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Nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Nanotechnology (“nanotech”) is manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale. The earliest, widespread description of nanotechnology[1][2] referred to the particular technological goal of precisely manipulating atoms and molecules for fabrication of macroscale products, also now referred to as molecular nanotechnology. A more generalized description of nanotechnology was subsequently established by the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which defines nanotechnology as the manipulation of matter with at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers. This definition reflects the fact that quantum mechanical effects are important at this quantum-realm scale, and so the definition shifted from a particular technological goal to a research category inclusive of all types of research and technologies that deal with the special properties of matter which occur below the given size threshold. It is therefore common to see the plural form “nanotechnologies” as well as “nanoscale technologies” to refer to the broad range of research and applications whose common trait is size. Because of the variety of potential applications (including industrial and military), governments have invested billions of dollars in nanotechnology research. Through 2012, the USA has invested $3.7 billion using its National Nanotechnology Initiative, the European Union has invested $1.2 billion, and Japan has invested $750 million.[3]

Nanotechnology as defined by size is naturally very broad, including fields of science as diverse as surface science, organic chemistry, molecular biology, semiconductor physics, energy storage,[4][5] microfabrication,[6] molecular engineering, etc.[7] The associated research and applications are equally diverse, ranging from extensions of conventional device physics to completely new approaches based upon molecular self-assembly,[8] from developing new materials with dimensions on the nanoscale to direct control of matter on the atomic scale.

Scientists currently debate the future implications of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology may be able to create many new materials and devices with a vast range of applications, such as in nanomedicine, nanoelectronics, biomaterials energy production, and consumer products. On the other hand, nanotechnology raises many of the same issues as any new technology, including concerns about the toxicity and environmental impact of nanomaterials,[9] and their potential effects on global economics, as well as speculation about various doomsday scenarios. These concerns have led to a debate among advocacy groups and governments on whether special regulation of nanotechnology is warranted.

The concepts that seeded nanotechnology were first discussed in 1959 by renowned physicist Richard Feynman in his talk There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom, in which he described the possibility of synthesis via direct manipulation of atoms. The term “nano-technology” was first used by Norio Taniguchi in 1974, though it was not widely known.

Inspired by Feynman’s concepts, K. Eric Drexler used the term “nanotechnology” in his 1986 book Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology, which proposed the idea of a nanoscale “assembler” which would be able to build a copy of itself and of other items of arbitrary complexity with atomic control. Also in 1986, Drexler co-founded The Foresight Institute (with which he is no longer affiliated) to help increase public awareness and understanding of nanotechnology concepts and implications.

Thus, emergence of nanotechnology as a field in the 1980s occurred through convergence of Drexler’s theoretical and public work, which developed and popularized a conceptual framework for nanotechnology, and high-visibility experimental advances that drew additional wide-scale attention to the prospects of atomic control of matter. In the 1980s, two major breakthroughs sparked the growth of nanotechnology in modern era.

First, the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope in 1981 which provided unprecedented visualization of individual atoms and bonds, and was successfully used to manipulate individual atoms in 1989. The microscope’s developers Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer at IBM Zurich Research Laboratory received a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986.[10][11] Binnig, Quate and Gerber also invented the analogous atomic force microscope that year.

Second, Fullerenes were discovered in 1985 by Harry Kroto, Richard Smalley, and Robert Curl, who together won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.[12][13] C60 was not initially described as nanotechnology; the term was used regarding subsequent work with related graphene tubes (called carbon nanotubes and sometimes called Bucky tubes) which suggested potential applications for nanoscale electronics and devices.

In the early 2000s, the field garnered increased scientific, political, and commercial attention that led to both controversy and progress. Controversies emerged regarding the definitions and potential implications of nanotechnologies, exemplified by the Royal Society’s report on nanotechnology.[14] Challenges were raised regarding the feasibility of applications envisioned by advocates of molecular nanotechnology, which culminated in a public debate between Drexler and Smalley in 2001 and 2003.[15]

Meanwhile, commercialization of products based on advancements in nanoscale technologies began emerging. These products are limited to bulk applications of nanomaterials and do not involve atomic control of matter. Some examples include the Silver Nano platform for using silver nanoparticles as an antibacterial agent, nanoparticle-based transparent sunscreens, carbon fiber strengthening using silica nanoparticles, and carbon nanotubes for stain-resistant textiles.[16][17]

Governments moved to promote and fund research into nanotechnology, such as in the U.S. with the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which formalized a size-based definition of nanotechnology and established funding for research on the nanoscale, and in Europe via the European Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development.

By the mid-2000s new and serious scientific attention began to flourish. Projects emerged to produce nanotechnology roadmaps[18][19] which center on atomically precise manipulation of matter and discuss existing and projected capabilities, goals, and applications.

Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale. This covers both current work and concepts that are more advanced. In its original sense, nanotechnology refers to the projected ability to construct items from the bottom up, using techniques and tools being developed today to make complete, high performance products.

One nanometer (nm) is one billionth, or 109, of a meter. By comparison, typical carbon-carbon bond lengths, or the spacing between these atoms in a molecule, are in the range 0.120.15 nm, and a DNA double-helix has a diameter around 2nm. On the other hand, the smallest cellular life-forms, the bacteria of the genus Mycoplasma, are around 200nm in length. By convention, nanotechnology is taken as the scale range 1 to 100 nm following the definition used by the National Nanotechnology Initiative in the US. The lower limit is set by the size of atoms (hydrogen has the smallest atoms, which are approximately a quarter of a nm kinetic diameter) since nanotechnology must build its devices from atoms and molecules. The upper limit is more or less arbitrary but is around the size below which phenomena not observed in larger structures start to become apparent and can be made use of in the nano device.[20] These new phenomena make nanotechnology distinct from devices which are merely miniaturised versions of an equivalent macroscopic device; such devices are on a larger scale and come under the description of microtechnology.[21]

To put that scale in another context, the comparative size of a nanometer to a meter is the same as that of a marble to the size of the earth.[22] Or another way of putting it: a nanometer is the amount an average man’s beard grows in the time it takes him to raise the razor to his face.[22]

Two main approaches are used in nanotechnology. In the “bottom-up” approach, materials and devices are built from molecular components which assemble themselves chemically by principles of molecular recognition.[23] In the “top-down” approach, nano-objects are constructed from larger entities without atomic-level control.[24]

Areas of physics such as nanoelectronics, nanomechanics, nanophotonics and nanoionics have evolved during the last few decades to provide a basic scientific foundation of nanotechnology.

Several phenomena become pronounced as the size of the system decreases. These include statistical mechanical effects, as well as quantum mechanical effects, for example the “quantum size effect” where the electronic properties of solids are altered with great reductions in particle size. This effect does not come into play by going from macro to micro dimensions. However, quantum effects can become significant when the nanometer size range is reached, typically at distances of 100 nanometers or less, the so-called quantum realm. Additionally, a number of physical (mechanical, electrical, optical, etc.) properties change when compared to macroscopic systems. One example is the increase in surface area to volume ratio altering mechanical, thermal and catalytic properties of materials. Diffusion and reactions at nanoscale, nanostructures materials and nanodevices with fast ion transport are generally referred to nanoionics. Mechanical properties of nanosystems are of interest in the nanomechanics research. The catalytic activity of nanomaterials also opens potential risks in their interaction with biomaterials.

Materials reduced to the nanoscale can show different properties compared to what they exhibit on a macroscale, enabling unique applications. For instance, opaque substances can become transparent (copper); stable materials can turn combustible (aluminium); insoluble materials may become soluble (gold). A material such as gold, which is chemically inert at normal scales, can serve as a potent chemical catalyst at nanoscales. Much of the fascination with nanotechnology stems from these quantum and surface phenomena that matter exhibits at the nanoscale.[25]

Modern synthetic chemistry has reached the point where it is possible to prepare small molecules to almost any structure. These methods are used today to manufacture a wide variety of useful chemicals such as pharmaceuticals or commercial polymers. This ability raises the question of extending this kind of control to the next-larger level, seeking methods to assemble these single molecules into supramolecular assemblies consisting of many molecules arranged in a well defined manner.

These approaches utilize the concepts of molecular self-assembly and/or supramolecular chemistry to automatically arrange themselves into some useful conformation through a bottom-up approach. The concept of molecular recognition is especially important: molecules can be designed so that a specific configuration or arrangement is favored due to non-covalent intermolecular forces. The WatsonCrick basepairing rules are a direct result of this, as is the specificity of an enzyme being targeted to a single substrate, or the specific folding of the protein itself. Thus, two or more components can be designed to be complementary and mutually attractive so that they make a more complex and useful whole.

Such bottom-up approaches should be capable of producing devices in parallel and be much cheaper than top-down methods, but could potentially be overwhelmed as the size and complexity of the desired assembly increases. Most useful structures require complex and thermodynamically unlikely arrangements of atoms. Nevertheless, there are many examples of self-assembly based on molecular recognition in biology, most notably WatsonCrick basepairing and enzyme-substrate interactions. The challenge for nanotechnology is whether these principles can be used to engineer new constructs in addition to natural ones.

Molecular nanotechnology, sometimes called molecular manufacturing, describes engineered nanosystems (nanoscale machines) operating on the molecular scale. Molecular nanotechnology is especially associated with the molecular assembler, a machine that can produce a desired structure or device atom-by-atom using the principles of mechanosynthesis. Manufacturing in the context of productive nanosystems is not related to, and should be clearly distinguished from, the conventional technologies used to manufacture nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes and nanoparticles.

When the term “nanotechnology” was independently coined and popularized by Eric Drexler (who at the time was unaware of an earlier usage by Norio Taniguchi) it referred to a future manufacturing technology based on molecular machine systems. The premise was that molecular scale biological analogies of traditional machine components demonstrated molecular machines were possible: by the countless examples found in biology, it is known that sophisticated, stochastically optimised biological machines can be produced.

It is hoped that developments in nanotechnology will make possible their construction by some other means, perhaps using biomimetic principles. However, Drexler and other researchers[26] have proposed that advanced nanotechnology, although perhaps initially implemented by biomimetic means, ultimately could be based on mechanical engineering principles, namely, a manufacturing technology based on the mechanical functionality of these components (such as gears, bearings, motors, and structural members) that would enable programmable, positional assembly to atomic specification.[27] The physics and engineering performance of exemplar designs were analyzed in Drexler’s book Nanosystems.

In general it is very difficult to assemble devices on the atomic scale, as one has to position atoms on other atoms of comparable size and stickiness. Another view, put forth by Carlo Montemagno,[28] is that future nanosystems will be hybrids of silicon technology and biological molecular machines. Richard Smalley argued that mechanosynthesis are impossible due to the difficulties in mechanically manipulating individual molecules.

This led to an exchange of letters in the ACS publication Chemical & Engineering News in 2003.[29] Though biology clearly demonstrates that molecular machine systems are possible, non-biological molecular machines are today only in their infancy. Leaders in research on non-biological molecular machines are Dr. Alex Zettl and his colleagues at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories and UC Berkeley.[1] They have constructed at least three distinct molecular devices whose motion is controlled from the desktop with changing voltage: a nanotube nanomotor, a molecular actuator,[30] and a nanoelectromechanical relaxation oscillator.[31] See nanotube nanomotor for more examples.

An experiment indicating that positional molecular assembly is possible was performed by Ho and Lee at Cornell University in 1999. They used a scanning tunneling microscope to move an individual carbon monoxide molecule (CO) to an individual iron atom (Fe) sitting on a flat silver crystal, and chemically bound the CO to the Fe by applying a voltage.

The nanomaterials field includes subfields which develop or study materials having unique properties arising from their nanoscale dimensions.[34]

These seek to arrange smaller components into more complex assemblies.

These seek to create smaller devices by using larger ones to direct their assembly.

These seek to develop components of a desired functionality without regard to how they might be assembled.

These subfields seek to anticipate what inventions nanotechnology might yield, or attempt to propose an agenda along which inquiry might progress. These often take a big-picture view of nanotechnology, with more emphasis on its societal implications than the details of how such inventions could actually be created.

Nanomaterials can be classified in 0D, 1D, 2D and 3D nanomaterials. The dimensionality play a major role in determining the characteristic of nanomaterials including physical, chemical and biological characteristics. With the decrease in dimensionality, an increase in surface-to-volume ratio is observed. This indicate that smaller dimensional nanomaterials have higher surface area compared to 3D nanomaterials. Recently, two dimensional (2D) nanomaterials are extensively investigated for electronic, biomedical, drug delivery and biosensor applications.

There are several important modern developments. The atomic force microscope (AFM) and the Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM) are two early versions of scanning probes that launched nanotechnology. There are other types of scanning probe microscopy. Although conceptually similar to the scanning confocal microscope developed by Marvin Minsky in 1961 and the scanning acoustic microscope (SAM) developed by Calvin Quate and coworkers in the 1970s, newer scanning probe microscopes have much higher resolution, since they are not limited by the wavelength of sound or light.

The tip of a scanning probe can also be used to manipulate nanostructures (a process called positional assembly). Feature-oriented scanning methodology may be a promising way to implement these nanomanipulations in automatic mode.[52][53] However, this is still a slow process because of low scanning velocity of the microscope.

Various techniques of nanolithography such as optical lithography, X-ray lithography, dip pen nanolithography, electron beam lithography or nanoimprint lithography were also developed. Lithography is a top-down fabrication technique where a bulk material is reduced in size to nanoscale pattern.

Another group of nanotechnological techniques include those used for fabrication of nanotubes and nanowires, those used in semiconductor fabrication such as deep ultraviolet lithography, electron beam lithography, focused ion beam machining, nanoimprint lithography, atomic layer deposition, and molecular vapor deposition, and further including molecular self-assembly techniques such as those employing di-block copolymers. The precursors of these techniques preceded the nanotech era, and are extensions in the development of scientific advancements rather than techniques which were devised with the sole purpose of creating nanotechnology and which were results of nanotechnology research.[54]

The top-down approach anticipates nanodevices that must be built piece by piece in stages, much as manufactured items are made. Scanning probe microscopy is an important technique both for characterization and synthesis of nanomaterials. Atomic force microscopes and scanning tunneling microscopes can be used to look at surfaces and to move atoms around. By designing different tips for these microscopes, they can be used for carving out structures on surfaces and to help guide self-assembling structures. By using, for example, feature-oriented scanning approach, atoms or molecules can be moved around on a surface with scanning probe microscopy techniques.[52][53] At present, it is expensive and time-consuming for mass production but very suitable for laboratory experimentation.

In contrast, bottom-up techniques build or grow larger structures atom by atom or molecule by molecule. These techniques include chemical synthesis, self-assembly and positional assembly. Dual polarisation interferometry is one tool suitable for characterisation of self assembled thin films. Another variation of the bottom-up approach is molecular beam epitaxy or MBE. Researchers at Bell Telephone Laboratories like John R. Arthur. Alfred Y. Cho, and Art C. Gossard developed and implemented MBE as a research tool in the late 1960s and 1970s. Samples made by MBE were key to the discovery of the fractional quantum Hall effect for which the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded. MBE allows scientists to lay down atomically precise layers of atoms and, in the process, build up complex structures. Important for research on semiconductors, MBE is also widely used to make samples and devices for the newly emerging field of spintronics.

However, new therapeutic products, based on responsive nanomaterials, such as the ultradeformable, stress-sensitive Transfersome vesicles, are under development and already approved for human use in some countries.[55]

As of August 21, 2008, the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies estimates that over 800 manufacturer-identified nanotech products are publicly available, with new ones hitting the market at a pace of 34 per week.[17] The project lists all of the products in a publicly accessible online database. Most applications are limited to the use of “first generation” passive nanomaterials which includes titanium dioxide in sunscreen, cosmetics, surface coatings,[56] and some food products; Carbon allotropes used to produce gecko tape; silver in food packaging, clothing, disinfectants and household appliances; zinc oxide in sunscreens and cosmetics, surface coatings, paints and outdoor furniture varnishes; and cerium oxide as a fuel catalyst.[16]

Further applications allow tennis balls to last longer, golf balls to fly straighter, and even bowling balls to become more durable and have a harder surface. Trousers and socks have been infused with nanotechnology so that they will last longer and keep people cool in the summer. Bandages are being infused with silver nanoparticles to heal cuts faster.[57] Video game consoles and personal computers may become cheaper, faster, and contain more memory thanks to nanotechnology.[58] Also, to build structures for on chip computing with light, for example on chip optical quantum information processing, and picosecond transmission of information.[59]

Nanotechnology may have the ability to make existing medical applications cheaper and easier to use in places like the general practitioner’s office and at home.[60] Cars are being manufactured with nanomaterials so they may need fewer metals and less fuel to operate in the future.[61]

Scientists are now turning to nanotechnology in an attempt to develop diesel engines with cleaner exhaust fumes. Platinum is currently used as the diesel engine catalyst in these engines. The catalyst is what cleans the exhaust fume particles. First a reduction catalyst is employed to take nitrogen atoms from NOx molecules in order to free oxygen. Next the oxidation catalyst oxidizes the hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide to form carbon dioxide and water.[62] Platinum is used in both the reduction and the oxidation catalysts.[63] Using platinum though, is inefficient in that it is expensive and unsustainable. Danish company InnovationsFonden invested DKK 15 million in a search for new catalyst substitutes using nanotechnology. The goal of the project, launched in the autumn of 2014, is to maximize surface area and minimize the amount of material required. Objects tend to minimize their surface energy; two drops of water, for example, will join to form one drop and decrease surface area. If the catalyst’s surface area that is exposed to the exhaust fumes is maximized, efficiency of the catalyst is maximized. The team working on this project aims to create nanoparticles that will not merge. Every time the surface is optimized, material is saved. Thus, creating these nanoparticles will increase the effectiveness of the resulting diesel engine catalystin turn leading to cleaner exhaust fumesand will decrease cost. If successful, the team hopes to reduce platinum use by 25%.[64]

Nanotechnology also has a prominent role in the fast developing field of Tissue Engineering. When designing scaffolds, researchers attempt to the mimic the nanoscale features of a Cell’s microenvironment to direct its differentiation down a suitable lineage.[65] For example, when creating scaffolds to support the growth of bone, researchers may mimic osteoclast resorption pits.[66]

Researchers have successfully used DNA origami-based nanobots capable of carrying out logic functions to achieve targeted drug delivery in cockroaches. It is said that the computational power of these nanobots can be scaled up to that of a Commodore 64.[67]

An area of concern is the effect that industrial-scale manufacturing and use of nanomaterials would have on human health and the environment, as suggested by nanotoxicology research. For these reasons, some groups advocate that nanotechnology be regulated by governments. Others counter that overregulation would stifle scientific research and the development of beneficial innovations. Public health research agencies, such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are actively conducting research on potential health effects stemming from exposures to nanoparticles.[68][69]

Some nanoparticle products may have unintended consequences. Researchers have discovered that bacteriostatic silver nanoparticles used in socks to reduce foot odor are being released in the wash.[70] These particles are then flushed into the waste water stream and may destroy bacteria which are critical components of natural ecosystems, farms, and waste treatment processes.[71]

Public deliberations on risk perception in the US and UK carried out by the Center for Nanotechnology in Society found that participants were more positive about nanotechnologies for energy applications than for health applications, with health applications raising moral and ethical dilemmas such as cost and availability.[72]

Experts, including director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies David Rejeski, have testified[73] that successful commercialization depends on adequate oversight, risk research strategy, and public engagement. Berkeley, California is currently the only city in the United States to regulate nanotechnology;[74] Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2008 considered enacting a similar law,[75] but ultimately rejected it.[76] Relevant for both research on and application of nanotechnologies, the insurability of nanotechnology is contested.[77] Without state regulation of nanotechnology, the availability of private insurance for potential damages is seen as necessary to ensure that burdens are not socialised implicitly.

Nanofibers are used in several areas and in different products, in everything from aircraft wings to tennis rackets. Inhaling airborne nanoparticles and nanofibers may lead to a number of pulmonary diseases, e.g. fibrosis.[78] Researchers have found that when rats breathed in nanoparticles, the particles settled in the brain and lungs, which led to significant increases in biomarkers for inflammation and stress response[79] and that nanoparticles induce skin aging through oxidative stress in hairless mice.[80][81]

A two-year study at UCLA’s School of Public Health found lab mice consuming nano-titanium dioxide showed DNA and chromosome damage to a degree “linked to all the big killers of man, namely cancer, heart disease, neurological disease and aging”.[82]

A major study published more recently in Nature Nanotechnology suggests some forms of carbon nanotubes a poster child for the “nanotechnology revolution” could be as harmful as asbestos if inhaled in sufficient quantities. Anthony Seaton of the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh, Scotland, who contributed to the article on carbon nanotubes said “We know that some of them probably have the potential to cause mesothelioma. So those sorts of materials need to be handled very carefully.”[83] In the absence of specific regulation forthcoming from governments, Paull and Lyons (2008) have called for an exclusion of engineered nanoparticles in food.[84] A newspaper article reports that workers in a paint factory developed serious lung disease and nanoparticles were found in their lungs.[85][86][87][88]

Calls for tighter regulation of nanotechnology have occurred alongside a growing debate related to the human health and safety risks of nanotechnology.[89] There is significant debate about who is responsible for the regulation of nanotechnology. Some regulatory agencies currently cover some nanotechnology products and processes (to varying degrees) by “bolting on” nanotechnology to existing regulations there are clear gaps in these regimes.[90] Davies (2008) has proposed a regulatory road map describing steps to deal with these shortcomings.[91]

Stakeholders concerned by the lack of a regulatory framework to assess and control risks associated with the release of nanoparticles and nanotubes have drawn parallels with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (“mad cow” disease), thalidomide, genetically modified food,[92] nuclear energy, reproductive technologies, biotechnology, and asbestosis. Dr. Andrew Maynard, chief science advisor to the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, concludes that there is insufficient funding for human health and safety research, and as a result there is currently limited understanding of the human health and safety risks associated with nanotechnology.[93] As a result, some academics have called for stricter application of the precautionary principle, with delayed marketing approval, enhanced labelling and additional safety data development requirements in relation to certain forms of nanotechnology.[94][95]

The Royal Society report[14] identified a risk of nanoparticles or nanotubes being released during disposal, destruction and recycling, and recommended that “manufacturers of products that fall under extended producer responsibility regimes such as end-of-life regulations publish procedures outlining how these materials will be managed to minimize possible human and environmental exposure” (p. xiii).

The Center for Nanotechnology in Society has found that people respond to nanotechnologies differently, depending on application with participants in public deliberations more positive about nanotechnologies for energy than health applications suggesting that any public calls for nano regulations may differ by technology sector.[72]

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Nanotechnology – Wikipedia

NanoTech Institute – The University of Texas at Dallas

Guided by theory and enabled by synthesis, the NanoTech Institute develops new science and technology exploiting the nanoscale.

Our researchers inspire students by creating an atmosphere of excitement, fun, and creativity.

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The University of Texas at Dallas [ Recipient’s Name ] * The Alan G MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute, BE 26 800 West Campbell Road Richardson, TX 75080-3021

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On August 20th, the 2013 class of NanoExplorers will presenting their research that they conducted along the researchers of the NanoTech Institute. See this flyer for more information. See the schedule here.

An article covering Ali Aliev’s and his collegues work on carbon nanotube thermoacustic transducers has been put online. You can read the whole article here.

The faculty, staff, and students of the Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute at The University of Texas at Dallas welcome the 2013 class of NanoExplorers. We had over 200 highly qualified applicants this year. (see more)

The talk is devoted to recent achievements made by our Russian (NUST MISiS, Moscow) and French (G2Elab, Grenoble) groups in application of original shape memory composites for both microactuation and thermal energy harvesting. Novel prestrained scheme of shape memory composite allows creating actuators able to giant reversible bending deformation. (see more)

The faculty, staff, and students of the Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute at The University of Texas at Dallas welcome the 2012 class of NanoExplorers. We had over 200 highly qualified applicants this year. (see more)

Read about former NanoExplorer Amy Chyao and her work at UT Dallas

Experience the collaboration of the NanoTech Institute with the University of Guanajuato (Guanajuato, Mexico) through the eyes of Raquel Ovalle Robles.

Discover the NanoTech Institute’s work through its library of publications.

Use the NanoTech Institute’s facilities to conduct cutting-edge research.

