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What is nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology is a multidisciplinary technology that combines science and engineering to manipulate and control matter at the nanoscale – that is, at the atomic and molecular level. Thanks to this field of technology, it is possible to create new materials and devices that would be unthinkable with other technologies.

Some of the sciences involved in nanotechnology include chemistry, physics, biochemistry, biology, mathematics, computer science and electronics.

Nanotechnology can be focused on nanomaterials, have a top-down approach – aimed at creating smaller devices using larger ones – or a bottom-up approach – arranging smaller components into more complex structures – or have a functional, biometric or speculative approach.

What is considered nanometric matter?

In physics and chemistry, nanometric matter is considered to be between 1 and 100 nanometers in size. However, in biology, the nanometer scale is considered to be that of matter that does not exceed 1000 nanometers.

What is the difference between nanotechnology and nanoscience?

Nanoscience specializes in the study of physical, chemical and biological phenomena at the nanoscale. Nanotechnology, on the other hand, in addition to the study of matter, involves the design, manipulation and application of materials, systems and devices to nanometric matter.

What are the origins of nanotechnology?

The first person to refer to the possibilities of nanoscience and nanotechnology was theoretical physicist Richard Feynman in a speech called “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” delivered in California in 1959. In 1965, Feynman received the Nobel Prize in Physics.

The term nanotechnology, on the other hand, did not appear until 1974, when it was used by Professor Norio Taniguchi. However, it was the American engineer K. Eric Drexler, inspired by Feynman’s work, who coined the term nanotechnology in his book Engines of Creation:The Coming Era of Nanotechnology. It was precisely Drexler’s work that established nanotechnology as a discipline.

What techniques does nanotechnology use?

Nanotechnology draws on a large number of scientific disciplines and applies numerous techniques, but some of the best known are:

  • Tunneling microscopy
  • Atomic force microscopy
  • Electron lithography
  • Atomic layer deposition
  • Feature-oriented scanning
  • Dual polarization interferometry

What are the main applications of nanotechnology?

Of course, nanotechnology has a large and growing number of applications Some of the fields in which it plays a role include:

  • Medicine: it has enabled the development of materials that release drugs in a controlled manner and of nanorobots capable of applying specific treatments. The development of DNA-related nanostructures has also made it possible to treat pathologies more precisely and without the side effects of conventional treatments.
  • Electronics: has been fundamental to the miniaturization of devices.
  • Industry: has been used to improve the strength and properties of materials in general.

What are the main concerns of nanotechnology?

As with all technologies throughout human history, nanotechnology has also raised ethical, toxicological and environmental concerns. The main reservations expressed have to do with the possible negative impact that nanomaterials may have on human health and the environment.

The ethical aspects of nanotechnology are also an important source of questions, such as to what extent it is permissible to tap human DNA, the military implications of nanotechnology, and potential threats to freedom posed by the application of nanotechnology for surveillance.

Other more apocalyptic concerns relate to the level of autonomy of nanomaterials and nanostructures. Grey goo refers to a hypothetical scenario in which nanorobots would self-replicate uncontrollably until they wipe out all organic life on Earth.

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