Wednesday, 13 September 2017

The really really tiny world of nanoparticles

The present times offers to us a view of two contrasting directions that science is proceeding towards. While on one hand, astronomy continues to paint its footprints on the untrodden boulevards of space, nanotechnology on the other has decided to focus on what’s within.
With the revelation of a quantum realm, we had only dreamt about before, the torchbearers have embarked on a quest of finding ways to put this new science to good use. With a world nothing like what it was a 100 or even half a century ago, science has many a times stumbled upon its own establishments, atomic and chemical weapons being prominent. But in the meantime, it has also provided mankind with hope, and a chance to make things right, and this means correcting our mistakes in the tiniest scale, and nanotechnology is our tool for the purpose.
Wikipedia describes nanotechnology as the manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular and supramolecular scale.  Considering the dimensions of the matter, which ranges between a tiny 1 to 100 nanometres, nanotechnology has to face the quantum mechanical effects up to a scale of immense extremity. This is the reason that today nanotech is in itself a titanic genre for research rather than being a singular technological achievement.
It is indeed the potential that this new technology holds in the fields both industrial and humanitarian, not to ignore military too, that the leading world governments have been so gracious to invest in its R&D. In fact, the word nanotechnology is itself grammatically misleading because unlike the name (that suggests nanotech to have a limited boundary and scope), it has a very broad field of application, some of them being molecular biology, organic chemistry, semiconductor physics, micro fabrication and surface chemistry.

The application of nanotechnology for commercial purposes began in the 2000s, most noticeably TiO2 and Zinc Oxide nanoparticles in sunscreens, cosmetics and food products, silver nanoparticles in food packaging, clothing, disinfectants and household appliances such as Silver Nano, Carbon nanotubes for stain resistant textiles and cerium oxide as a fuel catalyst. As per a report in 2011, there are at least 1300 nanotech based products available in the market.
One of the biggest fields where nanotechnology is presumed to be able to play a constructive role is medicine in the form of Nanobots. Nanobots are chemical machines which have the affinity for a certain disease causing microbe or virus and perform a search and kill operation once introduced in the body. Nanotechnology is also gaining popularity in industrial and chemical processes such as desalination of water, wastewater and groundwater treatment which falls under the banner  of Nanoremediation. Latest research has also revealed the eligibility of this new technology in the construction industry, military goods, nano-wires and nano-rods which may be used in the automobile industry, enhanced batteries and solar panels for the production of energy, etc.

The fact that nanotechnology allows us to alter and modify the structure of matter at the quantum level, presents itself as a solution to many of the conventional techniques which come with a lot of side effects, low efficiency, cost ineffectiveness and pollution, to name a few. However, just like all the sciences nanoscience too holds the possibility of turning into havoc if the research is misdirected for a nation’s personal aspirations. Hence it is important that every nation of the world comes together and uses this new gift of science for the cause of humanity and turn the world into the promised utopia.

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