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NanoTech Institute – The University of Texas at Dallas

Nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Nanotechnology (“nanotech”) is manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale. The earliest, widespread description of nanotechnology[1][2] referred to the particular technological goal of precisely manipulating atoms and molecules for fabrication of macroscale products, also now referred to as molecular nanotechnology. A more generalized description of nanotechnology was subsequently established by the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which defines nanotechnology as the manipulation of matter with at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers. This definition reflects the fact that quantum mechanical effects are important at this quantum-realm scale, and so the definition shifted from a particular technological goal to a research category inclusive of all types of research and technologies that deal with the special properties of matter which occur below the given size threshold. It is therefore common to see the plural form “nanotechnologies” as well as “nanoscale technologies” to refer to the broad range of research and applications whose common trait is size. Because of the variety of potential applications (including industrial and military), governments have invested billions of dollars in nanotechnology research. Through 2012, the USA has invested $3.7 billion using its National Nanotechnology Initiative, the European Union has invested $1.2 billion, and Japan has invested $750 million.[3]

Nanotechnology as defined by size is naturally very broad, including fields of science as diverse as surface science, organic chemistry, molecular biology, semiconductor physics, energy storage,[4][5] microfabrication,[6] molecular engineering, etc.[7] The associated research and applications are equally diverse, ranging from extensions of conventional device physics to completely new approaches based upon molecular self-assembly,[8] from developing new materials with dimensions on the nanoscale to direct control of matter on the atomic scale.

Scientists currently debate the future implications of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology may be able to create many new materials and devices with a vast range of applications, such as in nanomedicine, nanoelectronics, biomaterials energy production, and consumer products. On the other hand, nanotechnology raises many of the same issues as any new technology, including concerns about the toxicity and environmental impact of nanomaterials,[9] and their potential effects on global economics, as well as speculation about various doomsday scenarios. These concerns have led to a debate among advocacy groups and governments on whether special regulation of nanotechnology is warranted.

The concepts that seeded nanotechnology were first discussed in 1959 by renowned physicist Richard Feynman in his talk There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom, in which he described the possibility of synthesis via direct manipulation of atoms. The term “nano-technology” was first used by Norio Taniguchi in 1974, though it was not widely known.

Inspired by Feynman’s concepts, K. Eric Drexler used the term “nanotechnology” in his 1986 book Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology, which proposed the idea of a nanoscale “assembler” which would be able to build a copy of itself and of other items of arbitrary complexity with atomic control. Also in 1986, Drexler co-founded The Foresight Institute (with which he is no longer affiliated) to help increase public awareness and understanding of nanotechnology concepts and implications.

Thus, emergence of nanotechnology as a field in the 1980s occurred through convergence of Drexler’s theoretical and public work, which developed and popularized a conceptual framework for nanotechnology, and high-visibility experimental advances that drew additional wide-scale attention to the prospects of atomic control of matter. In the 1980s, two major breakthroughs sparked the growth of nanotechnology in modern era.

First, the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope in 1981 which provided unprecedented visualization of individual atoms and bonds, and was successfully used to manipulate individual atoms in 1989. The microscope’s developers Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer at IBM Zurich Research Laboratory received a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986.[10][11] Binnig, Quate and Gerber also invented the analogous atomic force microscope that year.

Second, Fullerenes were discovered in 1985 by Harry Kroto, Richard Smalley, and Robert Curl, who together won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.[12][13] C60 was not initially described as nanotechnology; the term was used regarding subsequent work with related graphene tubes (called carbon nanotubes and sometimes called Bucky tubes) which suggested potential applications for nanoscale electronics and devices.

In the early 2000s, the field garnered increased scientific, political, and commercial attention that led to both controversy and progress. Controversies emerged regarding the definitions and potential implications of nanotechnologies, exemplified by the Royal Society’s report on nanotechnology.[14] Challenges were raised regarding the feasibility of applications envisioned by advocates of molecular nanotechnology, which culminated in a public debate between Drexler and Smalley in 2001 and 2003.[15]

Meanwhile, commercialization of products based on advancements in nanoscale technologies began emerging. These products are limited to bulk applications of nanomaterials and do not involve atomic control of matter. Some examples include the Silver Nano platform for using silver nanoparticles as an antibacterial agent, nanoparticle-based transparent sunscreens, carbon fiber strengthening using silica nanoparticles, and carbon nanotubes for stain-resistant textiles.[16][17]

Governments moved to promote and fund research into nanotechnology, such as in the U.S. with the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which formalized a size-based definition of nanotechnology and established funding for research on the nanoscale, and in Europe via the European Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development.

By the mid-2000s new and serious scientific attention began to flourish. Projects emerged to produce nanotechnology roadmaps[18][19] which center on atomically precise manipulation of matter and discuss existing and projected capabilities, goals, and applications.

Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale. This covers both current work and concepts that are more advanced. In its original sense, nanotechnology refers to the projected ability to construct items from the bottom up, using techniques and tools being developed today to make complete, high performance products.

One nanometer (nm) is one billionth, or 109, of a meter. By comparison, typical carbon-carbon bond lengths, or the spacing between these atoms in a molecule, are in the range 0.120.15 nm, and a DNA double-helix has a diameter around 2nm. On the other hand, the smallest cellular life-forms, the bacteria of the genus Mycoplasma, are around 200nm in length. By convention, nanotechnology is taken as the scale range 1 to 100 nm following the definition used by the National Nanotechnology Initiative in the US. The lower limit is set by the size of atoms (hydrogen has the smallest atoms, which are approximately a quarter of a nm kinetic diameter) since nanotechnology must build its devices from atoms and molecules. The upper limit is more or less arbitrary but is around the size below which phenomena not observed in larger structures start to become apparent and can be made use of in the nano device.[20] These new phenomena make nanotechnology distinct from devices which are merely miniaturised versions of an equivalent macroscopic device; such devices are on a larger scale and come under the description of microtechnology.[21]

To put that scale in another context, the comparative size of a nanometer to a meter is the same as that of a marble to the size of the earth.[22] Or another way of putting it: a nanometer is the amount an average man’s beard grows in the time it takes him to raise the razor to his face.[22]

Two main approaches are used in nanotechnology. In the “bottom-up” approach, materials and devices are built from molecular components which assemble themselves chemically by principles of molecular recognition.[23] In the “top-down” approach, nano-objects are constructed from larger entities without atomic-level control.[24]

Areas of physics such as nanoelectronics, nanomechanics, nanophotonics and nanoionics have evolved during the last few decades to provide a basic scientific foundation of nanotechnology.

Several phenomena become pronounced as the size of the system decreases. These include statistical mechanical effects, as well as quantum mechanical effects, for example the “quantum size effect” where the electronic properties of solids are altered with great reductions in particle size. This effect does not come into play by going from macro to micro dimensions. However, quantum effects can become significant when the nanometer size range is reached, typically at distances of 100 nanometers or less, the so-called quantum realm. Additionally, a number of physical (mechanical, electrical, optical, etc.) properties change when compared to macroscopic systems. One example is the increase in surface area to volume ratio altering mechanical, thermal and catalytic properties of materials. Diffusion and reactions at nanoscale, nanostructures materials and nanodevices with fast ion transport are generally referred to nanoionics. Mechanical properties of nanosystems are of interest in the nanomechanics research. The catalytic activity of nanomaterials also opens potential risks in their interaction with biomaterials.

Materials reduced to the nanoscale can show different properties compared to what they exhibit on a macroscale, enabling unique applications. For instance, opaque substances can become transparent (copper); stable materials can turn combustible (aluminium); insoluble materials may become soluble (gold). A material such as gold, which is chemically inert at normal scales, can serve as a potent chemical catalyst at nanoscales. Much of the fascination with nanotechnology stems from these quantum and surface phenomena that matter exhibits at the nanoscale.[25]

Modern synthetic chemistry has reached the point where it is possible to prepare small molecules to almost any structure. These methods are used today to manufacture a wide variety of useful chemicals such as pharmaceuticals or commercial polymers. This ability raises the question of extending this kind of control to the next-larger level, seeking methods to assemble these single molecules into supramolecular assemblies consisting of many molecules arranged in a well defined manner.

These approaches utilize the concepts of molecular self-assembly and/or supramolecular chemistry to automatically arrange themselves into some useful conformation through a bottom-up approach. The concept of molecular recognition is especially important: molecules can be designed so that a specific configuration or arrangement is favored due to non-covalent intermolecular forces. The WatsonCrick basepairing rules are a direct result of this, as is the specificity of an enzyme being targeted to a single substrate, or the specific folding of the protein itself. Thus, two or more components can be designed to be complementary and mutually attractive so that they make a more complex and useful whole.

Such bottom-up approaches should be capable of producing devices in parallel and be much cheaper than top-down methods, but could potentially be overwhelmed as the size and complexity of the desired assembly increases. Most useful structures require complex and thermodynamically unlikely arrangements of atoms. Nevertheless, there are many examples of self-assembly based on molecular recognition in biology, most notably WatsonCrick basepairing and enzyme-substrate interactions. The challenge for nanotechnology is whether these principles can be used to engineer new constructs in addition to natural ones.

Molecular nanotechnology, sometimes called molecular manufacturing, describes engineered nanosystems (nanoscale machines) operating on the molecular scale. Molecular nanotechnology is especially associated with the molecular assembler, a machine that can produce a desired structure or device atom-by-atom using the principles of mechanosynthesis. Manufacturing in the context of productive nanosystems is not related to, and should be clearly distinguished from, the conventional technologies used to manufacture nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes and nanoparticles.

When the term “nanotechnology” was independently coined and popularized by Eric Drexler (who at the time was unaware of an earlier usage by Norio Taniguchi) it referred to a future manufacturing technology based on molecular machine systems. The premise was that molecular scale biological analogies of traditional machine components demonstrated molecular machines were possible: by the countless examples found in biology, it is known that sophisticated, stochastically optimised biological machines can be produced.

It is hoped that developments in nanotechnology will make possible their construction by some other means, perhaps using biomimetic principles. However, Drexler and other researchers[26] have proposed that advanced nanotechnology, although perhaps initially implemented by biomimetic means, ultimately could be based on mechanical engineering principles, namely, a manufacturing technology based on the mechanical functionality of these components (such as gears, bearings, motors, and structural members) that would enable programmable, positional assembly to atomic specification.[27] The physics and engineering performance of exemplar designs were analyzed in Drexler’s book Nanosystems.

In general it is very difficult to assemble devices on the atomic scale, as one has to position atoms on other atoms of comparable size and stickiness. Another view, put forth by Carlo Montemagno,[28] is that future nanosystems will be hybrids of silicon technology and biological molecular machines. Richard Smalley argued that mechanosynthesis are impossible due to the difficulties in mechanically manipulating individual molecules.

This led to an exchange of letters in the ACS publication Chemical & Engineering News in 2003.[29] Though biology clearly demonstrates that molecular machine systems are possible, non-biological molecular machines are today only in their infancy. Leaders in research on non-biological molecular machines are Dr. Alex Zettl and his colleagues at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories and UC Berkeley.[1] They have constructed at least three distinct molecular devices whose motion is controlled from the desktop with changing voltage: a nanotube nanomotor, a molecular actuator,[30] and a nanoelectromechanical relaxation oscillator.[31] See nanotube nanomotor for more examples.

An experiment indicating that positional molecular assembly is possible was performed by Ho and Lee at Cornell University in 1999. They used a scanning tunneling microscope to move an individual carbon monoxide molecule (CO) to an individual iron atom (Fe) sitting on a flat silver crystal, and chemically bound the CO to the Fe by applying a voltage.

The nanomaterials field includes subfields which develop or study materials having unique properties arising from their nanoscale dimensions.[34]

These seek to arrange smaller components into more complex assemblies.

These seek to create smaller devices by using larger ones to direct their assembly.

These seek to develop components of a desired functionality without regard to how they might be assembled.

These subfields seek to anticipate what inventions nanotechnology might yield, or attempt to propose an agenda along which inquiry might progress. These often take a big-picture view of nanotechnology, with more emphasis on its societal implications than the details of how such inventions could actually be created.

Nanomaterials can be classified in 0D, 1D, 2D and 3D nanomaterials. The dimensionality play a major role in determining the characteristic of nanomaterials including physical, chemical and biological characteristics. With the decrease in dimensionality, an increase in surface-to-volume ratio is observed. This indicate that smaller dimensional nanomaterials have higher surface area compared to 3D nanomaterials. Recently, two dimensional (2D) nanomaterials are extensively investigated for electronic, biomedical, drug delivery and biosensor applications.

There are several important modern developments. The atomic force microscope (AFM) and the Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM) are two early versions of scanning probes that launched nanotechnology. There are other types of scanning probe microscopy. Although conceptually similar to the scanning confocal microscope developed by Marvin Minsky in 1961 and the scanning acoustic microscope (SAM) developed by Calvin Quate and coworkers in the 1970s, newer scanning probe microscopes have much higher resolution, since they are not limited by the wavelength of sound or light.

The tip of a scanning probe can also be used to manipulate nanostructures (a process called positional assembly). Feature-oriented scanning methodology may be a promising way to implement these nanomanipulations in automatic mode.[52][53] However, this is still a slow process because of low scanning velocity of the microscope.

Various techniques of nanolithography such as optical lithography, X-ray lithography, dip pen nanolithography, electron beam lithography or nanoimprint lithography were also developed. Lithography is a top-down fabrication technique where a bulk material is reduced in size to nanoscale pattern.

Another group of nanotechnological techniques include those used for fabrication of nanotubes and nanowires, those used in semiconductor fabrication such as deep ultraviolet lithography, electron beam lithography, focused ion beam machining, nanoimprint lithography, atomic layer deposition, and molecular vapor deposition, and further including molecular self-assembly techniques such as those employing di-block copolymers. The precursors of these techniques preceded the nanotech era, and are extensions in the development of scientific advancements rather than techniques which were devised with the sole purpose of creating nanotechnology and which were results of nanotechnology research.[54]

The top-down approach anticipates nanodevices that must be built piece by piece in stages, much as manufactured items are made. Scanning probe microscopy is an important technique both for characterization and synthesis of nanomaterials. Atomic force microscopes and scanning tunneling microscopes can be used to look at surfaces and to move atoms around. By designing different tips for these microscopes, they can be used for carving out structures on surfaces and to help guide self-assembling structures. By using, for example, feature-oriented scanning approach, atoms or molecules can be moved around on a surface with scanning probe microscopy techniques.[52][53] At present, it is expensive and time-consuming for mass production but very suitable for laboratory experimentation.

In contrast, bottom-up techniques build or grow larger structures atom by atom or molecule by molecule. These techniques include chemical synthesis, self-assembly and positional assembly. Dual polarisation interferometry is one tool suitable for characterisation of self assembled thin films. Another variation of the bottom-up approach is molecular beam epitaxy or MBE. Researchers at Bell Telephone Laboratories like John R. Arthur. Alfred Y. Cho, and Art C. Gossard developed and implemented MBE as a research tool in the late 1960s and 1970s. Samples made by MBE were key to the discovery of the fractional quantum Hall effect for which the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded. MBE allows scientists to lay down atomically precise layers of atoms and, in the process, build up complex structures. Important for research on semiconductors, MBE is also widely used to make samples and devices for the newly emerging field of spintronics.

However, new therapeutic products, based on responsive nanomaterials, such as the ultradeformable, stress-sensitive Transfersome vesicles, are under development and already approved for human use in some countries.[55]

As of August 21, 2008, the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies estimates that over 800 manufacturer-identified nanotech products are publicly available, with new ones hitting the market at a pace of 34 per week.[17] The project lists all of the products in a publicly accessible online database. Most applications are limited to the use of “first generation” passive nanomaterials which includes titanium dioxide in sunscreen, cosmetics, surface coatings,[56] and some food products; Carbon allotropes used to produce gecko tape; silver in food packaging, clothing, disinfectants and household appliances; zinc oxide in sunscreens and cosmetics, surface coatings, paints and outdoor furniture varnishes; and cerium oxide as a fuel catalyst.[16]

Further applications allow tennis balls to last longer, golf balls to fly straighter, and even bowling balls to become more durable and have a harder surface. Trousers and socks have been infused with nanotechnology so that they will last longer and keep people cool in the summer. Bandages are being infused with silver nanoparticles to heal cuts faster.[57] Video game consoles and personal computers may become cheaper, faster, and contain more memory thanks to nanotechnology.[58] Also, to build structures for on chip computing with light, for example on chip optical quantum information processing, and picosecond transmission of information.[59]

Nanotechnology may have the ability to make existing medical applications cheaper and easier to use in places like the general practitioner’s office and at home.[60] Cars are being manufactured with nanomaterials so they may need fewer metals and less fuel to operate in the future.[61]

Scientists are now turning to nanotechnology in an attempt to develop diesel engines with cleaner exhaust fumes. Platinum is currently used as the diesel engine catalyst in these engines. The catalyst is what cleans the exhaust fume particles. First a reduction catalyst is employed to take nitrogen atoms from NOx molecules in order to free oxygen. Next the oxidation catalyst oxidizes the hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide to form carbon dioxide and water.[62] Platinum is used in both the reduction and the oxidation catalysts.[63] Using platinum though, is inefficient in that it is expensive and unsustainable. Danish company InnovationsFonden invested DKK 15 million in a search for new catalyst substitutes using nanotechnology. The goal of the project, launched in the autumn of 2014, is to maximize surface area and minimize the amount of material required. Objects tend to minimize their surface energy; two drops of water, for example, will join to form one drop and decrease surface area. If the catalyst’s surface area that is exposed to the exhaust fumes is maximized, efficiency of the catalyst is maximized. The team working on this project aims to create nanoparticles that will not merge. Every time the surface is optimized, material is saved. Thus, creating these nanoparticles will increase the effectiveness of the resulting diesel engine catalystin turn leading to cleaner exhaust fumesand will decrease cost. If successful, the team hopes to reduce platinum use by 25%.[64]

Nanotechnology also has a prominent role in the fast developing field of Tissue Engineering. When designing scaffolds, researchers attempt to the mimic the nanoscale features of a Cell’s microenvironment to direct its differentiation down a suitable lineage.[65] For example, when creating scaffolds to support the growth of bone, researchers may mimic osteoclast resorption pits.[66]

Researchers have successfully used DNA origami-based nanobots capable of carrying out logic functions to achieve targeted drug delivery in cockroaches. It is said that the computational power of these nanobots can be scaled up to that of a Commodore 64.[67]

An area of concern is the effect that industrial-scale manufacturing and use of nanomaterials would have on human health and the environment, as suggested by nanotoxicology research. For these reasons, some groups advocate that nanotechnology be regulated by governments. Others counter that overregulation would stifle scientific research and the development of beneficial innovations. Public health research agencies, such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are actively conducting research on potential health effects stemming from exposures to nanoparticles.[68][69]

Some nanoparticle products may have unintended consequences. Researchers have discovered that bacteriostatic silver nanoparticles used in socks to reduce foot odor are being released in the wash.[70] These particles are then flushed into the waste water stream and may destroy bacteria which are critical components of natural ecosystems, farms, and waste treatment processes.[71]

Public deliberations on risk perception in the US and UK carried out by the Center for Nanotechnology in Society found that participants were more positive about nanotechnologies for energy applications than for health applications, with health applications raising moral and ethical dilemmas such as cost and availability.[72]

Experts, including director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies David Rejeski, have testified[73] that successful commercialization depends on adequate oversight, risk research strategy, and public engagement. Berkeley, California is currently the only city in the United States to regulate nanotechnology;[74] Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2008 considered enacting a similar law,[75] but ultimately rejected it.[76] Relevant for both research on and application of nanotechnologies, the insurability of nanotechnology is contested.[77] Without state regulation of nanotechnology, the availability of private insurance for potential damages is seen as necessary to ensure that burdens are not socialised implicitly.

Nanofibers are used in several areas and in different products, in everything from aircraft wings to tennis rackets. Inhaling airborne nanoparticles and nanofibers may lead to a number of pulmonary diseases, e.g. fibrosis.[78] Researchers have found that when rats breathed in nanoparticles, the particles settled in the brain and lungs, which led to significant increases in biomarkers for inflammation and stress response[79] and that nanoparticles induce skin aging through oxidative stress in hairless mice.[80][81]

A two-year study at UCLA’s School of Public Health found lab mice consuming nano-titanium dioxide showed DNA and chromosome damage to a degree “linked to all the big killers of man, namely cancer, heart disease, neurological disease and aging”.[82]

A major study published more recently in Nature Nanotechnology suggests some forms of carbon nanotubes a poster child for the “nanotechnology revolution” could be as harmful as asbestos if inhaled in sufficient quantities. Anthony Seaton of the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh, Scotland, who contributed to the article on carbon nanotubes said “We know that some of them probably have the potential to cause mesothelioma. So those sorts of materials need to be handled very carefully.”[83] In the absence of specific regulation forthcoming from governments, Paull and Lyons (2008) have called for an exclusion of engineered nanoparticles in food.[84] A newspaper article reports that workers in a paint factory developed serious lung disease and nanoparticles were found in their lungs.[85][86][87][88]

Calls for tighter regulation of nanotechnology have occurred alongside a growing debate related to the human health and safety risks of nanotechnology.[89] There is significant debate about who is responsible for the regulation of nanotechnology. Some regulatory agencies currently cover some nanotechnology products and processes (to varying degrees) by “bolting on” nanotechnology to existing regulations there are clear gaps in these regimes.[90] Davies (2008) has proposed a regulatory road map describing steps to deal with these shortcomings.[91]

Stakeholders concerned by the lack of a regulatory framework to assess and control risks associated with the release of nanoparticles and nanotubes have drawn parallels with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (“mad cow” disease), thalidomide, genetically modified food,[92] nuclear energy, reproductive technologies, biotechnology, and asbestosis. Dr. Andrew Maynard, chief science advisor to the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, concludes that there is insufficient funding for human health and safety research, and as a result there is currently limited understanding of the human health and safety risks associated with nanotechnology.[93] As a result, some academics have called for stricter application of the precautionary principle, with delayed marketing approval, enhanced labelling and additional safety data development requirements in relation to certain forms of nanotechnology.[94][95]

The Royal Society report[14] identified a risk of nanoparticles or nanotubes being released during disposal, destruction and recycling, and recommended that “manufacturers of products that fall under extended producer responsibility regimes such as end-of-life regulations publish procedures outlining how these materials will be managed to minimize possible human and environmental exposure” (p. xiii).

The Center for Nanotechnology in Society has found that people respond to nanotechnologies differently, depending on application with participants in public deliberations more positive about nanotechnologies for energy than health applications suggesting that any public calls for nano regulations may differ by technology sector.[72]

Read more:

Nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Nanotechnology (“nanotech”) is manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale. The earliest, widespread description of nanotechnology[1][2] referred to the particular technological goal of precisely manipulating atoms and molecules for fabrication of macroscale products, also now referred to as molecular nanotechnology. A more generalized description of nanotechnology was subsequently established by the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which defines nanotechnology as the manipulation of matter with at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers. This definition reflects the fact that quantum mechanical effects are important at this quantum-realm scale, and so the definition shifted from a particular technological goal to a research category inclusive of all types of research and technologies that deal with the special properties of matter which occur below the given size threshold. It is therefore common to see the plural form “nanotechnologies” as well as “nanoscale technologies” to refer to the broad range of research and applications whose common trait is size. Because of the variety of potential applications (including industrial and military), governments have invested billions of dollars in nanotechnology research. Through 2012, the USA has invested $3.7 billion using its National Nanotechnology Initiative, the European Union has invested $1.2 billion, and Japan has invested $750 million.[3]

Nanotechnology as defined by size is naturally very broad, including fields of science as diverse as surface science, organic chemistry, molecular biology, semiconductor physics, energy storage,[4][5] microfabrication,[6] molecular engineering, etc.[7] The associated research and applications are equally diverse, ranging from extensions of conventional device physics to completely new approaches based upon molecular self-assembly,[8] from developing new materials with dimensions on the nanoscale to direct control of matter on the atomic scale.

Scientists currently debate the future implications of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology may be able to create many new materials and devices with a vast range of applications, such as in nanomedicine, nanoelectronics, biomaterials energy production, and consumer products. On the other hand, nanotechnology raises many of the same issues as any new technology, including concerns about the toxicity and environmental impact of nanomaterials,[9] and their potential effects on global economics, as well as speculation about various doomsday scenarios. These concerns have led to a debate among advocacy groups and governments on whether special regulation of nanotechnology is warranted.

