History of nanotechnology The concepts that seeded nanotechnology were first discussed in by renowned physicist Richard Feynman in his talk There's Plenty of Room at the Bottomin which he described the possibility of synthesis via direct manipulation of atoms. The term "nano-technology" was first used by Norio Taniguchi inthough it was not widely known.
Eric Drexler used the term "nanotechnology" in his book Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnologywhich proposed the idea of a nanoscale "assembler" which would be able to build a copy of itself and of other items of arbitrary complexity with atomic control.
Also inDrexler co-founded The Foresight Institute with which he is no longer affiliated to help increase public awareness and understanding of nanotechnology concepts and implications.
Thus, emergence of nanotechnology as a field in the s occurred through convergence of Drexler's theoretical and public work, which developed and popularized a conceptual framework for nanotechnology, and high-visibility experimental advances that drew additional wide-scale attention to the prospects of atomic control of matter.
Since the popularity spike in the s, most of nanotechnology has involved investigation of several approaches to making mechanical devices out of a small number of atoms. First, the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope in which provided unprecedented visualization of individual atoms and bonds, and was successfully used to manipulate individual atoms in Buckminsterfullerene C60, also known as the buckyballis a representative member of the carbon structures known as fullerenes.
Members of the fullerene family are a major subject of research falling under the nanotechnology umbrella. In the early s, the field garnered increased scientific, political, and commercial attention that led to both controversy and progress.
Controversies emerged regarding the definitions and potential implications of nanotechnologies, exemplified by the Royal Society 's report on nanotechnology. These products are limited to bulk applications of nanomaterials and do not involve atomic control of matter.
Some examples include the Silver Nano platform for using silver nanoparticles as an antibacterial agent, nanoparticle -based transparent sunscreens, carbon fiber strengthening using silica nanoparticles, and carbon nanotubes for stain-resistant textiles.
By the mids new and serious scientific attention began to flourish. Projects emerged to produce nanotechnology roadmaps   which center on atomically precise manipulation of matter and discuss existing and projected capabilities, goals, and applications.
Fundamental concepts Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale. This covers both current work and concepts that are more advanced. In its original sense, nanotechnology refers to the projected ability to construct items from the bottom up, using techniques and tools being developed today to make complete, high performance products.
By comparison, typical carbon-carbon bond lengthsor the spacing between these atoms in a moleculeare in the range 0. By convention, nanotechnology is taken as the scale range 1 to nm following the definition used by the National Nanotechnology Initiative in the US.
The lower limit is set by the size of atoms hydrogen has the smallest atoms, which are approximately a quarter of a nm kinetic diameter since nanotechnology must build its devices from atoms and molecules.
The upper limit is more or less arbitrary but is around the size below which phenomena not observed in larger structures start to become apparent and can be made use of in the nano device. In the "bottom-up" approach, materials and devices are built from molecular components which assemble themselves chemically by principles of molecular recognition.
The positions of the individual atoms composing the surface are visible. Nanomaterials Several phenomena become pronounced as the size of the system decreases. These include statistical mechanical effects, as well as quantum mechanical effects, for example the " quantum size effect" where the electronic properties of solids are altered with great reductions in particle size.
This effect does not come into play by going from macro to micro dimensions. However, quantum effects can become significant when the nanometer size range is reached, typically at distances of nanometers or less, the so-called quantum realm.
Additionally, a number of physical mechanical, electrical, optical, etc. One example is the increase in surface area to volume ratio altering mechanical, thermal and catalytic properties of materials.
Diffusion and reactions at nanoscale, nanostructures materials and nanodevices with fast ion transport are generally referred to nanoionics. Mechanical properties of nanosystems are of interest in the nanomechanics research. The catalytic activity of nanomaterials also opens potential risks in their interaction with biomaterials.
Materials reduced to the nanoscale can show different properties compared to what they exhibit on a macroscale, enabling unique applications. For instance, opaque substances can become transparent copper ; stable materials can turn combustible aluminium ; insoluble materials may become soluble gold.
A material such as gold, which is chemically inert at normal scales, can serve as a potent chemical catalyst at nanoscales. Much of the fascination with nanotechnology stems from these quantum and surface phenomena that matter exhibits at the nanoscale. Molecular self-assembly Modern synthetic chemistry has reached the point where it is possible to prepare small molecules to almost any structure.
These methods are used today to manufacture a wide variety of useful chemicals such as pharmaceuticals or commercial polymers. This ability raises the question of extending this kind of control to the next-larger level, seeking methods to assemble these single molecules into supramolecular assemblies consisting of many molecules arranged in a well defined manner.NanoGene Technologies Inc.
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1 Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL , USA. 2 Simpson Querrey Institute for BioNanotechnology, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL , USA. 3 Department of Biomedical Engineering, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL , USA.
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A Nanogenerator is a type of technology that converts mechanical/thermal energy as produced by small-scale physical change into electricity.A Nanogenerator has three typical approaches: piezoelectric, triboelectric, and pyroelectric nanogenerators.
Both the piezoelectric and triboelectric nanogenerators can convert mechanical energy into electricity. Abstract Nanomedicine offers the prospect of powerful new tools for the treatment of human diseases and the improvement of human biological systems using molecular nanotechnology.