Running Head: Nanotechnology – Information Systems
Technology has been improving rapidly over the last century. There were more inventions in the nineteenth century than all of the previous centuries combined. The last twenty years have been the most revolutionary.
Technology has been pushed to new frontiers. What was once regarded as science fiction in movies and novels have become today’s realities and necessities. The invention of the personal computer a few years ago has in my opinion, accelerated recent discoveries in science and technology.
Before the invention of the personal computer, bigger was always considered better. The evolution of the microchip is a good example of how smaller electronic component became more powerful than their room-size predecessors did. Nanotechnology will make today’s inventions be even smaller, better, in a very big way!
David Rejeski Director, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Committee on Senate Commerce, states:
As the Subcommittee knows, nanotechnology is expected to become the transformational technology of the 21st century. It is the world of controlling matter at the scale of one billionth of a meter, or around one-100,000th the width of a human hair. Researchers are exploring new ways to see and build at this scale, reengineering familiar substances like carbon and gold in order to create new materials with novel properties and functions.
Nanotechnology is already been used to manufacture many products in our world today. This technology will improve and ultimately will be the only way products are manufactured. Drexler explains the impact nanotechnology would have in computing:
A key understanding of nanotechnology is that it offers not just better products, but a vastly improved manufacturing process. A computer can make copies of data files—essentially as many copies as you want at little or no cost. It may be only a matter of time until the building of products becomes as cheap as the copying of files. That is the real meaning of nanotechnology, and why it is sometimes seen as “the next industrial revolution.”
However, this is only the beginning, because nanotechnology will be used extensively in the near future. In this essay, however, the paper will focus on the range of impact nanotechnology will have on our daily lives. Industry is anticipating using nanotechnology to manufacture different materials. Furthermore, nanotechnology will advance professions such as medicine at an exponential rate. We will explore how physicians will utilize nanotechnology to diagnose illness and ultimately cures.
Because cost has always been one of the greatest hurdles in developing economies, nanotechnology will lower production costs. Therefore, the gap between the Third World and wealthy First World countries will become narrower. Finally, many of the claims made by nonscientists are far-fetched. In the conclusion, we will differentiate science from fiction.
II. What is nanotechnology?
Technology has been operating at micrometers for several decades now. Words such as microprocessors, microscope, and microphone are common these days. Most of us do not have to think about the size of these technologies anymore. Micro for instance, is one millionth of a meter. That is microscopic small, virtually invisible to the naked eye. Nano is one thousandth times smaller than micro.
Uldrich and Newberry give a more simplified definition:
The term nano is derived from the Greek word nanos, meaning dwarf. It is equal to one billionth of a meter. Nanotechnology is, broadly speaking, the art and science of manipulating and rearranging individual atoms and molecules to create useful materials, devices and systems (23).
Furthermore, Uldrich and Newberry explain that the width of a dot is about one million nanometers. If we had to convert to the American Imperial system, one nanometer is to an inch what one inch is to approximately 16,000 miles. A more practical example would be that if a male or woman were 6.6 foot tall, that would be two billion nanometers (23).
The following diagram will put nanotechnology into perspective.
Nevertheless, this technology is still virtually unknown today. When did this term become so popular in the computer and science fraternities?
According to Free On-line Dictionary of Computing:
Nanotechnology has been a hot topic in the hacker subculture
ever since K. Eric Drexler coined the term in his book
“Engines of Creation,” where he predicted that nanotechnology
could give rise to replicating assemblers, permitting an
exponential growth of productivity and personal wealth.
However, Phoenix explained that in 1959 the great physicist Richard Feynman who suggested that it would be possible to build machines small enough to operate at molecular level conducted the science of nanotechnology.
Nanotechnology has definitely changed the way we live today.
III. Nanotechnology in today’s world
This technology is not just confined to laboratories. In fact, nanotechnology is already part of our lives. Many people are not aware of products that use nanotechnology available in stores. Twist, a BBC News online science and technology staff member, wrote in an article about a few cosmetic products that already use nano particles:
Nanotechnology has been around for several years now. Many industries are using nanotechnology to manufacture many everyday products. Humans are inhaling millions of nano particles a day. The Cosmetics industry already puts nano-particles in lotions, creams, and shampoos. The particles are particularly good at absorbing ultra-violet rays, but make the lotion transparent smooth instead of sticky and white.
Nanotechnology is already here
This is clear that nanotechnology is used in many common household items.
Aside from the cosmetic industry, nanotechnology is changing a variety of businesses.