The concepts that seeded nanotechnology were first discussed in 1959 by renowned physicist Richard Feynman in his talk There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom, in which he described the possibility of synthesis via direct manipulation of atoms. The term “nano-technology” was first used by Norio Taniguchi in 1974, though it was not widely known.

Inspired by Feynman’s concepts, K. Eric Drexler used the term “nanotechnology” in his 1986 book Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology, which proposed the idea of a nanoscale “assembler” which would be able to build a copy of itself and of other items of arbitrary complexity with atomic control. Also in 1986, Drexler co-founded The Foresight Institute (with which he is no longer affiliated) to help increase public awareness and understanding of nanotechnology concepts and implications.

Thus, emergence of nanotechnology as a field in the 1980s occurred through convergence of Drexler’s theoretical and public work, which developed and popularized a conceptual framework for nanotechnology, and high-visibility experimental advances that drew additional wide-scale attention to the prospects of atomic control of matter. In the 1980s, two major breakthroughs sparked the growth of nanotechnology in modern era.

First, the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope in 1981 which provided unprecedented visualization of individual atoms and bonds, and was successfully used to manipulate individual atoms in 1989. The microscope’s developers Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer at IBM Zurich Research Laboratory received a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986.[10][11] Binnig, Quate and Gerber also invented the analogous atomic force microscope that year.

Second, Fullerenes were discovered in 1985 by Harry Kroto, Richard Smalley, and Robert Curl, who together won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.[12][13] C60 was not initially described as nanotechnology; the term was used regarding subsequent work with related graphene tubes (called carbon nanotubes and sometimes called Bucky tubes) which suggested potential applications for nanoscale electronics and devices.

In the early 2000s, the field garnered increased scientific, political, and commercial attention that led to both controversy and progress. Controversies emerged regarding the definitions and potential implications of nanotechnologies, exemplified by the Royal Society’s report on nanotechnology.[14] Challenges were raised regarding the feasibility of applications envisioned by advocates of molecular nanotechnology, which culminated in a public debate between Drexler and Smalley in 2001 and 2003.[15]

Meanwhile, commercialization of products based on advancements in nanoscale technologies began emerging. These products are limited to bulk applications of nanomaterials and do not involve atomic control of matter. Some examples include the Silver Nano platform for using silver nanoparticles as an antibacterial agent, nanoparticle-based transparent sunscreens, carbon fiber strengthening using silica nanoparticles, and carbon nanotubes for stain-resistant textiles.[16][17]

Governments moved to promote and fund research into nanotechnology, such as in the U.S. with the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which formalized a size-based definition of nanotechnology and established funding for research on the nanoscale, and in Europe via the European Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development.

By the mid-2000s new and serious scientific attention began to flourish. Projects emerged to produce nanotechnology roadmaps[18][19] which center on atomically precise manipulation of matter and discuss existing and projected capabilities, goals, and applications.

Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale. This covers both current work and concepts that are more advanced. In its original sense, nanotechnology refers to the projected ability to construct items from the bottom up, using techniques and tools being developed today to make complete, high performance products.

One nanometer (nm) is one billionth, or 109, of a meter. By comparison, typical carbon-carbon bond lengths, or the spacing between these atoms in a molecule, are in the range 0.120.15 nm, and a DNA double-helix has a diameter around 2nm. On the other hand, the smallest cellular life-forms, the bacteria of the genus Mycoplasma, are around 200nm in length. By convention, nanotechnology is taken as the scale range 1 to 100 nm following the definition used by the National Nanotechnology Initiative in the US. The lower limit is set by the size of atoms (hydrogen has the smallest atoms, which are approximately a quarter of a nm kinetic diameter) since nanotechnology must build its devices from atoms and molecules. The upper limit is more or less arbitrary but is around the size below which phenomena not observed in larger structures start to become apparent and can be made use of in the nano device.[20] These new phenomena make nanotechnology distinct from devices which are merely miniaturised versions of an equivalent macroscopic device; such devices are on a larger scale and come under the description of microtechnology.[21]

To put that scale in another context, the comparative size of a nanometer to a meter is the same as that of a marble to the size of the earth.[22] Or another way of putting it: a nanometer is the amount an average man’s beard grows in the time it takes him to raise the razor to his face.[22]

Two main approaches are used in nanotechnology. In the “bottom-up” approach, materials and devices are built from molecular components which assemble themselves chemically by principles of molecular recognition.[23] In the “top-down” approach, nano-objects are constructed from larger entities without atomic-level control.[24]

Areas of physics such as nanoelectronics, nanomechanics, nanophotonics and nanoionics have evolved during the last few decades to provide a basic scientific foundation of nanotechnology.

Several phenomena become pronounced as the size of the system decreases. These include statistical mechanical effects, as well as quantum mechanical effects, for example the “quantum size effect” where the electronic properties of solids are altered with great reductions in particle size. This effect does not come into play by going from macro to micro dimensions. However, quantum effects can become significant when the nanometer size range is reached, typically at distances of 100 nanometers or less, the so-called quantum realm. Additionally, a number of physical (mechanical, electrical, optical, etc.) properties change when compared to macroscopic systems. One example is the increase in surface area to volume ratio altering mechanical, thermal and catalytic properties of materials. Diffusion and reactions at nanoscale, nanostructures materials and nanodevices with fast ion transport are generally referred to nanoionics. Mechanical properties of nanosystems are of interest in the nanomechanics research. The catalytic activity of nanomaterials also opens potential risks in their interaction with biomaterials.

Materials reduced to the nanoscale can show different properties compared to what they exhibit on a macroscale, enabling unique applications. For instance, opaque substances can become transparent (copper); stable materials can turn combustible (aluminium); insoluble materials may become soluble (gold). A material such as gold, which is chemically inert at normal scales, can serve as a potent chemical catalyst at nanoscales. Much of the fascination with nanotechnology stems from these quantum and surface phenomena that matter exhibits at the nanoscale.[25]

Modern synthetic chemistry has reached the point where it is possible to prepare small molecules to almost any structure. These methods are used today to manufacture a wide variety of useful chemicals such as pharmaceuticals or commercial polymers. This ability raises the question of extending this kind of control to the next-larger level, seeking methods to assemble these single molecules into supramolecular assemblies consisting of many molecules arranged in a well defined manner.

These approaches utilize the concepts of molecular self-assembly and/or supramolecular chemistry to automatically arrange themselves into some useful conformation through a bottom-up approach. The concept of molecular recognition is especially important: molecules can be designed so that a specific configuration or arrangement is favored due to non-covalent intermolecular forces. The WatsonCrick basepairing rules are a direct result of this, as is the specificity of an enzyme being targeted to a single substrate, or the specific folding of the protein itself. Thus, two or more components can be designed to be complementary and mutually attractive so that they make a more complex and useful whole.

Such bottom-up approaches should be capable of producing devices in parallel and be much cheaper than top-down methods, but could potentially be overwhelmed as the size and complexity of the desired assembly increases. Most useful structures require complex and thermodynamically unlikely arrangements of atoms. Nevertheless, there are many examples of self-assembly based on molecular recognition in biology, most notably WatsonCrick basepairing and enzyme-substrate interactions. The challenge for nanotechnology is whether these principles can be used to engineer new constructs in addition to natural ones.

Molecular nanotechnology, sometimes called molecular manufacturing, describes engineered nanosystems (nanoscale machines) operating on the molecular scale. Molecular nanotechnology is especially associated with the molecular assembler, a machine that can produce a desired structure or device atom-by-atom using the principles of mechanosynthesis. Manufacturing in the context of productive nanosystems is not related to, and should be clearly distinguished from, the conventional technologies used to manufacture nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes and nanoparticles.

When the term “nanotechnology” was independently coined and popularized by Eric Drexler (who at the time was unaware of an earlier usage by Norio Taniguchi) it referred to a future manufacturing technology based on molecular machine systems. The premise was that molecular scale biological analogies of traditional machine components demonstrated molecular machines were possible: by the countless examples found in biology, it is known that sophisticated, stochastically optimised biological machines can be produced.

It is hoped that developments in nanotechnology will make possible their construction by some other means, perhaps using biomimetic principles. However, Drexler and other researchers[26] have proposed that advanced nanotechnology, although perhaps initially implemented by biomimetic means, ultimately could be based on mechanical engineering principles, namely, a manufacturing technology based on the mechanical functionality of these components (such as gears, bearings, motors, and structural members) that would enable programmable, positional assembly to atomic specification.[27] The physics and engineering performance of exemplar designs were analyzed in Drexler’s book Nanosystems.

In general it is very difficult to assemble devices on the atomic scale, as one has to position atoms on other atoms of comparable size and stickiness. Another view, put forth by Carlo Montemagno,[28] is that future nanosystems will be hybrids of silicon technology and biological molecular machines. Richard Smalley argued that mechanosynthesis are impossible due to the difficulties in mechanically manipulating individual molecules.

This led to an exchange of letters in the ACS publication Chemical & Engineering News in 2003.[29] Though biology clearly demonstrates that molecular machine systems are possible, non-biological molecular machines are today only in their infancy. Leaders in research on non-biological molecular machines are Dr. Alex Zettl and his colleagues at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories and UC Berkeley.[1] They have constructed at least three distinct molecular devices whose motion is controlled from the desktop with changing voltage: a nanotube nanomotor, a molecular actuator,[30] and a nanoelectromechanical relaxation oscillator.[31] See nanotube nanomotor for more examples.

An experiment indicating that positional molecular assembly is possible was performed by Ho and Lee at Cornell University in 1999. They used a scanning tunneling microscope to move an individual carbon monoxide molecule (CO) to an individual iron atom (Fe) sitting on a flat silver crystal, and chemically bound the CO to the Fe by applying a voltage.

The nanomaterials field includes subfields which develop or study materials having unique properties arising from their nanoscale dimensions.[34]

These seek to arrange smaller components into more complex assemblies.

These seek to create smaller devices by using larger ones to direct their assembly.

These seek to develop components of a desired functionality without regard to how they might be assembled.

These subfields seek to anticipate what inventions nanotechnology might yield, or attempt to propose an agenda along which inquiry might progress. These often take a big-picture view of nanotechnology, with more emphasis on its societal implications than the details of how such inventions could actually be created.

Nanomaterials can be classified in 0D, 1D, 2D and 3D nanomaterials. The dimensionality play a major role in determining the characteristic of nanomaterials including physical, chemical and biological characteristics. With the decrease in dimensionality, an increase in surface-to-volume ratio is observed. This indicate that smaller dimensional nanomaterials have higher surface area compared to 3D nanomaterials. Recently, two dimensional (2D) nanomaterials are extensively investigated for electronic, biomedical, drug delivery and biosensor applications.

There are several important modern developments. The atomic force microscope (AFM) and the Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM) are two early versions of scanning probes that launched nanotechnology. There are other types of scanning probe microscopy. Although conceptually similar to the scanning confocal microscope developed by Marvin Minsky in 1961 and the scanning acoustic microscope (SAM) developed by Calvin Quate and coworkers in the 1970s, newer scanning probe microscopes have much higher resolution, since they are not limited by the wavelength of sound or light.

The tip of a scanning probe can also be used to manipulate nanostructures (a process called positional assembly). Feature-oriented scanning methodology may be a promising way to implement these nanomanipulations in automatic mode.[49][50] However, this is still a slow process because of low scanning velocity of the microscope.

Various techniques of nanolithography such as optical lithography, X-ray lithography, dip pen nanolithography, electron beam lithography or nanoimprint lithography were also developed. Lithography is a top-down fabrication technique where a bulk material is reduced in size to nanoscale pattern.

Another group of nanotechnological techniques include those used for fabrication of nanotubes and nanowires, those used in semiconductor fabrication such as deep ultraviolet lithography, electron beam lithography, focused ion beam machining, nanoimprint lithography, atomic layer deposition, and molecular vapor deposition, and further including molecular self-assembly techniques such as those employing di-block copolymers. The precursors of these techniques preceded the nanotech era, and are extensions in the development of scientific advancements rather than techniques which were devised with the sole purpose of creating nanotechnology and which were results of nanotechnology research.[51]

The top-down approach anticipates nanodevices that must be built piece by piece in stages, much as manufactured items are made. Scanning probe microscopy is an important technique both for characterization and synthesis of nanomaterials. Atomic force microscopes and scanning tunneling microscopes can be used to look at surfaces and to move atoms around. By designing different tips for these microscopes, they can be used for carving out structures on surfaces and to help guide self-assembling structures. By using, for example, feature-oriented scanning approach, atoms or molecules can be moved around on a surface with scanning probe microscopy techniques.[49][50] At present, it is expensive and time-consuming for mass production but very suitable for laboratory experimentation.

In contrast, bottom-up techniques build or grow larger structures atom by atom or molecule by molecule. These techniques include chemical synthesis, self-assembly and positional assembly. Dual polarisation interferometry is one tool suitable for characterisation of self assembled thin films. Another variation of the bottom-up approach is molecular beam epitaxy or MBE. Researchers at Bell Telephone Laboratories like John R. Arthur. Alfred Y. Cho, and Art C. Gossard developed and implemented MBE as a research tool in the late 1960s and 1970s. Samples made by MBE were key to the discovery of the fractional quantum Hall effect for which the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded. MBE allows scientists to lay down atomically precise layers of atoms and, in the process, build up complex structures. Important for research on semiconductors, MBE is also widely used to make samples and devices for the newly emerging field of spintronics.

However, new therapeutic products, based on responsive nanomaterials, such as the ultradeformable, stress-sensitive Transfersome vesicles, are under development and already approved for human use in some countries.[52]

As of August 21, 2008, the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies estimates that over 800 manufacturer-identified nanotech products are publicly available, with new ones hitting the market at a pace of 34 per week.[17] The project lists all of the products in a publicly accessible online database. Most applications are limited to the use of “first generation” passive nanomaterials which includes titanium dioxide in sunscreen, cosmetics, surface coatings,[53] and some food products; Carbon allotropes used to produce gecko tape; silver in food packaging, clothing, disinfectants and household appliances; zinc oxide in sunscreens and cosmetics, surface coatings, paints and outdoor furniture varnishes; and cerium oxide as a fuel catalyst.[16]

Further applications allow tennis balls to last longer, golf balls to fly straighter, and even bowling balls to become more durable and have a harder surface. Trousers and socks have been infused with nanotechnology so that they will last longer and keep people cool in the summer. Bandages are being infused with silver nanoparticles to heal cuts faster.[54] Video game consoles and personal computers may become cheaper, faster, and contain more memory thanks to nanotechnology.[55] Also, to build structures for on chip computing with light, for example on chip optical quantum information processing, and picosecond transmission of information.[56]

Nanotechnology may have the ability to make existing medical applications cheaper and easier to use in places like the general practitioner’s office and at home.[57] Cars are being manufactured with nanomaterials so they may need fewer metals and less fuel to operate in the future.[58]

Scientists are now turning to nanotechnology in an attempt to develop diesel engines with cleaner exhaust fumes. Platinum is currently used as the diesel engine catalyst in these engines. The catalyst is what cleans the exhaust fume particles. First a reduction catalyst is employed to take nitrogen atoms from NOx molecules in order to free oxygen. Next the oxidation catalyst oxidizes the hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide to form carbon dioxide and water.[59] Platinum is used in both the reduction and the oxidation catalysts.[60] Using platinum though, is inefficient in that it is expensive and unsustainable. Danish company InnovationsFonden invested DKK 15 million in a search for new catalyst substitutes using nanotechnology. The goal of the project, launched in the autumn of 2014, is to maximize surface area and minimize the amount of material required. Objects tend to minimize their surface energy; two drops of water, for example, will join to form one drop and decrease surface area. If the catalyst’s surface area that is exposed to the exhaust fumes is maximized, efficiency of the catalyst is maximized. The team working on this project aims to create nanoparticles that will not merge. Every time the surface is optimized, material is saved. Thus, creating these nanoparticles will increase the effectiveness of the resulting diesel engine catalystin turn leading to cleaner exhaust fumesand will decrease cost. If successful, the team hopes to reduce platinum use by 25%.[61]

Nanotechnology also has a prominent role in the fast developing field of Tissue Engineering. When designing scaffolds, researchers attempt to the mimic the nanoscale features of a Cell’s microenvironment to direct its differentiation down a suitable lineage.[62] For example, when creating scaffolds to support the growth of bone, researchers may mimic osteoclast resorption pits.[63]

Researchers have successfully used DNA origami-based nanobots capable of carrying out logic functions to achieve targeted drug delivery in cockroaches. It is said that the computational power of these nanobots can be scaled up to that of a Commodore 64.[64]

An area of concern is the effect that industrial-scale manufacturing and use of nanomaterials would have on human health and the environment, as suggested by nanotoxicology research. For these reasons, some groups advocate that nanotechnology be regulated by governments. Others counter that overregulation would stifle scientific research and the development of beneficial innovations. Public health research agencies, such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are actively conducting research on potential health effects stemming from exposures to nanoparticles.[65][66]

Some nanoparticle products may have unintended consequences. Researchers have discovered that bacteriostatic silver nanoparticles used in socks to reduce foot odor are being released in the wash.[67] These particles are then flushed into the waste water stream and may destroy bacteria which are critical components of natural ecosystems, farms, and waste treatment processes.[68]

Public deliberations on risk perception in the US and UK carried out by the Center for Nanotechnology in Society found that participants were more positive about nanotechnologies for energy applications than for health applications, with health applications raising moral and ethical dilemmas such as cost and availability.[69]

Experts, including director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies David Rejeski, have testified[70] that successful commercialization depends on adequate oversight, risk research strategy, and public engagement. Berkeley, California is currently the only city in the United States to regulate nanotechnology;[71] Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2008 considered enacting a similar law,[72] but ultimately rejected it.[73] Relevant for both research on and application of nanotechnologies, the insurability of nanotechnology is contested.[74] Without state regulation of nanotechnology, the availability of private insurance for potential damages is seen as necessary to ensure that burdens are not socialised implicitly.

Nanofibers are used in several areas and in different products, in everything from aircraft wings to tennis rackets. Inhaling airborne nanoparticles and nanofibers may lead to a number of pulmonary diseases, e.g. fibrosis.[75] Researchers have found that when rats breathed in nanoparticles, the particles settled in the brain and lungs, which led to significant increases in biomarkers for inflammation and stress response[76] and that nanoparticles induce skin aging through oxidative stress in hairless mice.[77][78]

A two-year study at UCLA’s School of Public Health found lab mice consuming nano-titanium dioxide showed DNA and chromosome damage to a degree “linked to all the big killers of man, namely cancer, heart disease, neurological disease and aging”.[79]

A major study published more recently in Nature Nanotechnology suggests some forms of carbon nanotubes a poster child for the “nanotechnology revolution” could be as harmful as asbestos if inhaled in sufficient quantities. Anthony Seaton of the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh, Scotland, who contributed to the article on carbon nanotubes said “We know that some of them probably have the potential to cause mesothelioma. So those sorts of materials need to be handled very carefully.”[80] In the absence of specific regulation forthcoming from governments, Paull and Lyons (2008) have called for an exclusion of engineered nanoparticles in food.[81] A newspaper article reports that workers in a paint factory developed serious lung disease and nanoparticles were found in their lungs.[82][83][84][85]

Calls for tighter regulation of nanotechnology have occurred alongside a growing debate related to the human health and safety risks of nanotechnology.[86] There is significant debate about who is responsible for the regulation of nanotechnology. Some regulatory agencies currently cover some nanotechnology products and processes (to varying degrees) by “bolting on” nanotechnology to existing regulations there are clear gaps in these regimes.[87] Davies (2008) has proposed a regulatory road map describing steps to deal with these shortcomings.[88]

Stakeholders concerned by the lack of a regulatory framework to assess and control risks associated with the release of nanoparticles and nanotubes have drawn parallels with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (“mad cow” disease), thalidomide, genetically modified food,[89] nuclear energy, reproductive technologies, biotechnology, and asbestosis. Dr. Andrew Maynard, chief science advisor to the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, concludes that there is insufficient funding for human health and safety research, and as a result there is currently limited understanding of the human health and safety risks associated with nanotechnology.[90] As a result, some academics have called for stricter application of the precautionary principle, with delayed marketing approval, enhanced labelling and additional safety data development requirements in relation to certain forms of nanotechnology.[91][92]

The Royal Society report[14] identified a risk of nanoparticles or nanotubes being released during disposal, destruction and recycling, and recommended that “manufacturers of products that fall under extended producer responsibility regimes such as end-of-life regulations publish procedures outlining how these materials will be managed to minimize possible human and environmental exposure” (p. xiii).

The Center for Nanotechnology in Society has found that people respond to nanotechnologies differently, depending on application with participants in public deliberations more positive about nanotechnologies for energy than health applications suggesting that any public calls for nano regulations may differ by technology sector.[69]

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Nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Nanotech

Moore Nanotechnology Systems, LLC (Nanotech) is dedicated to the development of ultra-precision machining systems and their successful utilization through the formation of lifelong customer partnerships. Total customer satisfaction of our products and services has always been, and will continue to be, our highest priority as we support our customers expansion into new markets through the design and development of new products, complimentary machine accessories, and enhancements to our existing products.

Our ultra-precision machine systems support single point diamond turning, deterministic micro-grinding, precision micro-milling, and glass press molding for the production of advanced optics including diamond turning sphere, asphere, freeform, conformal, lens array, and plano surfaces. We offer a diverse line of options and accessories to customize our machining platforms to suit our customers specific applications. From our state-of-the-art NFTS-6000 Fast Tool Servo systemto the industry’s first touch swipe gesture interactive Windows based HMI, Nanotech builds to a higher standard of quality and reliability.

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Our 250UPLv2, 450UPLv2, 650FGv2 & 100UPGv1systems form a versatile family ofUltra Precision machinesfeaturingall the below major value added benefits and features:

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Guided by theory and enabled by synthesis, the NanoTech Institute develops new science and technology exploiting the nanoscale.

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The faculty, staff, and students of the Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute at The University of Texas at Dallas welcome the 2012 class of NanoExplorers. We had over 200 highly qualified applicants this year. (see more)

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Molecular nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Molecular nanotechnology (MNT) is a technology based on the ability to build structures to complex, atomic specifications by means of mechanosynthesis.[1] This is distinct from nanoscale materials. Based on Richard Feynman’s vision of miniature factories using nanomachines to build complex products (including additional nanomachines), this advanced form of nanotechnology (or molecular manufacturing[2]) would make use of positionally-controlled mechanosynthesis guided by molecular machine systems. MNT would involve combining physical principles demonstrated by biophysics, chemistry, other nanotechnologies, and the molecular machinery of life with the systems engineering principles found in modern macroscale factories.

While conventional chemistry uses inexact processes obtaining inexact results, and biology exploits inexact processes to obtain definitive results, molecular nanotechnology would employ original definitive processes to obtain definitive results. The desire in molecular nanotechnology would be to balance molecular reactions in positionally-controlled locations and orientations to obtain desired chemical reactions, and then to build systems by further assembling the products of these reactions.

A roadmap for the development of MNT is an objective of a broadly based technology project led by Battelle (the manager of several U.S. National Laboratories) and the Foresight Institute.[3] The roadmap was originally scheduled for completion by late 2006, but was released in January 2008.[4] The Nanofactory Collaboration[5] is a more focused ongoing effort involving 23 researchers from 10 organizations and 4 countries that is developing a practical research agenda[6] specifically aimed at positionally-controlled diamond mechanosynthesis and diamondoid nanofactory development. In August 2005, a task force consisting of 50+ international experts from various fields was organized by the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology to study the societal implications of molecular nanotechnology.[7]

One proposed application of MNT is so-called smart materials. This term refers to any sort of material designed and engineered at the nanometer scale for a specific task. It encompasses a wide variety of possible commercial applications. One example would be materials designed to respond differently to various molecules; such a capability could lead, for example, to artificial drugs which would recognize and render inert specific viruses. Another is the idea of self-healing structures, which would repair small tears in a surface naturally in the same way as self-sealing tires or human skin.

A MNT nanosensor would resemble a smart material, involving a small component within a larger machine that would react to its environment and change in some fundamental, intentional way. A very simple example: a photosensor might passively measure the incident light and discharge its absorbed energy as electricity when the light passes above or below a specified threshold, sending a signal to a larger machine. Such a sensor would supposedly cost less and use less power than a conventional sensor, and yet function usefully in all the same applications for example, turning on parking lot lights when it gets dark.

