Nanotechnology is the stream of science and engineering that involves the manipulation, visualization, and modeling of physical, chemical, and biological elements in a scale of one billionth of a meter, which is generally in the atomic, molecular, or nanoscale. It is the study of structures that range between 1 to 100 nanometers in size. To put it into perspective, the width of a human hair is approximately 80,000-100,000 nanometers.
Basically two techniques are followed for the development and generation of Nanostructures or Nanomaterials: top-down and bottom-up. The top-down approach involves the synthesis of macro size units to Nano level to create the desired structure or element. The bottom-up approach involves the building up of a required unit right from the atomic or molecular level.
Nanotechnology offers new opportunities to achieve advanced properties and functionalities, which cannot be attained by conventional means. The top-down technique is more commonly used than the bottom-up technique and the former is majorly used in nanolithography tools, which are widely employed to serve the semiconductor-based industries including electronics, optoelectronics, and so on. With nanotechnology, we can create unique materials and products that are stronger, lighter, cheaper, durable, and precise. Mass production can be done with this technology at a very low cost.
With the development of microscopes, scientists got the capability to see Nano-sized materials which are as small as atoms and this had unlocked a world of possibilities in many industries and scientific endeavors.
Nanotechnology is applied to many fields such as electronics, medical, automotive, and other industries. The integration of nanotechnology with electronic devices is called Nanoelectronics.
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Nanotechnology finds a wide range of applications in the electronics and medical industries. The critical length scale of the integrated circuits are already in nano scale. Nanotechnology improves the capabilities of consumer electronics, medical, automotive sectors. Some of the applications, functionality, and capabilities of nanotechnology are mentioned below.
The application of nanotechnology in display screens can help decrease power consumption and also bring about a decrease in the thickness and weight of the screens. Recent researches have proven that display screens that are integrated with carbon nanotubes are helpful in reducing the energy consumption of popular electronic devices. Due to their nanoscale diameter, carbon nanotubes can be used as field emitters with extremely high efficiency for field emission displays (FED) as they are electrically conductive.
We can also see the application of nanotechnology in laptop batteries. In order to improve safety and battery performance of laptop batteries, many battery manufacturers use nanoparticle enhanced electrodes in their lithium-ion batteries. Materials such as carbon nanotubes, graphene, and nanowires are expected to play a vital role in the electronics industry in the near future.
Nanotechnology is already broadening the medical tools, therapies, and knowledge that are currently available to clinicians. There is big interest in nano-electronic devices that could detect the concentrations of biomolecules in real time for use as medical diagnostics. In medicine, it offers assurances to revolutionize drug delivery, diagnostics, gene therapy, diagnostics, and many areas of research, development and clinical applications. In the medical sector, nanomedicine which is the application of nanotechnology draws on the natural scale of biological phenomena to produce exact solutions for disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Below are some examples of recent advances in these areas.
In commercial applications, gold nanoparticles have been adapted as probes for the detection of targeted structures of nucleic acids, and gold nanoparticles are also being clinically investigated as potential treatments for cancer and other diseases. Another line of research in the area of medical diagnostics are the nanosensors. These are nano-electronic devices which could interact with single cells for use in basic biological research.
Nanotechnology is also used in improving transportation infrastructure. In automotive products, nano-engineered materials are used in high-power rechargeable battery systems, thermoelectric materials for temperature control, lower-rolling-resistance tires, polymer nanocomposites structural parts, and high-efficiency/low-cost sensors and electronics.
It has been assessed that decreasing the weight of a commercial jet aircraft by 15-20% could reduce its fuel consumption by as much as 10-15%. A preliminary analysis done for NASA has indicated that the development and usage of advanced nanomaterials with twice the strength of conventional composites would decrease the gross weight of a launching vehicle by as much as 55-63%. This could not only save a significant amount of energy needed to launch spacecraft into orbit, but it would also allow the development of single stage to orbit launch vehicles, further increasing mission reliability, reducing launching costs, and opening the door to alternative propulsion concepts.
Nanotechnology provides ground-breaking ways of working with electronics. Nanotechnology science is developing new circuit materials, new processors, and new means of transferring and storing information. Nanotechnology can provide greater adaptability because of faster data transfer, more ongoing processing capabilities, and larger data memories.
In Nanomedicine research, scientists are focusing at ways that nanotechnology can improve vaccines, including vaccine delivery without the use of needles. Researchers also are concentrating on creating a universal vaccine scaffold for the annual flu vaccine that would cover more strains and need fewer resources to develop in the subsequent years.
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