Surprisingly there is already a broad range of products that we use today, that take advantage of the advances in nanotechnology. Dabek posted a list of popular products that uses nanotechnology:
Golf balls and tennis racquets: Manufacturers are always looking for the best new design to improve your score, but this sports equipment is truly high tech. Wilson previously made its nCode tennis racquets of standard carbon, but now uses nanotechnology to pack extra atoms between the carbon atoms to make the racquets stronger, but just as light. A nano coating NDliNX golf balls is meant to make them soar faster and feel firmer when hit, thanks to a higher-density polymer layer on the outside of the ball.
A nano-c Household paint: Home Depot carries Behr’s kitchen and bathroom paint, designed with nano-particles that increase the density of the paint to prevent the growth of mold and mildew on the walls.
Stain-resistant khaki pants and ties: Ever wonder how those so-called stain resistant pants stay so clean? Dockers, Lands End and Brooks Brothers carry khaki pants and neckties whose fabrics have been redesigned to pack extra atoms between the fabric atoms to help repel liquids on the surface.
Shoe inserts and socks: Suffer from cold feet? Originally designed for NASA, Polarwrap has created its Toasty Feet inserts with built-in nano-size pockets of air to improve insulation and make them lightweight. Millions of nano-size silver particles are knitted into Sharper Image’s Antibacterial Silver Athletic and Lounging Socks to make them antibacterial and antifungal.
Lip-gloss: DERMA doctor cosmetics put nano-size zinc oxide into its POUTlandish Hypermoist lip paint for SPF protection without the heavy consistency of liquid sun block.
Sportswear: Nano-size channels built into fabrics whisk away moisture from the skin and help fabric dry quickly. The New Balance women’s Skye Crop sports bra uses this technology. Eddie Bauer’s Water Shorts use nano-size drying channels as well, with nano-size sunscreen embedded in the fabric to provide extra protection from UV rays.
Household paint: Home Depot carries Behr’s kitchen and bathroom paint, designed with nano-particles that increase the density of the paint to prevent the growth of mold and mildew on the walls.
Canola oil: Marketed in Israel by Shemen Industries, the Canola Active brand uses molecular tinkering to deliver vitamins and to prevent the body’s absorption of cholesterol in the oil. The oil contains chemical additives of micro-vitamins and micro-cholesterol blockers. Household paint: Home Depot carries Behr’s kitchen and bathroom paint, designed with nano-particles that increase the density of the paint to prevent the growth of mold and mildew on the walls.
VI. Nanotechnology in our future
The science of nanotechnology is to rearrange molecules in order to create something else. Welland boldly declares that, “In five years’ time, batteries that only last three days will be laughable, said Professor Welland. Similarly, in 10 years’ time, the way medical testing is done now will be considered crude.”(qtd. in Twist)
Once this technology is perfected, almost every single product will use nanotechnology. Nanotechnology is said to make products stronger, lighter, and yes cheaper to produce. There is no doubt that nanotechnology will benefit many consumers and big business in the near future. Another potential use of nanotechnology will be in the developing of nanomaterials. Uldrich and Newberry mention that nanomaterials will not just be limited to one sector (99). Therefore, these implications will be huge in many sectors of our industries. This is bound to affect the sales of non-nanotechnology products such as paper towels, cleaning material, food, detergents, and many industrial and household goods. In the next few sections, we will deal with potential applications of nanotechnology in our daily lives, medicine, and global economies.
A. The potential of nanotechnology in our daily lives
The following picture illustrates the potential uses of nanotechnology.