While smart materials and nanosensors both exemplify useful applications of MNT, they pale in comparison with the complexity of the technology most popularly associated with the term: the replicating nanorobot.

MNT nanofacturing is popularly linked with the idea of swarms of coordinated nanoscale robots working together, a popularization of an early proposal by K. Eric Drexler in his 1986 discussions of MNT, but superseded in 1992. In this early proposal, sufficiently capable nanorobots would construct more nanorobots in an artificial environment containing special molecular building blocks.

Critics have doubted both the feasibility of self-replicating nanorobots and the feasibility of control if self-replicating nanorobots could be achieved: they cite the possibility of mutations removing any control and favoring reproduction of mutant pathogenic variations. Advocates address the first doubt by pointing out that the first macroscale autonomous machine replicator, made of Lego blocks, was built and operated experimentally in 2002.[8] While there are sensory advantages present at the macroscale compared to the limited sensorium available at the nanoscale, proposals for positionally controlled nanoscale mechanosynthetic fabrication systems employ dead reckoning of tooltips combined with reliable reaction sequence design to ensure reliable results, hence a limited sensorium is no handicap; similar considerations apply to the positional assembly of small nanoparts. Advocates address the second doubt by arguing that bacteria are (of necessity) evolved to evolve, while nanorobot mutation could be actively prevented by common error-correcting techniques. Similar ideas are advocated in the Foresight Guidelines on Molecular Nanotechnology,[9] and a map of the 137-dimensional replicator design space[10] recently published by Freitas and Merkle provides numerous proposed methods by which replicators could, in principle, be safely controlled by good design.

However, the concept of suppressing mutation raises the question: How can design evolution occur at the nanoscale without a process of random mutation and deterministic selection? Critics argue that MNT advocates have not provided a substitute for such a process of evolution in this nanoscale arena where conventional sensory-based selection processes are lacking. The limits of the sensorium available at the nanoscale could make it difficult or impossible to winnow successes from failures. Advocates argue that design evolution should occur deterministically and strictly under human control, using the conventional engineering paradigm of modeling, design, prototyping, testing, analysis, and redesign.

In any event, since 1992 technical proposals for MNT do not include self-replicating nanorobots, and recent ethical guidelines put forth by MNT advocates prohibit unconstrained self-replication.[9][11]

One of the most important applications of MNT would be medical nanorobotics or nanomedicine, an area pioneered by Robert Freitas in numerous books[12] and papers.[13] The ability to design, build, and deploy large numbers of medical nanorobots would, at a minimum, make possible the rapid elimination of disease and the reliable and relatively painless recovery from physical trauma. Medical nanorobots might also make possible the convenient correction of genetic defects, and help to ensure a greatly expanded lifespan. More controversially, medical nanorobots might be used to augment natural human capabilities. One study has reported on the conditions like tumors, arteriosclerosis, blood clots leading to stroke, accumulation of scar tissue and localized pockets of infection can be possibly be addressed by employing medical nanorobots.[14][15]

Another proposed application of molecular nanotechnology is “utility fog”[16] in which a cloud of networked microscopic robots (simpler than assemblers) would change its shape and properties to form macroscopic objects and tools in accordance with software commands. Rather than modify the current practices of consuming material goods in different forms, utility fog would simply replace many physical objects.

Yet another proposed application of MNT would be phased-array optics (PAO).[17] However, this appears to be a problem addressable by ordinary nanoscale technology. PAO would use the principle of phased-array millimeter technology but at optical wavelengths. This would permit the duplication of any sort of optical effect but virtually. Users could request holograms, sunrises and sunsets, or floating lasers as the mood strikes. PAO systems were described in BC Crandall’s Nanotechnology: Molecular Speculations on Global Abundance in the Brian Wowk article “Phased-Array Optics.”[18]

Molecular manufacturing is a potential future subfield of nanotechnology that would make it possible to build complex structures at atomic precision.[19] Molecular manufacturing requires significant advances in nanotechnology, but once achieved could produce highly advanced products at low costs and in large quantities in nanofactories weighing a kilogram or more.[19][20] When nanofactories gain the ability to produce other nanofactories production may only be limited by relatively abundant factors such as input materials, energy and software.[20]

The products of molecular manufacturing could range from cheaper, mass-produced versions of known high-tech products to novel products with added capabilities in many areas of application. Some applications that have been suggested are advanced smart materials, nanosensors, medical nanorobots and space travel.[19] Additionally, molecular manufacturing could be used to cheaply produce highly advanced, durable weapons, which is an area of special concern regarding the impact of nanotechnology.[20] Being equipped with compact computers and motors these could be increasingly autonomous and have a large range of capabilities.[20]

According to Chris Phoenix and Mike Treder from the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology as well as Anders Sandberg from the Future of Humanity Institute molecular manufacturing is the application of nanotechnology that poses the most significant global catastrophic risk.[20][21] Several nanotechnology researchers state that the bulk of risk from nanotechnology comes from the potential to lead to war, arms races and destructive global government.[20][21][22] Several reasons have been suggested why the availability of nanotech weaponry may with significant likelihood lead to unstable arms races (compared to e.g. nuclear arms races): (1) A large number of players may be tempted to enter the race since the threshold for doing so is low;[20] (2) the ability to make weapons with molecular manufacturing will be cheap and easy to hide;[20] (3) therefore lack of insight into the other parties’ capabilities can tempt players to arm out of caution or to launch preemptive strikes;[20][23] (4) molecular manufacturing may reduce dependency on international trade,[20] a potential peace-promoting factor;[24] (5) wars of aggression may pose a smaller economic threat to the aggressor since manufacturing is cheap and humans may not be needed on the battlefield.[20]

Since self-regulation by all state and non-state actors seems hard to achieve,[25] measures to mitigate war-related risks have mainly been proposed in the area of international cooperation.[20][26] International infrastructure may be expanded giving more sovereignty to the international level. This could help coordinate efforts for arms control.[27] International institutions dedicated specifically to nanotechnology (perhaps analogously to the International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA) or general arms control may also be designed.[26] One may also jointly make differential technological progress on defensive technologies, a policy that players should usually favour.[20] The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology also suggest some technical restrictions.[28] Improved transparency regarding technological capabilities may be another important facilitator for arms-control.[29]

A grey goo is another catastrophic scenario, which was proposed by Eric Drexler in his 1986 book Engines of Creation,[30] has been analyzed by Freitas in “Some Limits to Global Ecophagy by Biovorous Nanoreplicators, with Public Policy Recommendations” [31] and has been a theme in mainstream media and fiction.[32][33] This scenario involves tiny self-replicating robots that consume the entire biosphere using it as a source of energy and building blocks. Nanotech experts including Drexler now discredit the scenario. According to Chris Phoenix a “So-called grey goo could only be the product of a deliberate and difficult engineering process, not an accident”.[34] With the advent of nano-biotech, a different scenario called green goo has been forwarded. Here, the malignant substance is not nanobots but rather self-replicating biological organisms engineered through nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology (or molecular nanotechnology to refer more specifically to the goals discussed here) will let us continue the historical trends in manufacturing right up to the fundamental limits imposed by physical law. It will let us make remarkably powerful molecular computers. It will let us make materials over fifty times lighter than steel or aluminium alloy but with the same strength. We’ll be able to make jets, rockets, cars or even chairs that, by today’s standards, would be remarkably light, strong, and inexpensive. Molecular surgical tools, guided by molecular computers and injected into the blood stream could find and destroy cancer cells or invading bacteria, unclog arteries, or provide oxygen when the circulation is impaired.

Nanotechnology will replace our entire manufacturing base with a new, radically more precise, radically less expensive, and radically more flexible way of making products. The aim is not simply to replace today’s computer chip making plants, but also to replace the assembly lines for cars, televisions, telephones, books, surgical tools, missiles, bookcases, airplanes, tractors, and all the rest. The objective is a pervasive change in manufacturing, a change that will leave virtually no product untouched. Economic progress and military readiness in the 21st Century will depend fundamentally on maintaining a competitive position in nanotechnology.

[35]

Despite the current early developmental status of nanotechnology and molecular nanotechnology, much concern surrounds MNT’s anticipated impact on economics[36][37] and on law. Whatever the exact effects, MNT, if achieved, would tend to reduce the scarcity of manufactured goods and make many more goods (such as food and health aids) manufacturable.

MNT should make possible nanomedical capabilities able to cure any medical condition not already cured by advances in other areas. Good health would be common, and poor health of any form would be as rare as smallpox and scurvy are today. Even cryonics would be feasible, as cryopreserved tissue could be fully repaired.

Molecular nanotechnology is one of the technologies that some analysts believe could lead to a technological singularity. Some feel that molecular nanotechnology would have daunting risks.[38] It conceivably could enable cheaper and more destructive conventional weapons. Also, molecular nanotechnology might permit weapons of mass destruction that could self-replicate, as viruses and cancer cells do when attacking the human body. Commentators generally agree that, in the event molecular nanotechnology were developed, its self-replication should be permitted only under very controlled or “inherently safe” conditions.

A fear exists that nanomechanical robots, if achieved, and if designed to self-replicate using naturally occurring materials (a difficult task), could consume the entire planet in their hunger for raw materials,[39] or simply crowd out natural life, out-competing it for energy (as happened historically when blue-green algae appeared and outcompeted earlier life forms). Some commentators have referred to this situation as the “grey goo” or “ecophagy” scenario. K. Eric Drexler considers an accidental “grey goo” scenario extremely unlikely and says so in later editions of Engines of Creation.

In light of this perception of potential danger, the Foresight Institute, founded by Drexler, has prepared a set of guidelines[40] for the ethical development of nanotechnology. These include the banning of free-foraging self-replicating pseudo-organisms on the Earth’s surface, at least, and possibly in other places.

The feasibility of the basic technologies analyzed in Nanosystems has been the subject of a formal scientific review by U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and has also been the focus of extensive debate on the internet and in the popular press.

In 2006, U.S. National Academy of Sciences released the report of a study of molecular manufacturing as part of a longer report, A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative[41] The study committee reviewed the technical content of Nanosystems, and in its conclusion states that no current theoretical analysis can be considered definitive regarding several questions of potential system performance, and that optimal paths for implementing high-performance systems cannot be predicted with confidence. It recommends experimental research to advance knowledge in this area:

A section heading in Drexler’s Engines of Creation reads[42] “Universal Assemblers”, and the following text speaks of multiple types of assemblers which, collectively, could hypothetically “build almost anything that the laws of nature allow to exist.” Drexler’s colleague Ralph Merkle has noted that, contrary to widespread legend,[43] Drexler never claimed that assembler systems could build absolutely any molecular structure. The endnotes in Drexler’s book explain the qualification “almost”: “For example, a delicate structure might be designed that, like a stone arch, would self-destruct unless all its pieces were already in place. If there were no room in the design for the placement and removal of a scaffolding, then the structure might be impossible to build. Few structures of practical interest seem likely to exhibit such a problem, however.”

In 1992, Drexler published Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation,[44] a detailed proposal for synthesizing stiff covalent structures using a table-top factory. Diamondoid structures and other stiff covalent structures, if achieved, would have a wide range of possible applications, going far beyond current MEMS technology. An outline of a path was put forward in 1992 for building a table-top factory in the absence of an assembler. Other researchers have begun advancing tentative, alternative proposed paths [5] for this in the years since Nanosystems was published.

In 2004 Richard Jones wrote Soft Machines (nanotechnology and life), a book for lay audiences published by Oxford University. In this book he describes radical nanotechnology (as advocated by Drexler) as a deterministic/mechanistic idea of nano engineered machines that does not take into account the nanoscale challenges such as wetness, stickiness, Brownian motion, and high viscosity. He also explains what is soft nanotechnology or more appropriatelly biomimetic nanotechnology which is the way forward, if not the best way, to design functional nanodevices that can cope with all the problems at a nanoscale. One can think of soft nanotechnology as the development of nanomachines that uses the lessons learned from biology on how things work, chemistry to precisely engineer such devices and stochastic physics to model the system and its natural processes in detail.

Several researchers, including Nobel Prize winner Dr. Richard Smalley (19432005),[45] attacked the notion of universal assemblers, leading to a rebuttal from Drexler and colleagues,[46] and eventually to an exchange of letters.[47] Smalley argued that chemistry is extremely complicated, reactions are hard to control, and that a universal assembler is science fiction. Drexler and colleagues, however, noted that Drexler never proposed universal assemblers able to make absolutely anything, but instead proposed more limited assemblers able to make a very wide variety of things. They challenged the relevance of Smalley’s arguments to the more specific proposals advanced in Nanosystems. Also, Smalley argued that nearly all of modern chemistry involves reactions that take place in a solvent (usually water), because the small molecules of a solvent contribute many things, such as lowering binding energies for transition states. Since nearly all known chemistry requires a solvent, Smalley felt that Drexler’s proposal to use a high vacuum environment was not feasible. However, Drexler addresses this in Nanosystems by showing mathematically that well designed catalysts can provide the effects of a solvent and can fundamentally be made even more efficient than a solvent/enzyme reaction could ever be. It is noteworthy that, contrary to Smalley’s opinion that enzymes require water, “Not only do enzymes work vigorously in anhydrous organic media, but in this unnatural milieu they acquire remarkable properties such as greatly enhanced stability, radically altered substrate and enantiomeric specificities, molecular memory, and the ability to catalyse unusual reactions.”[48]

For the future, some means have to be found for MNT design evolution at the nanoscale which mimics the process of biological evolution at the molecular scale. Biological evolution proceeds by random variation in ensemble averages of organisms combined with culling of the less-successful variants and reproduction of the more-successful variants, and macroscale engineering design also proceeds by a process of design evolution from simplicity to complexity as set forth somewhat satirically by John Gall: “A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. . . . A complex system designed from scratch never works and can not be patched up to make it work. You have to start over, beginning with a system that works.” [49] A breakthrough in MNT is needed which proceeds from the simple atomic ensembles which can be built with, e.g., an STM to complex MNT systems via a process of design evolution. A handicap in this process is the difficulty of seeing and manipulation at the nanoscale compared to the macroscale which makes deterministic selection of successful trials difficult; in contrast biological evolution proceeds via action of what Richard Dawkins has called the “blind watchmaker” [50] comprising random molecular variation and deterministic reproduction/extinction.

At present in 2007 the practice of nanotechnology embraces both stochastic approaches (in which, for example, supramolecular chemistry creates waterproof pants) and deterministic approaches wherein single molecules (created by stochastic chemistry) are manipulated on substrate surfaces (created by stochastic deposition methods) by deterministic methods comprising nudging them with STM or AFM probes and causing simple binding or cleavage reactions to occur. The dream of a complex, deterministic molecular nanotechnology remains elusive. Since the mid-1990s, thousands of surface scientists and thin film technocrats have latched on to the nanotechnology bandwagon and redefined their disciplines as nanotechnology. This has caused much confusion in the field and has spawned thousands of “nano”-papers on the peer reviewed literature. Most of these reports are extensions of the more ordinary research done in the parent fields.

The feasibility of Drexler’s proposals largely depends, therefore, on whether designs like those in Nanosystems could be built in the absence of a universal assembler to build them and would work as described. Supporters of molecular nanotechnology frequently claim that no significant errors have been discovered in Nanosystems since 1992. Even some critics concede[51] that “Drexler has carefully considered a number of physical principles underlying the ‘high level’ aspects of the nanosystems he proposes and, indeed, has thought in some detail” about some issues.

Other critics claim, however, that Nanosystems omits important chemical details about the low-level ‘machine language’ of molecular nanotechnology.[52][53][54][55] They also claim that much of the other low-level chemistry in Nanosystems requires extensive further work, and that Drexler’s higher-level designs therefore rest on speculative foundations. Recent such further work by Freitas and Merkle [56] is aimed at strengthening these foundations by filling the existing gaps in the low-level chemistry.

Drexler argues that we may need to wait until our conventional nanotechnology improves before solving these issues: “Molecular manufacturing will result from a series of advances in molecular machine systems, much as the first Moon landing resulted from a series of advances in liquid-fuel rocket systems. We are now in a position like that of the British Interplanetary Society of the 1930s which described how multistage liquid-fueled rockets could reach the Moon and pointed to early rockets as illustrations of the basic principle.”[57] However, Freitas and Merkle argue [58] that a focused effort to achieve diamond mechanosynthesis (DMS) can begin now, using existing technology, and might achieve success in less than a decade if their “direct-to-DMS approach is pursued rather than a more circuitous development approach that seeks to implement less efficacious nondiamondoid molecular manufacturing technologies before progressing to diamondoid”.

To summarize the arguments against feasibility: First, critics argue that a primary barrier to achieving molecular nanotechnology is the lack of an efficient way to create machines on a molecular/atomic scale, especially in the absence of a well-defined path toward a self-replicating assembler or diamondoid nanofactory. Advocates respond that a preliminary research path leading to a diamondoid nanofactory is being developed.[6]

A second difficulty in reaching molecular nanotechnology is design. Hand design of a gear or bearing at the level of atoms might take a few to several weeks. While Drexler, Merkle and others have created designs of simple parts, no comprehensive design effort for anything approaching the complexity of a Model T Ford has been attempted. Advocates respond that it is difficult to undertake a comprehensive design effort in the absence of significant funding for such efforts, and that despite this handicap much useful design-ahead has nevertheless been accomplished with new software tools that have been developed, e.g., at Nanorex.[59]

In the latest report A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative[41] put out by the National Academies Press in December 2006 (roughly twenty years after Engines of Creation was published), no clear way forward toward molecular nanotechnology could yet be seen, as per the conclusion on page 108 of that report: “Although theoretical calculations can be made today, the eventually attainable range of chemical reaction cycles, error rates, speed of operation, and thermodynamic efficiencies of such bottom-up manufacturing systems cannot be reliably predicted at this time. Thus, the eventually attainable perfection and complexity of manufactured products, while they can be calculated in theory, cannot be predicted with confidence. Finally, the optimum research paths that might lead to systems which greatly exceed the thermodynamic efficiencies and other capabilities of biological systems cannot be reliably predicted at this time. Research funding that is based on the ability of investigators to produce experimental demonstrations that link to abstract models and guide long-term vision is most appropriate to achieve this goal.” This call for research leading to demonstrations is welcomed by groups such as the Nanofactory Collaboration who are specifically seeking experimental successes in diamond mechanosynthesis.[60] The “Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems”[61] aims to offer additional constructive insights.

It is perhaps interesting to ask whether or not most structures consistent with physical law can in fact be manufactured. Advocates assert that to achieve most of the vision of molecular manufacturing it is not necessary to be able to build “any structure that is compatible with natural law.” Rather, it is necessary to be able to build only a sufficient (possibly modest) subset of such structuresas is true, in fact, of any practical manufacturing process used in the world today, and is true even in biology. In any event, as Richard Feynman once said, “It is scientific only to say what’s more likely or less likely, and not to be proving all the time what’s possible or impossible.”[62]

There is a growing body of peer-reviewed theoretical work on synthesizing diamond by mechanically removing/adding hydrogen atoms [63] and depositing carbon atoms [64][65][66][67][68][69] (a process known as mechanosynthesis). This work is slowly permeating the broader nanoscience community and is being critiqued. For instance, Peng et al. (2006)[70] (in the continuing research effort by Freitas, Merkle and their collaborators) reports that the most-studied mechanosynthesis tooltip motif (DCB6Ge) successfully places a C2 carbon dimer on a C(110) diamond surface at both 300K (room temperature) and 80K (liquid nitrogen temperature), and that the silicon variant (DCB6Si) also works at 80K but not at 300K. Over 100,000 CPU hours were invested in this latest study. The DCB6 tooltip motif, initially described by Merkle and Freitas at a Foresight Conference in 2002, was the first complete tooltip ever proposed for diamond mechanosynthesis and remains the only tooltip motif that has been successfully simulated for its intended function on a full 200-atom diamond surface.

The tooltips modeled in this work are intended to be used only in carefully controlled environments (e.g., vacuum). Maximum acceptable limits for tooltip translational and rotational misplacement errors are reported in Peng et al. (2006) — tooltips must be positioned with great accuracy to avoid bonding the dimer incorrectly. Peng et al. (2006) reports that increasing the handle thickness from 4 support planes of C atoms above the tooltip to 5 planes decreases the resonance frequency of the entire structure from 2.0THz to 1.8THz. More importantly, the vibrational footprints of a DCB6Ge tooltip mounted on a 384-atom handle and of the same tooltip mounted on a similarly constrained but much larger 636-atom “crossbar” handle are virtually identical in the non-crossbar directions. Additional computational studies modeling still bigger handle structures are welcome, but the ability to precisely position SPM tips to the requisite atomic accuracy has been repeatedly demonstrated experimentally at low temperature,[71][72] or even at room temperature[73][74] constituting a basic existence proof for this capability.

Further research[75] to consider additional tooltips will require time-consuming computational chemistry and difficult laboratory work.

A working nanofactory would require a variety of well-designed tips for different reactions, and detailed analyses of placing atoms on more complicated surfaces. Although this appears a challenging problem given current resources, many tools will be available to help future researchers: Moore’s law predicts further increases in computer power, semiconductor fabrication techniques continue to approach the nanoscale, and researchers grow ever more skilled at using proteins, ribosomes and DNA to perform novel chemistry.

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Molecular nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Molecular nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Molecular nanotechnology (MNT) is a technology based on the ability to build structures to complex, atomic specifications by means of mechanosynthesis.[1] This is distinct from nanoscale materials. Based on Richard Feynman’s vision of miniature factories using nanomachines to build complex products (including additional nanomachines), this advanced form of nanotechnology (or molecular manufacturing[2]) would make use of positionally-controlled mechanosynthesis guided by molecular machine systems. MNT would involve combining physical principles demonstrated by biophysics, chemistry, other nanotechnologies, and the molecular machinery of life with the systems engineering principles found in modern macroscale factories.

While conventional chemistry uses inexact processes obtaining inexact results, and biology exploits inexact processes to obtain definitive results, molecular nanotechnology would employ original definitive processes to obtain definitive results. The desire in molecular nanotechnology would be to balance molecular reactions in positionally-controlled locations and orientations to obtain desired chemical reactions, and then to build systems by further assembling the products of these reactions.

A roadmap for the development of MNT is an objective of a broadly based technology project led by Battelle (the manager of several U.S. National Laboratories) and the Foresight Institute.[3] The roadmap was originally scheduled for completion by late 2006, but was released in January 2008.[4] The Nanofactory Collaboration[5] is a more focused ongoing effort involving 23 researchers from 10 organizations and 4 countries that is developing a practical research agenda[6] specifically aimed at positionally-controlled diamond mechanosynthesis and diamondoid nanofactory development. In August 2005, a task force consisting of 50+ international experts from various fields was organized by the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology to study the societal implications of molecular nanotechnology.[7]

One proposed application of MNT is so-called smart materials. This term refers to any sort of material designed and engineered at the nanometer scale for a specific task. It encompasses a wide variety of possible commercial applications. One example would be materials designed to respond differently to various molecules; such a capability could lead, for example, to artificial drugs which would recognize and render inert specific viruses. Another is the idea of self-healing structures, which would repair small tears in a surface naturally in the same way as self-sealing tires or human skin.

A MNT nanosensor would resemble a smart material, involving a small component within a larger machine that would react to its environment and change in some fundamental, intentional way. A very simple example: a photosensor might passively measure the incident light and discharge its absorbed energy as electricity when the light passes above or below a specified threshold, sending a signal to a larger machine. Such a sensor would supposedly cost less and use less power than a conventional sensor, and yet function usefully in all the same applications for example, turning on parking lot lights when it gets dark.

While smart materials and nanosensors both exemplify useful applications of MNT, they pale in comparison with the complexity of the technology most popularly associated with the term: the replicating nanorobot.

MNT nanofacturing is popularly linked with the idea of swarms of coordinated nanoscale robots working together, a popularization of an early proposal by K. Eric Drexler in his 1986 discussions of MNT, but superseded in 1992. In this early proposal, sufficiently capable nanorobots would construct more nanorobots in an artificial environment containing special molecular building blocks.

