Generally, nanotechnology refers to the field of science and engineering that involves manipulating atoms and molecules at nanoscales in order to create structures, devices, and systems. The nanoscale dimensions range from approximately 1 to 100 nanometers. The natural world contains many examples of structures that are one or more nanometers in size, and many technologies have had incidental interactions with nanostructures for many years, but it has only been possible to do so intentionally in recent years. Materials may have unusual properties when viewed at the nanometer scale. For example, if you change the size of a particle, it can change its colour too. This is due to the way atoms are arranged in nanometer-scale particles, which makes them reflect light differently. Silver can appear yellowish or amber-coloured while gold can appear dark red or purple-coloured. Nanotechnology has the capability to increase the surface area of a material. As a result of this, more atoms can interact with other materials. Nanometer-scale materials are generally stronger, more durable, and more conductive than their larger-scale (called bulk) counterparts due to their increased surface area. Nanotechnology has some crucial applications that have the potential to create a remarkable impact on society. Nanotechnology is already used in industrial sectors, food technology, energy technology, and the medical field. This technology can also develop some new methods to control environmental pollution.
The history of nanotechnology started way back in the year 1959. American physicist Richard Feynman was participating in a talk show entitled “There is plenty of room at the bottom.” During the talk show, Feynman spoke about some ideas and concepts in nanotechnology. But the fact is that he didn’t use the term nanotechnology and that specific word was not even coined then. He just explained a process in which scientists would be able to control and manipulate individual atoms and molecules. Yes, this is where it all started. So that Richard Feynman is known as the father of nanotechnology. Picking relevant ideas from Feynman’s theory, scientists started to develop the field of nanotechnology. Finally, in 1981, scientists and engineers were able to control and manipulate individual atoms via the use of the scanning tunneling microscope. The invention of the scanning tunneling microscope is considered as a milestone in the field of science and technology. It was the IBM scientists Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer who invented the scanning tunneling microscope and for this magnificent work, the duo won the Nobel Prize in Physics in the year 1986. The end of the 20th century witnessed terrific development and improvement in the field of nanotechnology as many companies and governments started to invest in nanotechnology. Carbon nanotubes, one of the crucial nanotech discoveries were made extensively throughout the 1990s. By the early 2000s, a variety of consumer products from sports equipment to digital cameras were using nanomaterials.
Although nanotechnology is relatively new, nanometer-scale materials have been used for centuries. In the 4th century, Roman artists discovered that a startling effect was produced when gold and silver were added to a glass. When lit from the inside, the glass appeared slate green, but when illuminated from the outside, it glowed red. The glass solution was coloured with gold and silver nanoparticles suspended in it. The Lycurgus cup, a ceremonial vessel is a surviving example of this. Similarly, silver and copper nanoparticles were used in pottery glazes by Chinese, Western Asian, and European artists. It gave ceramics like tiles and bowls a distinctive luster. All these factors contributed to the growth of nanotechnology.
Important terms in Nanotechnology:
Some important terms in nanotechnology and their definitions are listed below,
Nanoscale: It is a length scale applicable to nanotechnology having one or more dimensions of the order of 100 nm or less.
Nanoscience: The study of phenomena and manipulation of materials at atomic, molecular and macromolecular scales, where properties differ significantly from those at a larger scale.
Nanotechnology: The field of science and engineering that involves manipulating atoms and molecules at nanoscales in order to create structures, devices, and systems.
Nanomaterial: Material with one or more external dimensions, or an internal structure which could exhibit novel characteristics compared to the same material without nanoscale features.
Nanoparticle: Particle with two or more dimensions at the nanoscale.
Nanocomposite: Composite in which at least one of the phases has at least one dimension on the nanoscale.
Nanostructured: Consists of a structure at the nanoscale.
Classification of Nanomaterials:
Nanomaterials are mainly classified into two- Natural nanomaterials and Artificial nanomaterials.
Natural nanomaterials– As the name indicates, natural nanomaterials are those that occur naturally in the world. Volcanic ash, smoke, and even hemoglobin in our bodies are examples of these particles. You would have noticed the beautiful and attractive colours in a peacock’s feathers, right? Ever imagined the reason behind this? This is due to the spacing between nanometer-scale structures on their surface.
Artificial nanomaterials– Artificial nanomaterials are those that are man-made or those occurring from other objects. Some examples of artificial nanomaterials include exhaust from fossil fuel-burning engines and some forms of pollution. Despite the fact that some of these are nanomaterials- vehicle exhaust, for instance, scientists and engineers are working to create them for use in everything from manufacturing to medicine. These are termed as intentionally produced nanomaterials.
Intentionally produced nanomaterials are of four types- carbon-based, metal-based, dendrimers, and nanocomposites.
Carbon-based nanomaterials are fullerenes produced intentionally and they include carbon nanotubes and buckyballs.
Metal-based nanomaterials include gold nanoparticles and quantum dots.
Dendrimers are complex nanoparticles constructed from linked, branched units. Dendrimer has three parts- a core, an inner shell, and an outer shell. Dendrimer has also branched ends. Currently, scientists and researchers are exploring multifunctional drug delivery methods using dendrimers. It is possible for a single dendrimer to deliver drug to a specific cell and trace its impact on surrounding tissue at the same time.
Nanocomposites integrate nanomaterials with other nanomaterials or with larger bulk materials. Nanocomposites are again divided into three- Nanoceramic matrix composites (NCMCs), metal matrix composites (MMCs), and polymer matrix composites (PMCs).
NCMCs are used to coat packing materials. The NCMCs strengthen the material’s heat resistance and flame-retardent properties.
MMCs are stronger and lighter than bulk metals. They help to reduce heat in computer “server farms” and build vehicles light enough to airalift.
PMCs are used in the making of industrial plastics. A promising area of nanomedical research is the creation of PMC “tissue scaffolding”. The concept of a tissue scaffold is that it provides a frame around which tissue, such as skin or organs, can grow. There is a potential for this to revolutionize the treatment of burn injuries and organ loss.
Read more:Atom Bomb
Check your knowledge
Answer. Nanotechnology refers to the field of science and engineering that involves manipulating atoms and molecules at nanoscales in order to create structures, devices, and systems.
Answer. Richard Feynman
Answers. Carbon-based, metal-based, dendrimers, and nanocomposites