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Nanotechnology – UPSC


Nanotechnology or nanotech in short is the technology that involves the manipulation of matter on atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scales. This includes particles of a scale of 1 to 100 nanometers.

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Nanotechnology Origins

In 1959, physicist Richard Feynman gave a talk called “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” sparking the idea behind this principle. The term “nanotechnology” was actually coined by Professor Norio Taniguchi. Fast forward to 1981, the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope allowed us to finally “see” individual atoms. Then came the atomic force microscope (AFM), further pushing the boundaries of nanotechnology. Since those early days, nanotechnology has evolved significantly, touching various industries. It’s a field where engineering and science meet, bringing together diverse expertise to innovate and shape our world.

Importance of Nanotechnology

Also Read:- Nuclear Fusion

Types of Nanotechnology

The different types of nanotechnology are classified according to how they proceed (top-down or bottom-up) and the medium in which they work (dry or wet):

Descending (top-down): Mechanisms and structures are miniaturised at the nanometric scale — from one to 100 nanometres in size —. It is the most frequent to date, especially in electronics.

Ascending (bottom-up): You start with a nanometric structure — a molecule, for example — and through a mounting or self-assembly process you create a larger mechanism than the one you started with.

Dry nanotechnolgy: Manufacturers use it to build structures in coal, silicon, inorganic materials, metals, and semiconductors that are not compatible with humidity.

Wet nanotechnology: It is based on biological systems present in an aqueous environment — including genetic material, membranes, enzymes and other cellular components

What is Nanotechnology Used for?

Some of the uses of nanotechnology are discussed below.

  • Nano-RAM: It is a non-volatile RAM (Random Access Memory) based on carbon nanotubes deposited on a chip-like substrate. Its small size permits very high-density memories.
  • Nano optomechanical SRAM (Static RAM): This shows faster read/write time as compared to a MEMS memory. Also, the processes take place without interference which further reduces time when compared to a traditional electrical enabled SRAM.
Healthcare and Medicine
  • Nanotech detectors for heart attack
  • Nanochips to check plaque in arteries
  • Nanocarriers for eye surgery, chemotherapy, etc.
  • Diabetic pads for regulating blood sugar levels
  • Nanoparticles for drug delivery to the brain – for therapeutic treatment of neurological disorders
  • Nanosponges, which consist of polymer nanoparticles coated with a red blood cell membrane, can serve as a tool for absorbing toxins from the bloodstream and eliminating them.
  • NanoFlares – used for detection of cancer cells in the bloodstream
  • Nanopores – use in making DNA sequencing more efficient.
  • Solar paints or photovoltaic paints – can replace solar panels. Applying solar paints to any surface will enable it to capture energy from the sun and transform it into electricity.
  • Wind power generations – nanogenerators – these are flexible thin sheets which when bent can generate potential power.
  • Nanobatteries help to extend the lifespan of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.
Agriculture and Food
  • Nano fertilizers
  • Hybrid polymers find application in packaging and spoilage reduction by humans.
  • Sensors for food-borne pathogens
  • Nanoemulsions – to reduce bacteria on produce
  • Nanoparticles based on titanium dioxide – used as antimicrobial agents

Issues in Nanotechnology

  • When we release tiny particles into the environment, we can cause pollution, which poses risks to our health and ecosystem.
  • Researchers could use nanoparticles in gadgets for surveillance purposes or even incorporate them into drones for potentially harmful offensive actions.
  • Less wealthy nations face difficulties accessing funds necessary for developing nanotechnology products, contributing to global disparities.
  • There’s a moral question about whether we should explore the use of nanotechnology to enhance human abilities, potentially leading to significant ethical dilemmas.
  • Fully harnessing the capabilities of nanotechnology requires overcoming various technical challenges and hurdles.

Read Also: Nano Fertilizers: Revolutionizing Agriculture in India

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