Critics have doubted both the feasibility of self-replicating nanorobots and the feasibility of control if self-replicating nanorobots could be achieved: they cite the possibility of mutations removing any control and favoring reproduction of mutant pathogenic variations. Advocates address the first doubt by pointing out that the first macroscale autonomous machine replicator, made of Lego blocks, was built and operated experimentally in 2002.[8] While there are sensory advantages present at the macroscale compared to the limited sensorium available at the nanoscale, proposals for positionally controlled nanoscale mechanosynthetic fabrication systems employ dead reckoning of tooltips combined with reliable reaction sequence design to ensure reliable results, hence a limited sensorium is no handicap; similar considerations apply to the positional assembly of small nanoparts. Advocates address the second doubt by arguing that bacteria are (of necessity) evolved to evolve, while nanorobot mutation could be actively prevented by common error-correcting techniques. Similar ideas are advocated in the Foresight Guidelines on Molecular Nanotechnology,[9] and a map of the 137-dimensional replicator design space[10] recently published by Freitas and Merkle provides numerous proposed methods by which replicators could, in principle, be safely controlled by good design.

However, the concept of suppressing mutation raises the question: How can design evolution occur at the nanoscale without a process of random mutation and deterministic selection? Critics argue that MNT advocates have not provided a substitute for such a process of evolution in this nanoscale arena where conventional sensory-based selection processes are lacking. The limits of the sensorium available at the nanoscale could make it difficult or impossible to winnow successes from failures. Advocates argue that design evolution should occur deterministically and strictly under human control, using the conventional engineering paradigm of modeling, design, prototyping, testing, analysis, and redesign.

In any event, since 1992 technical proposals for MNT do not include self-replicating nanorobots, and recent ethical guidelines put forth by MNT advocates prohibit unconstrained self-replication.[9][11]

One of the most important applications of MNT would be medical nanorobotics or nanomedicine, an area pioneered by Robert Freitas in numerous books[12] and papers.[13] The ability to design, build, and deploy large numbers of medical nanorobots would, at a minimum, make possible the rapid elimination of disease and the reliable and relatively painless recovery from physical trauma. Medical nanorobots might also make possible the convenient correction of genetic defects, and help to ensure a greatly expanded lifespan. More controversially, medical nanorobots might be used to augment natural human capabilities. One study has reported on the conditions like tumors, arteriosclerosis, blood clots leading to stroke, accumulation of scar tissue and localized pockets of infection can be possibly be addressed by employing medical nanorobots.[14][15]

Another proposed application of molecular nanotechnology is “utility fog”[16] in which a cloud of networked microscopic robots (simpler than assemblers) would change its shape and properties to form macroscopic objects and tools in accordance with software commands. Rather than modify the current practices of consuming material goods in different forms, utility fog would simply replace many physical objects.

Yet another proposed application of MNT would be phased-array optics (PAO).[17] However, this appears to be a problem addressable by ordinary nanoscale technology. PAO would use the principle of phased-array millimeter technology but at optical wavelengths. This would permit the duplication of any sort of optical effect but virtually. Users could request holograms, sunrises and sunsets, or floating lasers as the mood strikes. PAO systems were described in BC Crandall’s Nanotechnology: Molecular Speculations on Global Abundance in the Brian Wowk article “Phased-Array Optics.”[18]

Molecular manufacturing is a potential future subfield of nanotechnology that would make it possible to build complex structures at atomic precision.[19] Molecular manufacturing requires significant advances in nanotechnology, but once achieved could produce highly advanced products at low costs and in large quantities in nanofactories weighing a kilogram or more.[19][20] When nanofactories gain the ability to produce other nanofactories production may only be limited by relatively abundant factors such as input materials, energy and software.[20]

The products of molecular manufacturing could range from cheaper, mass-produced versions of known high-tech products to novel products with added capabilities in many areas of application. Some applications that have been suggested are advanced smart materials, nanosensors, medical nanorobots and space travel.[19] Additionally, molecular manufacturing could be used to cheaply produce highly advanced, durable weapons, which is an area of special concern regarding the impact of nanotechnology.[20] Being equipped with compact computers and motors these could be increasingly autonomous and have a large range of capabilities.[20]

According to Chris Phoenix and Mike Treder from the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology as well as Anders Sandberg from the Future of Humanity Institute molecular manufacturing is the application of nanotechnology that poses the most significant global catastrophic risk.[20][21] Several nanotechnology researchers state that the bulk of risk from nanotechnology comes from the potential to lead to war, arms races and destructive global government.[20][21][22] Several reasons have been suggested why the availability of nanotech weaponry may with significant likelihood lead to unstable arms races (compared to e.g. nuclear arms races): (1) A large number of players may be tempted to enter the race since the threshold for doing so is low;[20] (2) the ability to make weapons with molecular manufacturing will be cheap and easy to hide;[20] (3) therefore lack of insight into the other parties’ capabilities can tempt players to arm out of caution or to launch preemptive strikes;[20][23] (4) molecular manufacturing may reduce dependency on international trade,[20] a potential peace-promoting factor;[24] (5) wars of aggression may pose a smaller economic threat to the aggressor since manufacturing is cheap and humans may not be needed on the battlefield.[20]

Since self-regulation by all state and non-state actors seems hard to achieve,[25] measures to mitigate war-related risks have mainly been proposed in the area of international cooperation.[20][26] International infrastructure may be expanded giving more sovereignty to the international level. This could help coordinate efforts for arms control.[27] International institutions dedicated specifically to nanotechnology (perhaps analogously to the International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA) or general arms control may also be designed.[26] One may also jointly make differential technological progress on defensive technologies, a policy that players should usually favour.[20] The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology also suggest some technical restrictions.[28] Improved transparency regarding technological capabilities may be another important facilitator for arms-control.[29]

A grey goo is another catastrophic scenario, which was proposed by Eric Drexler in his 1986 book Engines of Creation,[30] has been analyzed by Freitas in “Some Limits to Global Ecophagy by Biovorous Nanoreplicators, with Public Policy Recommendations” [31] and has been a theme in mainstream media and fiction.[32][33] This scenario involves tiny self-replicating robots that consume the entire biosphere using it as a source of energy and building blocks. Nanotech experts including Drexler now discredit the scenario. According to Chris Phoenix a “So-called grey goo could only be the product of a deliberate and difficult engineering process, not an accident”.[34] With the advent of nano-biotech, a different scenario called green goo has been forwarded. Here, the malignant substance is not nanobots but rather self-replicating biological organisms engineered through nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology (or molecular nanotechnology to refer more specifically to the goals discussed here) will let us continue the historical trends in manufacturing right up to the fundamental limits imposed by physical law. It will let us make remarkably powerful molecular computers. It will let us make materials over fifty times lighter than steel or aluminium alloy but with the same strength. We’ll be able to make jets, rockets, cars or even chairs that, by today’s standards, would be remarkably light, strong, and inexpensive. Molecular surgical tools, guided by molecular computers and injected into the blood stream could find and destroy cancer cells or invading bacteria, unclog arteries, or provide oxygen when the circulation is impaired.

Nanotechnology will replace our entire manufacturing base with a new, radically more precise, radically less expensive, and radically more flexible way of making products. The aim is not simply to replace today’s computer chip making plants, but also to replace the assembly lines for cars, televisions, telephones, books, surgical tools, missiles, bookcases, airplanes, tractors, and all the rest. The objective is a pervasive change in manufacturing, a change that will leave virtually no product untouched. Economic progress and military readiness in the 21st Century will depend fundamentally on maintaining a competitive position in nanotechnology.

[35]

Despite the current early developmental status of nanotechnology and molecular nanotechnology, much concern surrounds MNT’s anticipated impact on economics[36][37] and on law. Whatever the exact effects, MNT, if achieved, would tend to reduce the scarcity of manufactured goods and make many more goods (such as food and health aids) manufacturable.

MNT should make possible nanomedical capabilities able to cure any medical condition not already cured by advances in other areas. Good health would be common, and poor health of any form would be as rare as smallpox and scurvy are today. Even cryonics would be feasible, as cryopreserved tissue could be fully repaired.

Molecular nanotechnology is one of the technologies that some analysts believe could lead to a technological singularity. Some feel that molecular nanotechnology would have daunting risks.[38] It conceivably could enable cheaper and more destructive conventional weapons. Also, molecular nanotechnology might permit weapons of mass destruction that could self-replicate, as viruses and cancer cells do when attacking the human body. Commentators generally agree that, in the event molecular nanotechnology were developed, its self-replication should be permitted only under very controlled or “inherently safe” conditions.

A fear exists that nanomechanical robots, if achieved, and if designed to self-replicate using naturally occurring materials (a difficult task), could consume the entire planet in their hunger for raw materials,[39] or simply crowd out natural life, out-competing it for energy (as happened historically when blue-green algae appeared and outcompeted earlier life forms). Some commentators have referred to this situation as the “grey goo” or “ecophagy” scenario. K. Eric Drexler considers an accidental “grey goo” scenario extremely unlikely and says so in later editions of Engines of Creation.

In light of this perception of potential danger, the Foresight Institute, founded by Drexler, has prepared a set of guidelines[40] for the ethical development of nanotechnology. These include the banning of free-foraging self-replicating pseudo-organisms on the Earth’s surface, at least, and possibly in other places.

The feasibility of the basic technologies analyzed in Nanosystems has been the subject of a formal scientific review by U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and has also been the focus of extensive debate on the internet and in the popular press.

In 2006, U.S. National Academy of Sciences released the report of a study of molecular manufacturing as part of a longer report, A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative[41] The study committee reviewed the technical content of Nanosystems, and in its conclusion states that no current theoretical analysis can be considered definitive regarding several questions of potential system performance, and that optimal paths for implementing high-performance systems cannot be predicted with confidence. It recommends experimental research to advance knowledge in this area:

A section heading in Drexler’s Engines of Creation reads[42] “Universal Assemblers”, and the following text speaks of multiple types of assemblers which, collectively, could hypothetically “build almost anything that the laws of nature allow to exist.” Drexler’s colleague Ralph Merkle has noted that, contrary to widespread legend,[43] Drexler never claimed that assembler systems could build absolutely any molecular structure. The endnotes in Drexler’s book explain the qualification “almost”: “For example, a delicate structure might be designed that, like a stone arch, would self-destruct unless all its pieces were already in place. If there were no room in the design for the placement and removal of a scaffolding, then the structure might be impossible to build. Few structures of practical interest seem likely to exhibit such a problem, however.”

In 1992, Drexler published Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation,[44] a detailed proposal for synthesizing stiff covalent structures using a table-top factory. Diamondoid structures and other stiff covalent structures, if achieved, would have a wide range of possible applications, going far beyond current MEMS technology. An outline of a path was put forward in 1992 for building a table-top factory in the absence of an assembler. Other researchers have begun advancing tentative, alternative proposed paths [5] for this in the years since Nanosystems was published.

In 2004 Richard Jones wrote Soft Machines (nanotechnology and life), a book for lay audiences published by Oxford University. In this book he describes radical nanotechnology (as advocated by Drexler) as a deterministic/mechanistic idea of nano engineered machines that does not take into account the nanoscale challenges such as wetness, stickiness, Brownian motion, and high viscosity. He also explains what is soft nanotechnology or more appropriatelly biomimetic nanotechnology which is the way forward, if not the best way, to design functional nanodevices that can cope with all the problems at a nanoscale. One can think of soft nanotechnology as the development of nanomachines that uses the lessons learned from biology on how things work, chemistry to precisely engineer such devices and stochastic physics to model the system and its natural processes in detail.

Several researchers, including Nobel Prize winner Dr. Richard Smalley (19432005),[45] attacked the notion of universal assemblers, leading to a rebuttal from Drexler and colleagues,[46] and eventually to an exchange of letters.[47] Smalley argued that chemistry is extremely complicated, reactions are hard to control, and that a universal assembler is science fiction. Drexler and colleagues, however, noted that Drexler never proposed universal assemblers able to make absolutely anything, but instead proposed more limited assemblers able to make a very wide variety of things. They challenged the relevance of Smalley’s arguments to the more specific proposals advanced in Nanosystems. Also, Smalley argued that nearly all of modern chemistry involves reactions that take place in a solvent (usually water), because the small molecules of a solvent contribute many things, such as lowering binding energies for transition states. Since nearly all known chemistry requires a solvent, Smalley felt that Drexler’s proposal to use a high vacuum environment was not feasible. However, Drexler addresses this in Nanosystems by showing mathematically that well designed catalysts can provide the effects of a solvent and can fundamentally be made even more efficient than a solvent/enzyme reaction could ever be. It is noteworthy that, contrary to Smalley’s opinion that enzymes require water, “Not only do enzymes work vigorously in anhydrous organic media, but in this unnatural milieu they acquire remarkable properties such as greatly enhanced stability, radically altered substrate and enantiomeric specificities, molecular memory, and the ability to catalyse unusual reactions.”[48]

For the future, some means have to be found for MNT design evolution at the nanoscale which mimics the process of biological evolution at the molecular scale. Biological evolution proceeds by random variation in ensemble averages of organisms combined with culling of the less-successful variants and reproduction of the more-successful variants, and macroscale engineering design also proceeds by a process of design evolution from simplicity to complexity as set forth somewhat satirically by John Gall: “A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. . . . A complex system designed from scratch never works and can not be patched up to make it work. You have to start over, beginning with a system that works.” [49] A breakthrough in MNT is needed which proceeds from the simple atomic ensembles which can be built with, e.g., an STM to complex MNT systems via a process of design evolution. A handicap in this process is the difficulty of seeing and manipulation at the nanoscale compared to the macroscale which makes deterministic selection of successful trials difficult; in contrast biological evolution proceeds via action of what Richard Dawkins has called the “blind watchmaker” [50] comprising random molecular variation and deterministic reproduction/extinction.

At present in 2007 the practice of nanotechnology embraces both stochastic approaches (in which, for example, supramolecular chemistry creates waterproof pants) and deterministic approaches wherein single molecules (created by stochastic chemistry) are manipulated on substrate surfaces (created by stochastic deposition methods) by deterministic methods comprising nudging them with STM or AFM probes and causing simple binding or cleavage reactions to occur. The dream of a complex, deterministic molecular nanotechnology remains elusive. Since the mid-1990s, thousands of surface scientists and thin film technocrats have latched on to the nanotechnology bandwagon and redefined their disciplines as nanotechnology. This has caused much confusion in the field and has spawned thousands of “nano”-papers on the peer reviewed literature. Most of these reports are extensions of the more ordinary research done in the parent fields.

The feasibility of Drexler’s proposals largely depends, therefore, on whether designs like those in Nanosystems could be built in the absence of a universal assembler to build them and would work as described. Supporters of molecular nanotechnology frequently claim that no significant errors have been discovered in Nanosystems since 1992. Even some critics concede[51] that “Drexler has carefully considered a number of physical principles underlying the ‘high level’ aspects of the nanosystems he proposes and, indeed, has thought in some detail” about some issues.

Other critics claim, however, that Nanosystems omits important chemical details about the low-level ‘machine language’ of molecular nanotechnology.[52][53][54][55] They also claim that much of the other low-level chemistry in Nanosystems requires extensive further work, and that Drexler’s higher-level designs therefore rest on speculative foundations. Recent such further work by Freitas and Merkle [56] is aimed at strengthening these foundations by filling the existing gaps in the low-level chemistry.

Drexler argues that we may need to wait until our conventional nanotechnology improves before solving these issues: “Molecular manufacturing will result from a series of advances in molecular machine systems, much as the first Moon landing resulted from a series of advances in liquid-fuel rocket systems. We are now in a position like that of the British Interplanetary Society of the 1930s which described how multistage liquid-fueled rockets could reach the Moon and pointed to early rockets as illustrations of the basic principle.”[57] However, Freitas and Merkle argue [58] that a focused effort to achieve diamond mechanosynthesis (DMS) can begin now, using existing technology, and might achieve success in less than a decade if their “direct-to-DMS approach is pursued rather than a more circuitous development approach that seeks to implement less efficacious nondiamondoid molecular manufacturing technologies before progressing to diamondoid”.

To summarize the arguments against feasibility: First, critics argue that a primary barrier to achieving molecular nanotechnology is the lack of an efficient way to create machines on a molecular/atomic scale, especially in the absence of a well-defined path toward a self-replicating assembler or diamondoid nanofactory. Advocates respond that a preliminary research path leading to a diamondoid nanofactory is being developed.[6]

A second difficulty in reaching molecular nanotechnology is design. Hand design of a gear or bearing at the level of atoms might take a few to several weeks. While Drexler, Merkle and others have created designs of simple parts, no comprehensive design effort for anything approaching the complexity of a Model T Ford has been attempted. Advocates respond that it is difficult to undertake a comprehensive design effort in the absence of significant funding for such efforts, and that despite this handicap much useful design-ahead has nevertheless been accomplished with new software tools that have been developed, e.g., at Nanorex.[59]

In the latest report A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative[41] put out by the National Academies Press in December 2006 (roughly twenty years after Engines of Creation was published), no clear way forward toward molecular nanotechnology could yet be seen, as per the conclusion on page 108 of that report: “Although theoretical calculations can be made today, the eventually attainable range of chemical reaction cycles, error rates, speed of operation, and thermodynamic efficiencies of such bottom-up manufacturing systems cannot be reliably predicted at this time. Thus, the eventually attainable perfection and complexity of manufactured products, while they can be calculated in theory, cannot be predicted with confidence. Finally, the optimum research paths that might lead to systems which greatly exceed the thermodynamic efficiencies and other capabilities of biological systems cannot be reliably predicted at this time. Research funding that is based on the ability of investigators to produce experimental demonstrations that link to abstract models and guide long-term vision is most appropriate to achieve this goal.” This call for research leading to demonstrations is welcomed by groups such as the Nanofactory Collaboration who are specifically seeking experimental successes in diamond mechanosynthesis.[60] The “Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems”[61] aims to offer additional constructive insights.

It is perhaps interesting to ask whether or not most structures consistent with physical law can in fact be manufactured. Advocates assert that to achieve most of the vision of molecular manufacturing it is not necessary to be able to build “any structure that is compatible with natural law.” Rather, it is necessary to be able to build only a sufficient (possibly modest) subset of such structuresas is true, in fact, of any practical manufacturing process used in the world today, and is true even in biology. In any event, as Richard Feynman once said, “It is scientific only to say what’s more likely or less likely, and not to be proving all the time what’s possible or impossible.”[62]

There is a growing body of peer-reviewed theoretical work on synthesizing diamond by mechanically removing/adding hydrogen atoms [63] and depositing carbon atoms [64][65][66][67][68][69] (a process known as mechanosynthesis). This work is slowly permeating the broader nanoscience community and is being critiqued. For instance, Peng et al. (2006)[70] (in the continuing research effort by Freitas, Merkle and their collaborators) reports that the most-studied mechanosynthesis tooltip motif (DCB6Ge) successfully places a C2 carbon dimer on a C(110) diamond surface at both 300K (room temperature) and 80K (liquid nitrogen temperature), and that the silicon variant (DCB6Si) also works at 80K but not at 300K. Over 100,000 CPU hours were invested in this latest study. The DCB6 tooltip motif, initially described by Merkle and Freitas at a Foresight Conference in 2002, was the first complete tooltip ever proposed for diamond mechanosynthesis and remains the only tooltip motif that has been successfully simulated for its intended function on a full 200-atom diamond surface.

The tooltips modeled in this work are intended to be used only in carefully controlled environments (e.g., vacuum). Maximum acceptable limits for tooltip translational and rotational misplacement errors are reported in Peng et al. (2006) — tooltips must be positioned with great accuracy to avoid bonding the dimer incorrectly. Peng et al. (2006) reports that increasing the handle thickness from 4 support planes of C atoms above the tooltip to 5 planes decreases the resonance frequency of the entire structure from 2.0THz to 1.8THz. More importantly, the vibrational footprints of a DCB6Ge tooltip mounted on a 384-atom handle and of the same tooltip mounted on a similarly constrained but much larger 636-atom “crossbar” handle are virtually identical in the non-crossbar directions. Additional computational studies modeling still bigger handle structures are welcome, but the ability to precisely position SPM tips to the requisite atomic accuracy has been repeatedly demonstrated experimentally at low temperature,[71][72] or even at room temperature[73][74] constituting a basic existence proof for this capability.

Further research[75] to consider additional tooltips will require time-consuming computational chemistry and difficult laboratory work.

A working nanofactory would require a variety of well-designed tips for different reactions, and detailed analyses of placing atoms on more complicated surfaces. Although this appears a challenging problem given current resources, many tools will be available to help future researchers: Moore’s law predicts further increases in computer power, semiconductor fabrication techniques continue to approach the nanoscale, and researchers grow ever more skilled at using proteins, ribosomes and DNA to perform novel chemistry.

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Molecular nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Nanotechnology (“nanotech”) is manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale. The earliest, widespread description of nanotechnology[1][2] referred to the particular technological goal of precisely manipulating atoms and molecules for fabrication of macroscale products, also now referred to as molecular nanotechnology. A more generalized description of nanotechnology was subsequently established by the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which defines nanotechnology as the manipulation of matter with at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers. This definition reflects the fact that quantum mechanical effects are important at this quantum-realm scale, and so the definition shifted from a particular technological goal to a research category inclusive of all types of research and technologies that deal with the special properties of matter which occur below the given size threshold. It is therefore common to see the plural form “nanotechnologies” as well as “nanoscale technologies” to refer to the broad range of research and applications whose common trait is size. Because of the variety of potential applications (including industrial and military), governments have invested billions of dollars in nanotechnology research. Through 2012, the USA has invested $3.7 billion using its National Nanotechnology Initiative, the European Union has invested $1.2 billion, and Japan has invested $750 million.[3]

Nanotechnology as defined by size is naturally very broad, including fields of science as diverse as surface science, organic chemistry, molecular biology, semiconductor physics, energy storage,[4][5] microfabrication,[6] molecular engineering, etc.[7] The associated research and applications are equally diverse, ranging from extensions of conventional device physics to completely new approaches based upon molecular self-assembly,[8] from developing new materials with dimensions on the nanoscale to direct control of matter on the atomic scale.

Scientists currently debate the future implications of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology may be able to create many new materials and devices with a vast range of applications, such as in nanomedicine, nanoelectronics, biomaterials energy production, and consumer products. On the other hand, nanotechnology raises many of the same issues as any new technology, including concerns about the toxicity and environmental impact of nanomaterials,[9] and their potential effects on global economics, as well as speculation about various doomsday scenarios. These concerns have led to a debate among advocacy groups and governments on whether special regulation of nanotechnology is warranted.

The concepts that seeded nanotechnology were first discussed in 1959 by renowned physicist Richard Feynman in his talk There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom, in which he described the possibility of synthesis via direct manipulation of atoms. The term “nano-technology” was first used by Norio Taniguchi in 1974, though it was not widely known.

Inspired by Feynman’s concepts, K. Eric Drexler used the term “nanotechnology” in his 1986 book Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology, which proposed the idea of a nanoscale “assembler” which would be able to build a copy of itself and of other items of arbitrary complexity with atomic control. Also in 1986, Drexler co-founded The Foresight Institute (with which he is no longer affiliated) to help increase public awareness and understanding of nanotechnology concepts and implications.

Thus, emergence of nanotechnology as a field in the 1980s occurred through convergence of Drexler’s theoretical and public work, which developed and popularized a conceptual framework for nanotechnology, and high-visibility experimental advances that drew additional wide-scale attention to the prospects of atomic control of matter. In the 1980s, two major breakthroughs sparked the growth of nanotechnology in modern era.

First, the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope in 1981 which provided unprecedented visualization of individual atoms and bonds, and was successfully used to manipulate individual atoms in 1989. The microscope’s developers Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer at IBM Zurich Research Laboratory received a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986.[10][11] Binnig, Quate and Gerber also invented the analogous atomic force microscope that year.

Second, Fullerenes were discovered in 1985 by Harry Kroto, Richard Smalley, and Robert Curl, who together won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.[12][13] C60 was not initially described as nanotechnology; the term was used regarding subsequent work with related graphene tubes (called carbon nanotubes and sometimes called Bucky tubes) which suggested potential applications for nanoscale electronics and devices.