1 – Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs) for displays
2 – Photovoltaic film that converts light into electricity
3 – Scratch-proof coated windows that clean themselves with UV
4 – Fabrics coated to resist stains and control temperature
5 – Intelligent clothing measures pulse and respiration
6 – Bucky-tubeframe is light but very strong
7 – Hip joint made from biocompatible materials
8 – Nano-particle paint to prevent corrosion
9 – Thermo-chromic glass to regulate light
10 – Magnetic layers for compact data memory
11 – Carbon nanotube fuel cells to power electronics and vehicles
12 – Nano-engineered cochlear implant
B. The potential of nanotechnology in medicine
Society has been battling to find cures for many ailments for the past two hundred years. Frankly, only a few cures have been found. Most of the medication that we use today only control the diseases and the remove the symptoms for a few hours. Nanotechnology has the potential to revolutionize the medical industry. The good news for consumers is that not only will nanotechnology reduce the price of medication, but also provide alternative treatment. Uldrich and Newberry explain in detail how nanotechnology will influence drug delivery:
Among the most exciting developments is a company named C Sixty, located on Houston, Texas, which is working on a device it likens to a “molecular pincushion.” The center of the pincushion is carbon-based structure with drugs and protein detectors attached. The nanoscopic device, which can be injected into the body, can easily and precisely fit into the pocket of an AIDS virus and disrupt its ability to reproduce…. Furthermore, these nanodevices have the benefit of being easily rapidly modified. The immediate impact of such nanoscopic drugs, if successful, is obvious. A cure for AIDS will solve a 25-year old quest for eliminating the deadly disease. (111-112)
Uldrich and Newberry cite another example of how nanotechnology will be incorporated into medicine to fight one of our deadliest enemies:
Other researchers in Texas are working on a nanoscale cancer “smart bomb.” The researchers are placing a single atom of the highly radioactive material actinium-225 inside a nanoscale cage of carbon and nitrogen. They then attach to the outside of the cage a protein that adheres only to cancer cells. Once the attachment between protein and cancer cell takes place, the cage decays and the radioactive material is released and kills only the cancer cells. Preliminary tests have shown that this smart bomb can kill leukemia, lymphoma, breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer cells. And although it has been tested only in mice… mice treated with the procedure have lived up to three hundred days comapared to an average of forty-three days that did not receive the treatment. (112-113)
These treatments will certainly change the way pharmaceuticals and doctors approach and treat patients. We will see a definite power shift in the medical industry. The patient will definitely have more advantage.
C. The potential economic implications
There is no doubt that nanotechnology will be a multibillion-dollar business. Nanotechnology intends to significantly lower production costs. These lower costs will automatically be passed on to consumers. Kirby a BBC News Online environment correspondent reports that, “Research and development spending on nanotechnology is growing fast – in the US up from $432 million in 1997 to $604m by 2002, in Japan from $120m to $750m over the same period.”
Because the initial investments are currently very high, it is obvious that many of the poorer countries do not have budgets allocated for nanotechnology research. These countries will be the biggest consumers of nanotechnology products. The fact is most of the world still battles with basic needs that many developing and First world nations take for granted.
Water shortage, basic service deliveries are serious political issues in poor countries. Nanotechnology could just solve some of the major social problems. “The United Nations estimates that there are thirty-eight global spots where fighting might break out due to water shortage.” (Uldrich and Newberry) Cost is one the major factors these basic needs are not been met. “If nanofiltration systems can desalinize water or if nanotechnology-enabled advances can reduce water shortage…” (Uldrich and Newberry) Governments will concentrate on people and prosperity instead of spending millions on basic services, once cheaper alternatives are found. These new projects will reduce poverty and ultimately narrow the gap between the poor and the rich.
Diabetes is one of the most expensive diseases to treat. Nanotechnology will certainly solve many of the medical problems that we face today. According to Uldrich and Newberry, there were over 18 000 nursing homes across the country in 2003. There are over 80 million baby boomers and their healthcare alone amounts to a staggering $600 billion (107). If many cures to these diseases are found, that number will significantly be reduced. Many pharmaceuticals will have to come up with new financial strategies because nanotechnologies will reduce the cost of drug delivery. This is good news to consumers because prices are expected to drop across all sectors of the economy. Imagine perishable goods having a longer shelf life that will reduce the turn around time. I doubt however, that nanotechnology will be welcomed in all commercial sectors, because it is bound to make waves in our economies.
Nanotechnology is without a doubt a fascinating subject. However, as with many science and technology endeavors, it is always difficult to separate fact from fiction.
Ultimately, nanobot technologies portend possibilities for astonishing tasks, like curing diseases from inside the human body or developing new composite metals for the aerospace and automotive industries. Futurists even claim that nanotech will someday allow the rejuvenation of human bodies frozen in liquid nitrogen, and mind uploading, the now theoretical process of converting and transferring a human brain onto a supercomputer program. (West)
We have a long way to go before many nanotechnology innovations become a reality. Our hope is that poverty will ultimately be eliminated. The danger is that nanotechnology should not give the world false hope. We need to deal with realistic possibilities and focus on them, instead of having an exhaustive list of cures and empty promises.
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Kirby, Alex. “Nanotech may spark fierce ethical row.” BBC News. 14 February, 2003. BBC. 10 Nov 2006
“Nanotechnology.” The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing. Denis Howe. 08 Nov. 2006.
Phoenix, Chris. “History of nanotechnology.” Nanotechnology Press Kit – History of Nanotechnology. Monday, 15-Aug-2005 10:29:41 PDT . Nanotechnology now. 8 Nov 2006
Rejeski, David. “Economic Development and Nano Commercialization, Science and Transportation. Capital Hill, Washington D.C.. May 4, 2006 Thursday.
Twist, Jo. “Myths and realities of nano futures.” BBC news. 9 Nov 2006
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