In the early 2000s, the field garnered increased scientific, political, and commercial attention that led to both controversy and progress. Controversies emerged regarding the definitions and potential implications of nanotechnologies, exemplified by the Royal Society’s report on nanotechnology.[14] Challenges were raised regarding the feasibility of applications envisioned by advocates of molecular nanotechnology, which culminated in a public debate between Drexler and Smalley in 2001 and 2003.[15]

Meanwhile, commercialization of products based on advancements in nanoscale technologies began emerging. These products are limited to bulk applications of nanomaterials and do not involve atomic control of matter. Some examples include the Silver Nano platform for using silver nanoparticles as an antibacterial agent, nanoparticle-based transparent sunscreens, carbon fiber strengthening using silica nanoparticles, and carbon nanotubes for stain-resistant textiles.[16][17]

Governments moved to promote and fund research into nanotechnology, such as in the U.S. with the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which formalized a size-based definition of nanotechnology and established funding for research on the nanoscale, and in Europe via the European Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development.

By the mid-2000s new and serious scientific attention began to flourish. Projects emerged to produce nanotechnology roadmaps[18][19] which center on atomically precise manipulation of matter and discuss existing and projected capabilities, goals, and applications.

Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale. This covers both current work and concepts that are more advanced. In its original sense, nanotechnology refers to the projected ability to construct items from the bottom up, using techniques and tools being developed today to make complete, high performance products.

One nanometer (nm) is one billionth, or 109, of a meter. By comparison, typical carbon-carbon bond lengths, or the spacing between these atoms in a molecule, are in the range 0.120.15 nm, and a DNA double-helix has a diameter around 2nm. On the other hand, the smallest cellular life-forms, the bacteria of the genus Mycoplasma, are around 200nm in length. By convention, nanotechnology is taken as the scale range 1 to 100 nm following the definition used by the National Nanotechnology Initiative in the US. The lower limit is set by the size of atoms (hydrogen has the smallest atoms, which are approximately a quarter of a nm kinetic diameter) since nanotechnology must build its devices from atoms and molecules. The upper limit is more or less arbitrary but is around the size below which phenomena not observed in larger structures start to become apparent and can be made use of in the nano device.[20] These new phenomena make nanotechnology distinct from devices which are merely miniaturised versions of an equivalent macroscopic device; such devices are on a larger scale and come under the description of microtechnology.[21]

To put that scale in another context, the comparative size of a nanometer to a meter is the same as that of a marble to the size of the earth.[22] Or another way of putting it: a nanometer is the amount an average man’s beard grows in the time it takes him to raise the razor to his face.[22]

Two main approaches are used in nanotechnology. In the “bottom-up” approach, materials and devices are built from molecular components which assemble themselves chemically by principles of molecular recognition.[23] In the “top-down” approach, nano-objects are constructed from larger entities without atomic-level control.[24]

Areas of physics such as nanoelectronics, nanomechanics, nanophotonics and nanoionics have evolved during the last few decades to provide a basic scientific foundation of nanotechnology.

Several phenomena become pronounced as the size of the system decreases. These include statistical mechanical effects, as well as quantum mechanical effects, for example the “quantum size effect” where the electronic properties of solids are altered with great reductions in particle size. This effect does not come into play by going from macro to micro dimensions. However, quantum effects can become significant when the nanometer size range is reached, typically at distances of 100 nanometers or less, the so-called quantum realm. Additionally, a number of physical (mechanical, electrical, optical, etc.) properties change when compared to macroscopic systems. One example is the increase in surface area to volume ratio altering mechanical, thermal and catalytic properties of materials. Diffusion and reactions at nanoscale, nanostructures materials and nanodevices with fast ion transport are generally referred to nanoionics. Mechanical properties of nanosystems are of interest in the nanomechanics research. The catalytic activity of nanomaterials also opens potential risks in their interaction with biomaterials.

Materials reduced to the nanoscale can show different properties compared to what they exhibit on a macroscale, enabling unique applications. For instance, opaque substances can become transparent (copper); stable materials can turn combustible (aluminium); insoluble materials may become soluble (gold). A material such as gold, which is chemically inert at normal scales, can serve as a potent chemical catalyst at nanoscales. Much of the fascination with nanotechnology stems from these quantum and surface phenomena that matter exhibits at the nanoscale.[25]

Modern synthetic chemistry has reached the point where it is possible to prepare small molecules to almost any structure. These methods are used today to manufacture a wide variety of useful chemicals such as pharmaceuticals or commercial polymers. This ability raises the question of extending this kind of control to the next-larger level, seeking methods to assemble these single molecules into supramolecular assemblies consisting of many molecules arranged in a well defined manner.

These approaches utilize the concepts of molecular self-assembly and/or supramolecular chemistry to automatically arrange themselves into some useful conformation through a bottom-up approach. The concept of molecular recognition is especially important: molecules can be designed so that a specific configuration or arrangement is favored due to non-covalent intermolecular forces. The WatsonCrick basepairing rules are a direct result of this, as is the specificity of an enzyme being targeted to a single substrate, or the specific folding of the protein itself. Thus, two or more components can be designed to be complementary and mutually attractive so that they make a more complex and useful whole.

Such bottom-up approaches should be capable of producing devices in parallel and be much cheaper than top-down methods, but could potentially be overwhelmed as the size and complexity of the desired assembly increases. Most useful structures require complex and thermodynamically unlikely arrangements of atoms. Nevertheless, there are many examples of self-assembly based on molecular recognition in biology, most notably WatsonCrick basepairing and enzyme-substrate interactions. The challenge for nanotechnology is whether these principles can be used to engineer new constructs in addition to natural ones.

Molecular nanotechnology, sometimes called molecular manufacturing, describes engineered nanosystems (nanoscale machines) operating on the molecular scale. Molecular nanotechnology is especially associated with the molecular assembler, a machine that can produce a desired structure or device atom-by-atom using the principles of mechanosynthesis. Manufacturing in the context of productive nanosystems is not related to, and should be clearly distinguished from, the conventional technologies used to manufacture nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes and nanoparticles.

When the term “nanotechnology” was independently coined and popularized by Eric Drexler (who at the time was unaware of an earlier usage by Norio Taniguchi) it referred to a future manufacturing technology based on molecular machine systems. The premise was that molecular scale biological analogies of traditional machine components demonstrated molecular machines were possible: by the countless examples found in biology, it is known that sophisticated, stochastically optimised biological machines can be produced.

It is hoped that developments in nanotechnology will make possible their construction by some other means, perhaps using biomimetic principles. However, Drexler and other researchers[26] have proposed that advanced nanotechnology, although perhaps initially implemented by biomimetic means, ultimately could be based on mechanical engineering principles, namely, a manufacturing technology based on the mechanical functionality of these components (such as gears, bearings, motors, and structural members) that would enable programmable, positional assembly to atomic specification.[27] The physics and engineering performance of exemplar designs were analyzed in Drexler’s book Nanosystems.

In general it is very difficult to assemble devices on the atomic scale, as one has to position atoms on other atoms of comparable size and stickiness. Another view, put forth by Carlo Montemagno,[28] is that future nanosystems will be hybrids of silicon technology and biological molecular machines. Richard Smalley argued that mechanosynthesis are impossible due to the difficulties in mechanically manipulating individual molecules.

This led to an exchange of letters in the ACS publication Chemical & Engineering News in 2003.[29] Though biology clearly demonstrates that molecular machine systems are possible, non-biological molecular machines are today only in their infancy. Leaders in research on non-biological molecular machines are Dr. Alex Zettl and his colleagues at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories and UC Berkeley.[1] They have constructed at least three distinct molecular devices whose motion is controlled from the desktop with changing voltage: a nanotube nanomotor, a molecular actuator,[30] and a nanoelectromechanical relaxation oscillator.[31] See nanotube nanomotor for more examples.

An experiment indicating that positional molecular assembly is possible was performed by Ho and Lee at Cornell University in 1999. They used a scanning tunneling microscope to move an individual carbon monoxide molecule (CO) to an individual iron atom (Fe) sitting on a flat silver crystal, and chemically bound the CO to the Fe by applying a voltage.

The nanomaterials field includes subfields which develop or study materials having unique properties arising from their nanoscale dimensions.[34]

These seek to arrange smaller components into more complex assemblies.

These seek to create smaller devices by using larger ones to direct their assembly.

These seek to develop components of a desired functionality without regard to how they might be assembled.

These subfields seek to anticipate what inventions nanotechnology might yield, or attempt to propose an agenda along which inquiry might progress. These often take a big-picture view of nanotechnology, with more emphasis on its societal implications than the details of how such inventions could actually be created.

Nanomaterials can be classified in 0D, 1D, 2D and 3D nanomaterials. The dimensionality play a major role in determining the characteristic of nanomaterials including physical, chemical and biological characteristics. With the decrease in dimensionality, an increase in surface-to-volume ratio is observed. This indicate that smaller dimensional nanomaterials have higher surface area compared to 3D nanomaterials. Recently, two dimensional (2D) nanomaterials are extensively investigated for electronic, biomedical, drug delivery and biosensor applications.

There are several important modern developments. The atomic force microscope (AFM) and the Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM) are two early versions of scanning probes that launched nanotechnology. There are other types of scanning probe microscopy. Although conceptually similar to the scanning confocal microscope developed by Marvin Minsky in 1961 and the scanning acoustic microscope (SAM) developed by Calvin Quate and coworkers in the 1970s, newer scanning probe microscopes have much higher resolution, since they are not limited by the wavelength of sound or light.

The tip of a scanning probe can also be used to manipulate nanostructures (a process called positional assembly). Feature-oriented scanning methodology may be a promising way to implement these nanomanipulations in automatic mode.[49][50] However, this is still a slow process because of low scanning velocity of the microscope.

Various techniques of nanolithography such as optical lithography, X-ray lithography, dip pen nanolithography, electron beam lithography or nanoimprint lithography were also developed. Lithography is a top-down fabrication technique where a bulk material is reduced in size to nanoscale pattern.

Another group of nanotechnological techniques include those used for fabrication of nanotubes and nanowires, those used in semiconductor fabrication such as deep ultraviolet lithography, electron beam lithography, focused ion beam machining, nanoimprint lithography, atomic layer deposition, and molecular vapor deposition, and further including molecular self-assembly techniques such as those employing di-block copolymers. The precursors of these techniques preceded the nanotech era, and are extensions in the development of scientific advancements rather than techniques which were devised with the sole purpose of creating nanotechnology and which were results of nanotechnology research.[51]

The top-down approach anticipates nanodevices that must be built piece by piece in stages, much as manufactured items are made. Scanning probe microscopy is an important technique both for characterization and synthesis of nanomaterials. Atomic force microscopes and scanning tunneling microscopes can be used to look at surfaces and to move atoms around. By designing different tips for these microscopes, they can be used for carving out structures on surfaces and to help guide self-assembling structures. By using, for example, feature-oriented scanning approach, atoms or molecules can be moved around on a surface with scanning probe microscopy techniques.[49][50] At present, it is expensive and time-consuming for mass production but very suitable for laboratory experimentation.

In contrast, bottom-up techniques build or grow larger structures atom by atom or molecule by molecule. These techniques include chemical synthesis, self-assembly and positional assembly. Dual polarisation interferometry is one tool suitable for characterisation of self assembled thin films. Another variation of the bottom-up approach is molecular beam epitaxy or MBE. Researchers at Bell Telephone Laboratories like John R. Arthur. Alfred Y. Cho, and Art C. Gossard developed and implemented MBE as a research tool in the late 1960s and 1970s. Samples made by MBE were key to the discovery of the fractional quantum Hall effect for which the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded. MBE allows scientists to lay down atomically precise layers of atoms and, in the process, build up complex structures. Important for research on semiconductors, MBE is also widely used to make samples and devices for the newly emerging field of spintronics.

However, new therapeutic products, based on responsive nanomaterials, such as the ultradeformable, stress-sensitive Transfersome vesicles, are under development and already approved for human use in some countries.[52]

As of August 21, 2008, the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies estimates that over 800 manufacturer-identified nanotech products are publicly available, with new ones hitting the market at a pace of 34 per week.[17] The project lists all of the products in a publicly accessible online database. Most applications are limited to the use of “first generation” passive nanomaterials which includes titanium dioxide in sunscreen, cosmetics, surface coatings,[53] and some food products; Carbon allotropes used to produce gecko tape; silver in food packaging, clothing, disinfectants and household appliances; zinc oxide in sunscreens and cosmetics, surface coatings, paints and outdoor furniture varnishes; and cerium oxide as a fuel catalyst.[16]

Further applications allow tennis balls to last longer, golf balls to fly straighter, and even bowling balls to become more durable and have a harder surface. Trousers and socks have been infused with nanotechnology so that they will last longer and keep people cool in the summer. Bandages are being infused with silver nanoparticles to heal cuts faster.[54] Video game consoles and personal computers may become cheaper, faster, and contain more memory thanks to nanotechnology.[55] Also, to build structures for on chip computing with light, for example on chip optical quantum information processing, and picosecond transmission of information.[56]

Nanotechnology may have the ability to make existing medical applications cheaper and easier to use in places like the general practitioner’s office and at home.[57] Cars are being manufactured with nanomaterials so they may need fewer metals and less fuel to operate in the future.[58]

Scientists are now turning to nanotechnology in an attempt to develop diesel engines with cleaner exhaust fumes. Platinum is currently used as the diesel engine catalyst in these engines. The catalyst is what cleans the exhaust fume particles. First a reduction catalyst is employed to take nitrogen atoms from NOx molecules in order to free oxygen. Next the oxidation catalyst oxidizes the hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide to form carbon dioxide and water.[59] Platinum is used in both the reduction and the oxidation catalysts.[60] Using platinum though, is inefficient in that it is expensive and unsustainable. Danish company InnovationsFonden invested DKK 15 million in a search for new catalyst substitutes using nanotechnology. The goal of the project, launched in the autumn of 2014, is to maximize surface area and minimize the amount of material required. Objects tend to minimize their surface energy; two drops of water, for example, will join to form one drop and decrease surface area. If the catalyst’s surface area that is exposed to the exhaust fumes is maximized, efficiency of the catalyst is maximized. The team working on this project aims to create nanoparticles that will not merge. Every time the surface is optimized, material is saved. Thus, creating these nanoparticles will increase the effectiveness of the resulting diesel engine catalystin turn leading to cleaner exhaust fumesand will decrease cost. If successful, the team hopes to reduce platinum use by 25%.[61]

Nanotechnology also has a prominent role in the fast developing field of Tissue Engineering. When designing scaffolds, researchers attempt to the mimic the nanoscale features of a Cell’s microenvironment to direct its differentiation down a suitable lineage.[62] For example, when creating scaffolds to support the growth of bone, researchers may mimic osteoclast resorption pits.[63]

Researchers have successfully used DNA origami-based nanobots capable of carrying out logic functions to achieve targeted drug delivery in cockroaches. It is said that the computational power of these nanobots can be scaled up to that of a Commodore 64.[64]

An area of concern is the effect that industrial-scale manufacturing and use of nanomaterials would have on human health and the environment, as suggested by nanotoxicology research. For these reasons, some groups advocate that nanotechnology be regulated by governments. Others counter that overregulation would stifle scientific research and the development of beneficial innovations. Public health research agencies, such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are actively conducting research on potential health effects stemming from exposures to nanoparticles.[65][66]

Some nanoparticle products may have unintended consequences. Researchers have discovered that bacteriostatic silver nanoparticles used in socks to reduce foot odor are being released in the wash.[67] These particles are then flushed into the waste water stream and may destroy bacteria which are critical components of natural ecosystems, farms, and waste treatment processes.[68]

Public deliberations on risk perception in the US and UK carried out by the Center for Nanotechnology in Society found that participants were more positive about nanotechnologies for energy applications than for health applications, with health applications raising moral and ethical dilemmas such as cost and availability.[69]

Experts, including director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies David Rejeski, have testified[70] that successful commercialization depends on adequate oversight, risk research strategy, and public engagement. Berkeley, California is currently the only city in the United States to regulate nanotechnology;[71] Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2008 considered enacting a similar law,[72] but ultimately rejected it.[73] Relevant for both research on and application of nanotechnologies, the insurability of nanotechnology is contested.[74] Without state regulation of nanotechnology, the availability of private insurance for potential damages is seen as necessary to ensure that burdens are not socialised implicitly.

Nanofibers are used in several areas and in different products, in everything from aircraft wings to tennis rackets. Inhaling airborne nanoparticles and nanofibers may lead to a number of pulmonary diseases, e.g. fibrosis.[75] Researchers have found that when rats breathed in nanoparticles, the particles settled in the brain and lungs, which led to significant increases in biomarkers for inflammation and stress response[76] and that nanoparticles induce skin aging through oxidative stress in hairless mice.[77][78]

A two-year study at UCLA’s School of Public Health found lab mice consuming nano-titanium dioxide showed DNA and chromosome damage to a degree “linked to all the big killers of man, namely cancer, heart disease, neurological disease and aging”.[79]

A major study published more recently in Nature Nanotechnology suggests some forms of carbon nanotubes a poster child for the “nanotechnology revolution” could be as harmful as asbestos if inhaled in sufficient quantities. Anthony Seaton of the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh, Scotland, who contributed to the article on carbon nanotubes said “We know that some of them probably have the potential to cause mesothelioma. So those sorts of materials need to be handled very carefully.”[80] In the absence of specific regulation forthcoming from governments, Paull and Lyons (2008) have called for an exclusion of engineered nanoparticles in food.[81] A newspaper article reports that workers in a paint factory developed serious lung disease and nanoparticles were found in their lungs.[82][83][84][85]

Calls for tighter regulation of nanotechnology have occurred alongside a growing debate related to the human health and safety risks of nanotechnology.[86] There is significant debate about who is responsible for the regulation of nanotechnology. Some regulatory agencies currently cover some nanotechnology products and processes (to varying degrees) by “bolting on” nanotechnology to existing regulations there are clear gaps in these regimes.[87] Davies (2008) has proposed a regulatory road map describing steps to deal with these shortcomings.[88]

Stakeholders concerned by the lack of a regulatory framework to assess and control risks associated with the release of nanoparticles and nanotubes have drawn parallels with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (“mad cow” disease), thalidomide, genetically modified food,[89] nuclear energy, reproductive technologies, biotechnology, and asbestosis. Dr. Andrew Maynard, chief science advisor to the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, concludes that there is insufficient funding for human health and safety research, and as a result there is currently limited understanding of the human health and safety risks associated with nanotechnology.[90] As a result, some academics have called for stricter application of the precautionary principle, with delayed marketing approval, enhanced labelling and additional safety data development requirements in relation to certain forms of nanotechnology.[91][92]

The Royal Society report[14] identified a risk of nanoparticles or nanotubes being released during disposal, destruction and recycling, and recommended that “manufacturers of products that fall under extended producer responsibility regimes such as end-of-life regulations publish procedures outlining how these materials will be managed to minimize possible human and environmental exposure” (p. xiii).

The Center for Nanotechnology in Society has found that people respond to nanotechnologies differently, depending on application with participants in public deliberations more positive about nanotechnologies for energy than health applications suggesting that any public calls for nano regulations may differ by technology sector.[69]

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Nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Molecular nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Molecular nanotechnology (MNT) is a technology based on the ability to build structures to complex, atomic specifications by means of mechanosynthesis.[1] This is distinct from nanoscale materials. Based on Richard Feynman’s vision of miniature factories using nanomachines to build complex products (including additional nanomachines), this advanced form of nanotechnology (or molecular manufacturing[2]) would make use of positionally-controlled mechanosynthesis guided by molecular machine systems. MNT would involve combining physical principles demonstrated by biophysics, chemistry, other nanotechnologies, and the molecular machinery of life with the systems engineering principles found in modern macroscale factories.

While conventional chemistry uses inexact processes obtaining inexact results, and biology exploits inexact processes to obtain definitive results, molecular nanotechnology would employ original definitive processes to obtain definitive results. The desire in molecular nanotechnology would be to balance molecular reactions in positionally-controlled locations and orientations to obtain desired chemical reactions, and then to build systems by further assembling the products of these reactions.

A roadmap for the development of MNT is an objective of a broadly based technology project led by Battelle (the manager of several U.S. National Laboratories) and the Foresight Institute.[3] The roadmap was originally scheduled for completion by late 2006, but was released in January 2008.[4] The Nanofactory Collaboration[5] is a more focused ongoing effort involving 23 researchers from 10 organizations and 4 countries that is developing a practical research agenda[6] specifically aimed at positionally-controlled diamond mechanosynthesis and diamondoid nanofactory development. In August 2005, a task force consisting of 50+ international experts from various fields was organized by the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology to study the societal implications of molecular nanotechnology.[7]

One proposed application of MNT is so-called smart materials. This term refers to any sort of material designed and engineered at the nanometer scale for a specific task. It encompasses a wide variety of possible commercial applications. One example would be materials designed to respond differently to various molecules; such a capability could lead, for example, to artificial drugs which would recognize and render inert specific viruses. Another is the idea of self-healing structures, which would repair small tears in a surface naturally in the same way as self-sealing tires or human skin.

A MNT nanosensor would resemble a smart material, involving a small component within a larger machine that would react to its environment and change in some fundamental, intentional way. A very simple example: a photosensor might passively measure the incident light and discharge its absorbed energy as electricity when the light passes above or below a specified threshold, sending a signal to a larger machine. Such a sensor would supposedly cost less and use less power than a conventional sensor, and yet function usefully in all the same applications for example, turning on parking lot lights when it gets dark.

While smart materials and nanosensors both exemplify useful applications of MNT, they pale in comparison with the complexity of the technology most popularly associated with the term: the replicating nanorobot.

MNT nanofacturing is popularly linked with the idea of swarms of coordinated nanoscale robots working together, a popularization of an early proposal by K. Eric Drexler in his 1986 discussions of MNT, but superseded in 1992. In this early proposal, sufficiently capable nanorobots would construct more nanorobots in an artificial environment containing special molecular building blocks.

Critics have doubted both the feasibility of self-replicating nanorobots and the feasibility of control if self-replicating nanorobots could be achieved: they cite the possibility of mutations removing any control and favoring reproduction of mutant pathogenic variations. Advocates address the first doubt by pointing out that the first macroscale autonomous machine replicator, made of Lego blocks, was built and operated experimentally in 2002.[8] While there are sensory advantages present at the macroscale compared to the limited sensorium available at the nanoscale, proposals for positionally controlled nanoscale mechanosynthetic fabrication systems employ dead reckoning of tooltips combined with reliable reaction sequence design to ensure reliable results, hence a limited sensorium is no handicap; similar considerations apply to the positional assembly of small nanoparts. Advocates address the second doubt by arguing that bacteria are (of necessity) evolved to evolve, while nanorobot mutation could be actively prevented by common error-correcting techniques. Similar ideas are advocated in the Foresight Guidelines on Molecular Nanotechnology,[9] and a map of the 137-dimensional replicator design space[10] recently published by Freitas and Merkle provides numerous proposed methods by which replicators could, in principle, be safely controlled by good design.

However, the concept of suppressing mutation raises the question: How can design evolution occur at the nanoscale without a process of random mutation and deterministic selection? Critics argue that MNT advocates have not provided a substitute for such a process of evolution in this nanoscale arena where conventional sensory-based selection processes are lacking. The limits of the sensorium available at the nanoscale could make it difficult or impossible to winnow successes from failures. Advocates argue that design evolution should occur deterministically and strictly under human control, using the conventional engineering paradigm of modeling, design, prototyping, testing, analysis, and redesign.

In any event, since 1992 technical proposals for MNT do not include self-replicating nanorobots, and recent ethical guidelines put forth by MNT advocates prohibit unconstrained self-replication.[9][11]

One of the most important applications of MNT would be medical nanorobotics or nanomedicine, an area pioneered by Robert Freitas in numerous books[12] and papers.[13] The ability to design, build, and deploy large numbers of medical nanorobots would, at a minimum, make possible the rapid elimination of disease and the reliable and relatively painless recovery from physical trauma. Medical nanorobots might also make possible the convenient correction of genetic defects, and help to ensure a greatly expanded lifespan. More controversially, medical nanorobots might be used to augment natural human capabilities. One study has reported on the conditions like tumors, arteriosclerosis, blood clots leading to stroke, accumulation of scar tissue and localized pockets of infection can be possibly be addressed by employing medical nanorobots.[14][15]

Another proposed application of molecular nanotechnology is “utility fog”[16] in which a cloud of networked microscopic robots (simpler than assemblers) would change its shape and properties to form macroscopic objects and tools in accordance with software commands. Rather than modify the current practices of consuming material goods in different forms, utility fog would simply replace many physical objects.

Yet another proposed application of MNT would be phased-array optics (PAO).[17] However, this appears to be a problem addressable by ordinary nanoscale technology. PAO would use the principle of phased-array millimeter technology but at optical wavelengths. This would permit the duplication of any sort of optical effect but virtually. Users could request holograms, sunrises and sunsets, or floating lasers as the mood strikes. PAO systems were described in BC Crandall’s Nanotechnology: Molecular Speculations on Global Abundance in the Brian Wowk article “Phased-Array Optics.”[18]

Molecular manufacturing is a potential future subfield of nanotechnology that would make it possible to build complex structures at atomic precision.[19] Molecular manufacturing requires significant advances in nanotechnology, but once achieved could produce highly advanced products at low costs and in large quantities in nanofactories weighing a kilogram or more.[19][20] When nanofactories gain the ability to produce other nanofactories production may only be limited by relatively abundant factors such as input materials, energy and software.[20]

The products of molecular manufacturing could range from cheaper, mass-produced versions of known high-tech products to novel products with added capabilities in many areas of application. Some applications that have been suggested are advanced smart materials, nanosensors, medical nanorobots and space travel.[19] Additionally, molecular manufacturing could be used to cheaply produce highly advanced, durable weapons, which is an area of special concern regarding the impact of nanotechnology.[20] Being equipped with compact computers and motors these could be increasingly autonomous and have a large range of capabilities.[20]

According to Chris Phoenix and Mike Treder from the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology as well as Anders Sandberg from the Future of Humanity Institute molecular manufacturing is the application of nanotechnology that poses the most significant global catastrophic risk.[20][21] Several nanotechnology researchers state that the bulk of risk from nanotechnology comes from the potential to lead to war, arms races and destructive global government.[20][21][22] Several reasons have been suggested why the availability of nanotech weaponry may with significant likelihood lead to unstable arms races (compared to e.g. nuclear arms races): (1) A large number of players may be tempted to enter the race since the threshold for doing so is low;[20] (2) the ability to make weapons with molecular manufacturing will be cheap and easy to hide;[20] (3) therefore lack of insight into the other parties’ capabilities can tempt players to arm out of caution or to launch preemptive strikes;[20][23] (4) molecular manufacturing may reduce dependency on international trade,[20] a potential peace-promoting factor;[24] (5) wars of aggression may pose a smaller economic threat to the aggressor since manufacturing is cheap and humans may not be needed on the battlefield.[20]

Since self-regulation by all state and non-state actors seems hard to achieve,[25] measures to mitigate war-related risks have mainly been proposed in the area of international cooperation.[20][26] International infrastructure may be expanded giving more sovereignty to the international level. This could help coordinate efforts for arms control.[27] International institutions dedicated specifically to nanotechnology (perhaps analogously to the International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA) or general arms control may also be designed.[26] One may also jointly make differential technological progress on defensive technologies, a policy that players should usually favour.[20] The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology also suggest some technical restrictions.[28] Improved transparency regarding technological capabilities may be another important facilitator for arms-control.[29]

A grey goo is another catastrophic scenario, which was proposed by Eric Drexler in his 1986 book Engines of Creation,[30] has been analyzed by Freitas in “Some Limits to Global Ecophagy by Biovorous Nanoreplicators, with Public Policy Recommendations” [31] and has been a theme in mainstream media and fiction.[32][33] This scenario involves tiny self-replicating robots that consume the entire biosphere using it as a source of energy and building blocks. Nanotech experts including Drexler now discredit the scenario. According to Chris Phoenix a “So-called grey goo could only be the product of a deliberate and difficult engineering process, not an accident”.[34] With the advent of nano-biotech, a different scenario called green goo has been forwarded. Here, the malignant substance is not nanobots but rather self-replicating biological organisms engineered through nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology (or molecular nanotechnology to refer more specifically to the goals discussed here) will let us continue the historical trends in manufacturing right up to the fundamental limits imposed by physical law. It will let us make remarkably powerful molecular computers. It will let us make materials over fifty times lighter than steel or aluminium alloy but with the same strength. We’ll be able to make jets, rockets, cars or even chairs that, by today’s standards, would be remarkably light, strong, and inexpensive. Molecular surgical tools, guided by molecular computers and injected into the blood stream could find and destroy cancer cells or invading bacteria, unclog arteries, or provide oxygen when the circulation is impaired.

Nanotechnology will replace our entire manufacturing base with a new, radically more precise, radically less expensive, and radically more flexible way of making products. The aim is not simply to replace today’s computer chip making plants, but also to replace the assembly lines for cars, televisions, telephones, books, surgical tools, missiles, bookcases, airplanes, tractors, and all the rest. The objective is a pervasive change in manufacturing, a change that will leave virtually no product untouched. Economic progress and military readiness in the 21st Century will depend fundamentally on maintaining a competitive position in nanotechnology.

[35]

Despite the current early developmental status of nanotechnology and molecular nanotechnology, much concern surrounds MNT’s anticipated impact on economics[36][37] and on law. Whatever the exact effects, MNT, if achieved, would tend to reduce the scarcity of manufactured goods and make many more goods (such as food and health aids) manufacturable.

MNT should make possible nanomedical capabilities able to cure any medical condition not already cured by advances in other areas. Good health would be common, and poor health of any form would be as rare as smallpox and scurvy are today. Even cryonics would be feasible, as cryopreserved tissue could be fully repaired.

Molecular nanotechnology is one of the technologies that some analysts believe could lead to a technological singularity. Some feel that molecular nanotechnology would have daunting risks.[38] It conceivably could enable cheaper and more destructive conventional weapons. Also, molecular nanotechnology might permit weapons of mass destruction that could self-replicate, as viruses and cancer cells do when attacking the human body. Commentators generally agree that, in the event molecular nanotechnology were developed, its self-replication should be permitted only under very controlled or “inherently safe” conditions.

A fear exists that nanomechanical robots, if achieved, and if designed to self-replicate using naturally occurring materials (a difficult task), could consume the entire planet in their hunger for raw materials,[39] or simply crowd out natural life, out-competing it for energy (as happened historically when blue-green algae appeared and outcompeted earlier life forms). Some commentators have referred to this situation as the “grey goo” or “ecophagy” scenario. K. Eric Drexler considers an accidental “grey goo” scenario extremely unlikely and says so in later editions of Engines of Creation.

In light of this perception of potential danger, the Foresight Institute, founded by Drexler, has prepared a set of guidelines[40] for the ethical development of nanotechnology. These include the banning of free-foraging self-replicating pseudo-organisms on the Earth’s surface, at least, and possibly in other places.

The feasibility of the basic technologies analyzed in Nanosystems has been the subject of a formal scientific review by U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and has also been the focus of extensive debate on the internet and in the popular press.

In 2006, U.S. National Academy of Sciences released the report of a study of molecular manufacturing as part of a longer report, A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative[41] The study committee reviewed the technical content of Nanosystems, and in its conclusion states that no current theoretical analysis can be considered definitive regarding several questions of potential system performance, and that optimal paths for implementing high-performance systems cannot be predicted with confidence. It recommends experimental research to advance knowledge in this area:

A section heading in Drexler’s Engines of Creation reads[42] “Universal Assemblers”, and the following text speaks of multiple types of assemblers which, collectively, could hypothetically “build almost anything that the laws of nature allow to exist.” Drexler’s colleague Ralph Merkle has noted that, contrary to widespread legend,[43] Drexler never claimed that assembler systems could build absolutely any molecular structure. The endnotes in Drexler’s book explain the qualification “almost”: “For example, a delicate structure might be designed that, like a stone arch, would self-destruct unless all its pieces were already in place. If there were no room in the design for the placement and removal of a scaffolding, then the structure might be impossible to build. Few structures of practical interest seem likely to exhibit such a problem, however.”

In 1992, Drexler published Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation,[44] a detailed proposal for synthesizing stiff covalent structures using a table-top factory. Diamondoid structures and other stiff covalent structures, if achieved, would have a wide range of possible applications, going far beyond current MEMS technology. An outline of a path was put forward in 1992 for building a table-top factory in the absence of an assembler. Other researchers have begun advancing tentative, alternative proposed paths [5] for this in the years since Nanosystems was published.

In 2004 Richard Jones wrote Soft Machines (nanotechnology and life), a book for lay audiences published by Oxford University. In this book he describes radical nanotechnology (as advocated by Drexler) as a deterministic/mechanistic idea of nano engineered machines that does not take into account the nanoscale challenges such as wetness, stickiness, Brownian motion, and high viscosity. He also explains what is soft nanotechnology or more appropriatelly biomimetic nanotechnology which is the way forward, if not the best way, to design functional nanodevices that can cope with all the problems at a nanoscale. One can think of soft nanotechnology as the development of nanomachines that uses the lessons learned from biology on how things work, chemistry to precisely engineer such devices and stochastic physics to model the system and its natural processes in detail.

Several researchers, including Nobel Prize winner Dr. Richard Smalley (19432005),[45] attacked the notion of universal assemblers, leading to a rebuttal from Drexler and colleagues,[46] and eventually to an exchange of letters.[47] Smalley argued that chemistry is extremely complicated, reactions are hard to control, and that a universal assembler is science fiction. Drexler and colleagues, however, noted that Drexler never proposed universal assemblers able to make absolutely anything, but instead proposed more limited assemblers able to make a very wide variety of things. They challenged the relevance of Smalley’s arguments to the more specific proposals advanced in Nanosystems. Also, Smalley argued that nearly all of modern chemistry involves reactions that take place in a solvent (usually water), because the small molecules of a solvent contribute many things, such as lowering binding energies for transition states. Since nearly all known chemistry requires a solvent, Smalley felt that Drexler’s proposal to use a high vacuum environment was not feasible. However, Drexler addresses this in Nanosystems by showing mathematically that well designed catalysts can provide the effects of a solvent and can fundamentally be made even more efficient than a solvent/enzyme reaction could ever be. It is noteworthy that, contrary to Smalley’s opinion that enzymes require water, “Not only do enzymes work vigorously in anhydrous organic media, but in this unnatural milieu they acquire remarkable properties such as greatly enhanced stability, radically altered substrate and enantiomeric specificities, molecular memory, and the ability to catalyse unusual reactions.”[48]

For the future, some means have to be found for MNT design evolution at the nanoscale which mimics the process of biological evolution at the molecular scale. Biological evolution proceeds by random variation in ensemble averages of organisms combined with culling of the less-successful variants and reproduction of the more-successful variants, and macroscale engineering design also proceeds by a process of design evolution from simplicity to complexity as set forth somewhat satirically by John Gall: “A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. . . . A complex system designed from scratch never works and can not be patched up to make it work. You have to start over, beginning with a system that works.” [49] A breakthrough in MNT is needed which proceeds from the simple atomic ensembles which can be built with, e.g., an STM to complex MNT systems via a process of design evolution. A handicap in this process is the difficulty of seeing and manipulation at the nanoscale compared to the macroscale which makes deterministic selection of successful trials difficult; in contrast biological evolution proceeds via action of what Richard Dawkins has called the “blind watchmaker” [50] comprising random molecular variation and deterministic reproduction/extinction.

At present in 2007 the practice of nanotechnology embraces both stochastic approaches (in which, for example, supramolecular chemistry creates waterproof pants) and deterministic approaches wherein single molecules (created by stochastic chemistry) are manipulated on substrate surfaces (created by stochastic deposition methods) by deterministic methods comprising nudging them with STM or AFM probes and causing simple binding or cleavage reactions to occur. The dream of a complex, deterministic molecular nanotechnology remains elusive. Since the mid-1990s, thousands of surface scientists and thin film technocrats have latched on to the nanotechnology bandwagon and redefined their disciplines as nanotechnology. This has caused much confusion in the field and has spawned thousands of “nano”-papers on the peer reviewed literature. Most of these reports are extensions of the more ordinary research done in the parent fields.

The feasibility of Drexler’s proposals largely depends, therefore, on whether designs like those in Nanosystems could be built in the absence of a universal assembler to build them and would work as described. Supporters of molecular nanotechnology frequently claim that no significant errors have been discovered in Nanosystems since 1992. Even some critics concede[51] that “Drexler has carefully considered a number of physical principles underlying the ‘high level’ aspects of the nanosystems he proposes and, indeed, has thought in some detail” about some issues.

Other critics claim, however, that Nanosystems omits important chemical details about the low-level ‘machine language’ of molecular nanotechnology.[52][53][54][55] They also claim that much of the other low-level chemistry in Nanosystems requires extensive further work, and that Drexler’s higher-level designs therefore rest on speculative foundations. Recent such further work by Freitas and Merkle [56] is aimed at strengthening these foundations by filling the existing gaps in the low-level chemistry.

Drexler argues that we may need to wait until our conventional nanotechnology improves before solving these issues: “Molecular manufacturing will result from a series of advances in molecular machine systems, much as the first Moon landing resulted from a series of advances in liquid-fuel rocket systems. We are now in a position like that of the British Interplanetary Society of the 1930s which described how multistage liquid-fueled rockets could reach the Moon and pointed to early rockets as illustrations of the basic principle.”[57] However, Freitas and Merkle argue [58] that a focused effort to achieve diamond mechanosynthesis (DMS) can begin now, using existing technology, and might achieve success in less than a decade if their “direct-to-DMS approach is pursued rather than a more circuitous development approach that seeks to implement less efficacious nondiamondoid molecular manufacturing technologies before progressing to diamondoid”.

To summarize the arguments against feasibility: First, critics argue that a primary barrier to achieving molecular nanotechnology is the lack of an efficient way to create machines on a molecular/atomic scale, especially in the absence of a well-defined path toward a self-replicating assembler or diamondoid nanofactory. Advocates respond that a preliminary research path leading to a diamondoid nanofactory is being developed.[6]

A second difficulty in reaching molecular nanotechnology is design. Hand design of a gear or bearing at the level of atoms might take a few to several weeks. While Drexler, Merkle and others have created designs of simple parts, no comprehensive design effort for anything approaching the complexity of a Model T Ford has been attempted. Advocates respond that it is difficult to undertake a comprehensive design effort in the absence of significant funding for such efforts, and that despite this handicap much useful design-ahead has nevertheless been accomplished with new software tools that have been developed, e.g., at Nanorex.[59]

In the latest report A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative[41] put out by the National Academies Press in December 2006 (roughly twenty years after Engines of Creation was published), no clear way forward toward molecular nanotechnology could yet be seen, as per the conclusion on page 108 of that report: “Although theoretical calculations can be made today, the eventually attainable range of chemical reaction cycles, error rates, speed of operation, and thermodynamic efficiencies of such bottom-up manufacturing systems cannot be reliably predicted at this time. Thus, the eventually attainable perfection and complexity of manufactured products, while they can be calculated in theory, cannot be predicted with confidence. Finally, the optimum research paths that might lead to systems which greatly exceed the thermodynamic efficiencies and other capabilities of biological systems cannot be reliably predicted at this time. Research funding that is based on the ability of investigators to produce experimental demonstrations that link to abstract models and guide long-term vision is most appropriate to achieve this goal.” This call for research leading to demonstrations is welcomed by groups such as the Nanofactory Collaboration who are specifically seeking experimental successes in diamond mechanosynthesis.[60] The “Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems”[61] aims to offer additional constructive insights.

It is perhaps interesting to ask whether or not most structures consistent with physical law can in fact be manufactured. Advocates assert that to achieve most of the vision of molecular manufacturing it is not necessary to be able to build “any structure that is compatible with natural law.” Rather, it is necessary to be able to build only a sufficient (possibly modest) subset of such structuresas is true, in fact, of any practical manufacturing process used in the world today, and is true even in biology. In any event, as Richard Feynman once said, “It is scientific only to say what’s more likely or less likely, and not to be proving all the time what’s possible or impossible.”[62]

There is a growing body of peer-reviewed theoretical work on synthesizing diamond by mechanically removing/adding hydrogen atoms [63] and depositing carbon atoms [64][65][66][67][68][69] (a process known as mechanosynthesis). This work is slowly permeating the broader nanoscience community and is being critiqued. For instance, Peng et al. (2006)[70] (in the continuing research effort by Freitas, Merkle and their collaborators) reports that the most-studied mechanosynthesis tooltip motif (DCB6Ge) successfully places a C2 carbon dimer on a C(110) diamond surface at both 300K (room temperature) and 80K (liquid nitrogen temperature), and that the silicon variant (DCB6Si) also works at 80K but not at 300K. Over 100,000 CPU hours were invested in this latest study. The DCB6 tooltip motif, initially described by Merkle and Freitas at a Foresight Conference in 2002, was the first complete tooltip ever proposed for diamond mechanosynthesis and remains the only tooltip motif that has been successfully simulated for its intended function on a full 200-atom diamond surface.

The tooltips modeled in this work are intended to be used only in carefully controlled environments (e.g., vacuum). Maximum acceptable limits for tooltip translational and rotational misplacement errors are reported in Peng et al. (2006) — tooltips must be positioned with great accuracy to avoid bonding the dimer incorrectly. Peng et al. (2006) reports that increasing the handle thickness from 4 support planes of C atoms above the tooltip to 5 planes decreases the resonance frequency of the entire structure from 2.0THz to 1.8THz. More importantly, the vibrational footprints of a DCB6Ge tooltip mounted on a 384-atom handle and of the same tooltip mounted on a similarly constrained but much larger 636-atom “crossbar” handle are virtually identical in the non-crossbar directions. Additional computational studies modeling still bigger handle structures are welcome, but the ability to precisely position SPM tips to the requisite atomic accuracy has been repeatedly demonstrated experimentally at low temperature,[71][72] or even at room temperature[73][74] constituting a basic existence proof for this capability.

Further research[75] to consider additional tooltips will require time-consuming computational chemistry and difficult laboratory work.

A working nanofactory would require a variety of well-designed tips for different reactions, and detailed analyses of placing atoms on more complicated surfaces. Although this appears a challenging problem given current resources, many tools will be available to help future researchers: Moore’s law predicts further increases in computer power, semiconductor fabrication techniques continue to approach the nanoscale, and researchers grow ever more skilled at using proteins, ribosomes and DNA to perform novel chemistry.

Excerpt from:

Molecular nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Nanotechnology (“nanotech”) is manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale. The earliest, widespread description of nanotechnology[1][2] referred to the particular technological goal of precisely manipulating atoms and molecules for fabrication of macroscale products, also now referred to as molecular nanotechnology. A more generalized description of nanotechnology was subsequently established by the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which defines nanotechnology as the manipulation of matter with at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers. This definition reflects the fact that quantum mechanical effects are important at this quantum-realm scale, and so the definition shifted from a particular technological goal to a research category inclusive of all types of research and technologies that deal with the special properties of matter which occur below the given size threshold. It is therefore common to see the plural form “nanotechnologies” as well as “nanoscale technologies” to refer to the broad range of research and applications whose common trait is size. Because of the variety of potential applications (including industrial and military), governments have invested billions of dollars in nanotechnology research. Through 2012, the USA has invested $3.7 billion using its National Nanotechnology Initiative, the European Union has invested $1.2 billion, and Japan has invested $750 million.[3]

Nanotechnology as defined by size is naturally very broad, including fields of science as diverse as surface science, organic chemistry, molecular biology, semiconductor physics, energy storage,[4][5] microfabrication,[6] molecular engineering, etc.[7] The associated research and applications are equally diverse, ranging from extensions of conventional device physics to completely new approaches based upon molecular self-assembly,[8] from developing new materials with dimensions on the nanoscale to direct control of matter on the atomic scale.

Scientists currently debate the future implications of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology may be able to create many new materials and devices with a vast range of applications, such as in nanomedicine, nanoelectronics, biomaterials energy production, and consumer products. On the other hand, nanotechnology raises many of the same issues as any new technology, including concerns about the toxicity and environmental impact of nanomaterials,[9] and their potential effects on global economics, as well as speculation about various doomsday scenarios. These concerns have led to a debate among advocacy groups and governments on whether special regulation of nanotechnology is warranted.

The concepts that seeded nanotechnology were first discussed in 1959 by renowned physicist Richard Feynman in his talk There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom, in which he described the possibility of synthesis via direct manipulation of atoms. The term “nano-technology” was first used by Norio Taniguchi in 1974, though it was not widely known.

Inspired by Feynman’s concepts, K. Eric Drexler used the term “nanotechnology” in his 1986 book Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology, which proposed the idea of a nanoscale “assembler” which would be able to build a copy of itself and of other items of arbitrary complexity with atomic control. Also in 1986, Drexler co-founded The Foresight Institute (with which he is no longer affiliated) to help increase public awareness and understanding of nanotechnology concepts and implications.

Thus, emergence of nanotechnology as a field in the 1980s occurred through convergence of Drexler’s theoretical and public work, which developed and popularized a conceptual framework for nanotechnology, and high-visibility experimental advances that drew additional wide-scale attention to the prospects of atomic control of matter. In the 1980s, two major breakthroughs sparked the growth of nanotechnology in modern era.

First, the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope in 1981 which provided unprecedented visualization of individual atoms and bonds, and was successfully used to manipulate individual atoms in 1989. The microscope’s developers Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer at IBM Zurich Research Laboratory received a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986.[10][11] Binnig, Quate and Gerber also invented the analogous atomic force microscope that year.

Second, Fullerenes were discovered in 1985 by Harry Kroto, Richard Smalley, and Robert Curl, who together won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.[12][13] C60 was not initially described as nanotechnology; the term was used regarding subsequent work with related graphene tubes (called carbon nanotubes and sometimes called Bucky tubes) which suggested potential applications for nanoscale electronics and devices.

In the early 2000s, the field garnered increased scientific, political, and commercial attention that led to both controversy and progress. Controversies emerged regarding the definitions and potential implications of nanotechnologies, exemplified by the Royal Society’s report on nanotechnology.[14] Challenges were raised regarding the feasibility of applications envisioned by advocates of molecular nanotechnology, which culminated in a public debate between Drexler and Smalley in 2001 and 2003.[15]

Meanwhile, commercialization of products based on advancements in nanoscale technologies began emerging. These products are limited to bulk applications of nanomaterials and do not involve atomic control of matter. Some examples include the Silver Nano platform for using silver nanoparticles as an antibacterial agent, nanoparticle-based transparent sunscreens, carbon fiber strengthening using silica nanoparticles, and carbon nanotubes for stain-resistant textiles.[16][17]

Governments moved to promote and fund research into nanotechnology, such as in the U.S. with the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which formalized a size-based definition of nanotechnology and established funding for research on the nanoscale, and in Europe via the European Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development.

By the mid-2000s new and serious scientific attention began to flourish. Projects emerged to produce nanotechnology roadmaps[18][19] which center on atomically precise manipulation of matter and discuss existing and projected capabilities, goals, and applications.

Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale. This covers both current work and concepts that are more advanced. In its original sense, nanotechnology refers to the projected ability to construct items from the bottom up, using techniques and tools being developed today to make complete, high performance products.

One nanometer (nm) is one billionth, or 109, of a meter. By comparison, typical carbon-carbon bond lengths, or the spacing between these atoms in a molecule, are in the range 0.120.15 nm, and a DNA double-helix has a diameter around 2nm. On the other hand, the smallest cellular life-forms, the bacteria of the genus Mycoplasma, are around 200nm in length. By convention, nanotechnology is taken as the scale range 1 to 100 nm following the definition used by the National Nanotechnology Initiative in the US. The lower limit is set by the size of atoms (hydrogen has the smallest atoms, which are approximately a quarter of a nm kinetic diameter) since nanotechnology must build its devices from atoms and molecules. The upper limit is more or less arbitrary but is around the size below which phenomena not observed in larger structures start to become apparent and can be made use of in the nano device.[20] These new phenomena make nanotechnology distinct from devices which are merely miniaturised versions of an equivalent macroscopic device; such devices are on a larger scale and come under the description of microtechnology.[21]

To put that scale in another context, the comparative size of a nanometer to a meter is the same as that of a marble to the size of the earth.[22] Or another way of putting it: a nanometer is the amount an average man’s beard grows in the time it takes him to raise the razor to his face.[22]

Two main approaches are used in nanotechnology. In the “bottom-up” approach, materials and devices are built from molecular components which assemble themselves chemically by principles of molecular recognition.[23] In the “top-down” approach, nano-objects are constructed from larger entities without atomic-level control.[24]

Areas of physics such as nanoelectronics, nanomechanics, nanophotonics and nanoionics have evolved during the last few decades to provide a basic scientific foundation of nanotechnology.

Several phenomena become pronounced as the size of the system decreases. These include statistical mechanical effects, as well as quantum mechanical effects, for example the “quantum size effect” where the electronic properties of solids are altered with great reductions in particle size. This effect does not come into play by going from macro to micro dimensions. However, quantum effects can become significant when the nanometer size range is reached, typically at distances of 100 nanometers or less, the so-called quantum realm. Additionally, a number of physical (mechanical, electrical, optical, etc.) properties change when compared to macroscopic systems. One example is the increase in surface area to volume ratio altering mechanical, thermal and catalytic properties of materials. Diffusion and reactions at nanoscale, nanostructures materials and nanodevices with fast ion transport are generally referred to nanoionics. Mechanical properties of nanosystems are of interest in the nanomechanics research. The catalytic activity of nanomaterials also opens potential risks in their interaction with biomaterials.

Materials reduced to the nanoscale can show different properties compared to what they exhibit on a macroscale, enabling unique applications. For instance, opaque substances can become transparent (copper); stable materials can turn combustible (aluminium); insoluble materials may become soluble (gold). A material such as gold, which is chemically inert at normal scales, can serve as a potent chemical catalyst at nanoscales. Much of the fascination with nanotechnology stems from these quantum and surface phenomena that matter exhibits at the nanoscale.[25]

Modern synthetic chemistry has reached the point where it is possible to prepare small molecules to almost any structure. These methods are used today to manufacture a wide variety of useful chemicals such as pharmaceuticals or commercial polymers. This ability raises the question of extending this kind of control to the next-larger level, seeking methods to assemble these single molecules into supramolecular assemblies consisting of many molecules arranged in a well defined manner.

These approaches utilize the concepts of molecular self-assembly and/or supramolecular chemistry to automatically arrange themselves into some useful conformation through a bottom-up approach. The concept of molecular recognition is especially important: molecules can be designed so that a specific configuration or arrangement is favored due to non-covalent intermolecular forces. The WatsonCrick basepairing rules are a direct result of this, as is the specificity of an enzyme being targeted to a single substrate, or the specific folding of the protein itself. Thus, two or more components can be designed to be complementary and mutually attractive so that they make a more complex and useful whole.

Such bottom-up approaches should be capable of producing devices in parallel and be much cheaper than top-down methods, but could potentially be overwhelmed as the size and complexity of the desired assembly increases. Most useful structures require complex and thermodynamically unlikely arrangements of atoms. Nevertheless, there are many examples of self-assembly based on molecular recognition in biology, most notably WatsonCrick basepairing and enzyme-substrate interactions. The challenge for nanotechnology is whether these principles can be used to engineer new constructs in addition to natural ones.

Molecular nanotechnology, sometimes called molecular manufacturing, describes engineered nanosystems (nanoscale machines) operating on the molecular scale. Molecular nanotechnology is especially associated with the molecular assembler, a machine that can produce a desired structure or device atom-by-atom using the principles of mechanosynthesis. Manufacturing in the context of productive nanosystems is not related to, and should be clearly distinguished from, the conventional technologies used to manufacture nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes and nanoparticles.

When the term “nanotechnology” was independently coined and popularized by Eric Drexler (who at the time was unaware of an earlier usage by Norio Taniguchi) it referred to a future manufacturing technology based on molecular machine systems. The premise was that molecular scale biological analogies of traditional machine components demonstrated molecular machines were possible: by the countless examples found in biology, it is known that sophisticated, stochastically optimised biological machines can be produced.

It is hoped that developments in nanotechnology will make possible their construction by some other means, perhaps using biomimetic principles. However, Drexler and other researchers[26] have proposed that advanced nanotechnology, although perhaps initially implemented by biomimetic means, ultimately could be based on mechanical engineering principles, namely, a manufacturing technology based on the mechanical functionality of these components (such as gears, bearings, motors, and structural members) that would enable programmable, positional assembly to atomic specification.[27] The physics and engineering performance of exemplar designs were analyzed in Drexler’s book Nanosystems.

In general it is very difficult to assemble devices on the atomic scale, as one has to position atoms on other atoms of comparable size and stickiness. Another view, put forth by Carlo Montemagno,[28] is that future nanosystems will be hybrids of silicon technology and biological molecular machines. Richard Smalley argued that mechanosynthesis are impossible due to the difficulties in mechanically manipulating individual molecules.

This led to an exchange of letters in the ACS publication Chemical & Engineering News in 2003.[29] Though biology clearly demonstrates that molecular machine systems are possible, non-biological molecular machines are today only in their infancy. Leaders in research on non-biological molecular machines are Dr. Alex Zettl and his colleagues at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories and UC Berkeley.[1] They have constructed at least three distinct molecular devices whose motion is controlled from the desktop with changing voltage: a nanotube nanomotor, a molecular actuator,[30] and a nanoelectromechanical relaxation oscillator.[31] See nanotube nanomotor for more examples.

An experiment indicating that positional molecular assembly is possible was performed by Ho and Lee at Cornell University in 1999. They used a scanning tunneling microscope to move an individual carbon monoxide molecule (CO) to an individual iron atom (Fe) sitting on a flat silver crystal, and chemically bound the CO to the Fe by applying a voltage.

The nanomaterials field includes subfields which develop or study materials having unique properties arising from their nanoscale dimensions.[34]

These seek to arrange smaller components into more complex assemblies.

These seek to create smaller devices by using larger ones to direct their assembly.

These seek to develop components of a desired functionality without regard to how they might be assembled.

These subfields seek to anticipate what inventions nanotechnology might yield, or attempt to propose an agenda along which inquiry might progress. These often take a big-picture view of nanotechnology, with more emphasis on its societal implications than the details of how such inventions could actually be created.

Nanomaterials can be classified in 0D, 1D, 2D and 3D nanomaterials. The dimensionality play a major role in determining the characteristic of nanomaterials including physical, chemical and biological characteristics. With the decrease in dimensionality, an increase in surface-to-volume ratio is observed. This indicate that smaller dimensional nanomaterials have higher surface area compared to 3D nanomaterials. Recently, two dimensional (2D) nanomaterials are extensively investigated for electronic, biomedical, drug delivery and biosensor applications.

There are several important modern developments. The atomic force microscope (AFM) and the Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM) are two early versions of scanning probes that launched nanotechnology. There are other types of scanning probe microscopy. Although conceptually similar to the scanning confocal microscope developed by Marvin Minsky in 1961 and the scanning acoustic microscope (SAM) developed by Calvin Quate and coworkers in the 1970s, newer scanning probe microscopes have much higher resolution, since they are not limited by the wavelength of sound or light.

The tip of a scanning probe can also be used to manipulate nanostructures (a process called positional assembly). Feature-oriented scanning methodology may be a promising way to implement these nanomanipulations in automatic mode.[49][50] However, this is still a slow process because of low scanning velocity of the microscope.

Various techniques of nanolithography such as optical lithography, X-ray lithography, dip pen nanolithography, electron beam lithography or nanoimprint lithography were also developed. Lithography is a top-down fabrication technique where a bulk material is reduced in size to nanoscale pattern.

Another group of nanotechnological techniques include those used for fabrication of nanotubes and nanowires, those used in semiconductor fabrication such as deep ultraviolet lithography, electron beam lithography, focused ion beam machining, nanoimprint lithography, atomic layer deposition, and molecular vapor deposition, and further including molecular self-assembly techniques such as those employing di-block copolymers. The precursors of these techniques preceded the nanotech era, and are extensions in the development of scientific advancements rather than techniques which were devised with the sole purpose of creating nanotechnology and which were results of nanotechnology research.[51]

The top-down approach anticipates nanodevices that must be built piece by piece in stages, much as manufactured items are made. Scanning probe microscopy is an important technique both for characterization and synthesis of nanomaterials. Atomic force microscopes and scanning tunneling microscopes can be used to look at surfaces and to move atoms around. By designing different tips for these microscopes, they can be used for carving out structures on surfaces and to help guide self-assembling structures. By using, for example, feature-oriented scanning approach, atoms or molecules can be moved around on a surface with scanning probe microscopy techniques.[49][50] At present, it is expensive and time-consuming for mass production but very suitable for laboratory experimentation.

In contrast, bottom-up techniques build or grow larger structures atom by atom or molecule by molecule. These techniques include chemical synthesis, self-assembly and positional assembly. Dual polarisation interferometry is one tool suitable for characterisation of self assembled thin films. Another variation of the bottom-up approach is molecular beam epitaxy or MBE. Researchers at Bell Telephone Laboratories like John R. Arthur. Alfred Y. Cho, and Art C. Gossard developed and implemented MBE as a research tool in the late 1960s and 1970s. Samples made by MBE were key to the discovery of the fractional quantum Hall effect for which the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded. MBE allows scientists to lay down atomically precise layers of atoms and, in the process, build up complex structures. Important for research on semiconductors, MBE is also widely used to make samples and devices for the newly emerging field of spintronics.

However, new therapeutic products, based on responsive nanomaterials, such as the ultradeformable, stress-sensitive Transfersome vesicles, are under development and already approved for human use in some countries.[52]

As of August 21, 2008, the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies estimates that over 800 manufacturer-identified nanotech products are publicly available, with new ones hitting the market at a pace of 34 per week.[17] The project lists all of the products in a publicly accessible online database. Most applications are limited to the use of “first generation” passive nanomaterials which includes titanium dioxide in sunscreen, cosmetics, surface coatings,[53] and some food products; Carbon allotropes used to produce gecko tape; silver in food packaging, clothing, disinfectants and household appliances; zinc oxide in sunscreens and cosmetics, surface coatings, paints and outdoor furniture varnishes; and cerium oxide as a fuel catalyst.[16]

Further applications allow tennis balls to last longer, golf balls to fly straighter, and even bowling balls to become more durable and have a harder surface. Trousers and socks have been infused with nanotechnology so that they will last longer and keep people cool in the summer. Bandages are being infused with silver nanoparticles to heal cuts faster.[54] Video game consoles and personal computers may become cheaper, faster, and contain more memory thanks to nanotechnology.[55] Also, to build structures for on chip computing with light, for example on chip optical quantum information processing, and picosecond transmission of information.[56]

Nanotechnology may have the ability to make existing medical applications cheaper and easier to use in places like the general practitioner’s office and at home.[57] Cars are being manufactured with nanomaterials so they may need fewer metals and less fuel to operate in the future.[58]

Scientists are now turning to nanotechnology in an attempt to develop diesel engines with cleaner exhaust fumes. Platinum is currently used as the diesel engine catalyst in these engines. The catalyst is what cleans the exhaust fume particles. First a reduction catalyst is employed to take nitrogen atoms from NOx molecules in order to free oxygen. Next the oxidation catalyst oxidizes the hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide to form carbon dioxide and water.[59] Platinum is used in both the reduction and the oxidation catalysts.[60] Using platinum though, is inefficient in that it is expensive and unsustainable. Danish company InnovationsFonden invested DKK 15 million in a search for new catalyst substitutes using nanotechnology. The goal of the project, launched in the autumn of 2014, is to maximize surface area and minimize the amount of material required. Objects tend to minimize their surface energy; two drops of water, for example, will join to form one drop and decrease surface area. If the catalyst’s surface area that is exposed to the exhaust fumes is maximized, efficiency of the catalyst is maximized. The team working on this project aims to create nanoparticles that will not merge. Every time the surface is optimized, material is saved. Thus, creating these nanoparticles will increase the effectiveness of the resulting diesel engine catalystin turn leading to cleaner exhaust fumesand will decrease cost. If successful, the team hopes to reduce platinum use by 25%.[61]

Nanotechnology also has a prominent role in the fast developing field of Tissue Engineering. When designing scaffolds, researchers attempt to the mimic the nanoscale features of a Cell’s microenvironment to direct its differentiation down a suitable lineage.[62] For example, when creating scaffolds to support the growth of bone, researchers may mimic osteoclast resorption pits.[63]

Researchers have successfully used DNA origami-based nanobots capable of carrying out logic functions to achieve targeted drug delivery in cockroaches. It is said that the computational power of these nanobots can be scaled up to that of a Commodore 64.[64]

An area of concern is the effect that industrial-scale manufacturing and use of nanomaterials would have on human health and the environment, as suggested by nanotoxicology research. For these reasons, some groups advocate that nanotechnology be regulated by governments. Others counter that overregulation would stifle scientific research and the development of beneficial innovations. Public health research agencies, such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are actively conducting research on potential health effects stemming from exposures to nanoparticles.[65][66]

Some nanoparticle products may have unintended consequences. Researchers have discovered that bacteriostatic silver nanoparticles used in socks to reduce foot odor are being released in the wash.[67] These particles are then flushed into the waste water stream and may destroy bacteria which are critical components of natural ecosystems, farms, and waste treatment processes.[68]

Public deliberations on risk perception in the US and UK carried out by the Center for Nanotechnology in Society found that participants were more positive about nanotechnologies for energy applications than for health applications, with health applications raising moral and ethical dilemmas such as cost and availability.[69]

Experts, including director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies David Rejeski, have testified[70] that successful commercialization depends on adequate oversight, risk research strategy, and public engagement. Berkeley, California is currently the only city in the United States to regulate nanotechnology;[71] Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2008 considered enacting a similar law,[72] but ultimately rejected it.[73] Relevant for both research on and application of nanotechnologies, the insurability of nanotechnology is contested.[74] Without state regulation of nanotechnology, the availability of private insurance for potential damages is seen as necessary to ensure that burdens are not socialised implicitly.

Nanofibers are used in several areas and in different products, in everything from aircraft wings to tennis rackets. Inhaling airborne nanoparticles and nanofibers may lead to a number of pulmonary diseases, e.g. fibrosis.[75] Researchers have found that when rats breathed in nanoparticles, the particles settled in the brain and lungs, which led to significant increases in biomarkers for inflammation and stress response[76] and that nanoparticles induce skin aging through oxidative stress in hairless mice.[77][78]

A two-year study at UCLA’s School of Public Health found lab mice consuming nano-titanium dioxide showed DNA and chromosome damage to a degree “linked to all the big killers of man, namely cancer, heart disease, neurological disease and aging”.[79]

A major study published more recently in Nature Nanotechnology suggests some forms of carbon nanotubes a poster child for the “nanotechnology revolution” could be as harmful as asbestos if inhaled in sufficient quantities. Anthony Seaton of the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh, Scotland, who contributed to the article on carbon nanotubes said “We know that some of them probably have the potential to cause mesothelioma. So those sorts of materials need to be handled very carefully.”[80] In the absence of specific regulation forthcoming from governments, Paull and Lyons (2008) have called for an exclusion of engineered nanoparticles in food.[81] A newspaper article reports that workers in a paint factory developed serious lung disease and nanoparticles were found in their lungs.[82][83][84][85]

Calls for tighter regulation of nanotechnology have occurred alongside a growing debate related to the human health and safety risks of nanotechnology.[86] There is significant debate about who is responsible for the regulation of nanotechnology. Some regulatory agencies currently cover some nanotechnology products and processes (to varying degrees) by “bolting on” nanotechnology to existing regulations there are clear gaps in these regimes.[87] Davies (2008) has proposed a regulatory road map describing steps to deal with these shortcomings.[88]

Stakeholders concerned by the lack of a regulatory framework to assess and control risks associated with the release of nanoparticles and nanotubes have drawn parallels with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (“mad cow” disease), thalidomide, genetically modified food,[89] nuclear energy, reproductive technologies, biotechnology, and asbestosis. Dr. Andrew Maynard, chief science advisor to the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, concludes that there is insufficient funding for human health and safety research, and as a result there is currently limited understanding of the human health and safety risks associated with nanotechnology.[90] As a result, some academics have called for stricter application of the precautionary principle, with delayed marketing approval, enhanced labelling and additional safety data development requirements in relation to certain forms of nanotechnology.[91][92]

The Royal Society report[14] identified a risk of nanoparticles or nanotubes being released during disposal, destruction and recycling, and recommended that “manufacturers of products that fall under extended producer responsibility regimes such as end-of-life regulations publish procedures outlining how these materials will be managed to minimize possible human and environmental exposure” (p. xiii).

The Center for Nanotechnology in Society has found that people respond to nanotechnologies differently, depending on application with participants in public deliberations more positive about nanotechnologies for energy than health applications suggesting that any public calls for nano regulations may differ by technology sector.[69]

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Nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Molecular nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Molecular nanotechnology (MNT) is a technology based on the ability to build structures to complex, atomic specifications by means of mechanosynthesis.[1] This is distinct from nanoscale materials. Based on Richard Feynman’s vision of miniature factories using nanomachines to build complex products (including additional nanomachines), this advanced form of nanotechnology (or molecular manufacturing[2]) would make use of positionally-controlled mechanosynthesis guided by molecular machine systems. MNT would involve combining physical principles demonstrated by biophysics, chemistry, other nanotechnologies, and the molecular machinery of life with the systems engineering principles found in modern macroscale factories.

While conventional chemistry uses inexact processes obtaining inexact results, and biology exploits inexact processes to obtain definitive results, molecular nanotechnology would employ original definitive processes to obtain definitive results. The desire in molecular nanotechnology would be to balance molecular reactions in positionally-controlled locations and orientations to obtain desired chemical reactions, and then to build systems by further assembling the products of these reactions.

A roadmap for the development of MNT is an objective of a broadly based technology project led by Battelle (the manager of several U.S. National Laboratories) and the Foresight Institute.[3] The roadmap was originally scheduled for completion by late 2006, but was released in January 2008.[4] The Nanofactory Collaboration[5] is a more focused ongoing effort involving 23 researchers from 10 organizations and 4 countries that is developing a practical research agenda[6] specifically aimed at positionally-controlled diamond mechanosynthesis and diamondoid nanofactory development. In August 2005, a task force consisting of 50+ international experts from various fields was organized by the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology to study the societal implications of molecular nanotechnology.[7]

One proposed application of MNT is so-called smart materials. This term refers to any sort of material designed and engineered at the nanometer scale for a specific task. It encompasses a wide variety of possible commercial applications. One example would be materials designed to respond differently to various molecules; such a capability could lead, for example, to artificial drugs which would recognize and render inert specific viruses. Another is the idea of self-healing structures, which would repair small tears in a surface naturally in the same way as self-sealing tires or human skin.

A MNT nanosensor would resemble a smart material, involving a small component within a larger machine that would react to its environment and change in some fundamental, intentional way. A very simple example: a photosensor might passively measure the incident light and discharge its absorbed energy as electricity when the light passes above or below a specified threshold, sending a signal to a larger machine. Such a sensor would supposedly cost less and use less power than a conventional sensor, and yet function usefully in all the same applications for example, turning on parking lot lights when it gets dark.

While smart materials and nanosensors both exemplify useful applications of MNT, they pale in comparison with the complexity of the technology most popularly associated with the term: the replicating nanorobot.

MNT nanofacturing is popularly linked with the idea of swarms of coordinated nanoscale robots working together, a popularization of an early proposal by K. Eric Drexler in his 1986 discussions of MNT, but superseded in 1992. In this early proposal, sufficiently capable nanorobots would construct more nanorobots in an artificial environment containing special molecular building blocks.

Critics have doubted both the feasibility of self-replicating nanorobots and the feasibility of control if self-replicating nanorobots could be achieved: they cite the possibility of mutations removing any control and favoring reproduction of mutant pathogenic variations. Advocates address the first doubt by pointing out that the first macroscale autonomous machine replicator, made of Lego blocks, was built and operated experimentally in 2002.[8] While there are sensory advantages present at the macroscale compared to the limited sensorium available at the nanoscale, proposals for positionally controlled nanoscale mechanosynthetic fabrication systems employ dead reckoning of tooltips combined with reliable reaction sequence design to ensure reliable results, hence a limited sensorium is no handicap; similar considerations apply to the positional assembly of small nanoparts. Advocates address the second doubt by arguing that bacteria are (of necessity) evolved to evolve, while nanorobot mutation could be actively prevented by common error-correcting techniques. Similar ideas are advocated in the Foresight Guidelines on Molecular Nanotechnology,[9] and a map of the 137-dimensional replicator design space[10] recently published by Freitas and Merkle provides numerous proposed methods by which replicators could, in principle, be safely controlled by good design.

However, the concept of suppressing mutation raises the question: How can design evolution occur at the nanoscale without a process of random mutation and deterministic selection? Critics argue that MNT advocates have not provided a substitute for such a process of evolution in this nanoscale arena where conventional sensory-based selection processes are lacking. The limits of the sensorium available at the nanoscale could make it difficult or impossible to winnow successes from failures. Advocates argue that design evolution should occur deterministically and strictly under human control, using the conventional engineering paradigm of modeling, design, prototyping, testing, analysis, and redesign.

In any event, since 1992 technical proposals for MNT do not include self-replicating nanorobots, and recent ethical guidelines put forth by MNT advocates prohibit unconstrained self-replication.[9][11]

One of the most important applications of MNT would be medical nanorobotics or nanomedicine, an area pioneered by Robert Freitas in numerous books[12] and papers.[13] The ability to design, build, and deploy large numbers of medical nanorobots would, at a minimum, make possible the rapid elimination of disease and the reliable and relatively painless recovery from physical trauma. Medical nanorobots might also make possible the convenient correction of genetic defects, and help to ensure a greatly expanded lifespan. More controversially, medical nanorobots might be used to augment natural human capabilities. One study has reported on the conditions like tumors, arteriosclerosis, blood clots leading to stroke, accumulation of scar tissue and localized pockets of infection can be possibly be addressed by employing medical nanorobots.[14][15]

Another proposed application of molecular nanotechnology is “utility fog”[16] in which a cloud of networked microscopic robots (simpler than assemblers) would change its shape and properties to form macroscopic objects and tools in accordance with software commands. Rather than modify the current practices of consuming material goods in different forms, utility fog would simply replace many physical objects.

Yet another proposed application of MNT would be phased-array optics (PAO).[17] However, this appears to be a problem addressable by ordinary nanoscale technology. PAO would use the principle of phased-array millimeter technology but at optical wavelengths. This would permit the duplication of any sort of optical effect but virtually. Users could request holograms, sunrises and sunsets, or floating lasers as the mood strikes. PAO systems were described in BC Crandall’s Nanotechnology: Molecular Speculations on Global Abundance in the Brian Wowk article “Phased-Array Optics.”[18]

Molecular manufacturing is a potential future subfield of nanotechnology that would make it possible to build complex structures at atomic precision.[19] Molecular manufacturing requires significant advances in nanotechnology, but once achieved could produce highly advanced products at low costs and in large quantities in nanofactories weighing a kilogram or more.[19][20] When nanofactories gain the ability to produce other nanofactories production may only be limited by relatively abundant factors such as input materials, energy and software.[20]

The products of molecular manufacturing could range from cheaper, mass-produced versions of known high-tech products to novel products with added capabilities in many areas of application. Some applications that have been suggested are advanced smart materials, nanosensors, medical nanorobots and space travel.[19] Additionally, molecular manufacturing could be used to cheaply produce highly advanced, durable weapons, which is an area of special concern regarding the impact of nanotechnology.[20] Being equipped with compact computers and motors these could be increasingly autonomous and have a large range of capabilities.[20]

According to Chris Phoenix and Mike Treder from the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology as well as Anders Sandberg from the Future of Humanity Institute molecular manufacturing is the application of nanotechnology that poses the most significant global catastrophic risk.[20][21] Several nanotechnology researchers state that the bulk of risk from nanotechnology comes from the potential to lead to war, arms races and destructive global government.[20][21][22] Several reasons have been suggested why the availability of nanotech weaponry may with significant likelihood lead to unstable arms races (compared to e.g. nuclear arms races): (1) A large number of players may be tempted to enter the race since the threshold for doing so is low;[20] (2) the ability to make weapons with molecular manufacturing will be cheap and easy to hide;[20] (3) therefore lack of insight into the other parties’ capabilities can tempt players to arm out of caution or to launch preemptive strikes;[20][23] (4) molecular manufacturing may reduce dependency on international trade,[20] a potential peace-promoting factor;[24] (5) wars of aggression may pose a smaller economic threat to the aggressor since manufacturing is cheap and humans may not be needed on the battlefield.[20]

Since self-regulation by all state and non-state actors seems hard to achieve,[25] measures to mitigate war-related risks have mainly been proposed in the area of international cooperation.[20][26] International infrastructure may be expanded giving more sovereignty to the international level. This could help coordinate efforts for arms control.[27] International institutions dedicated specifically to nanotechnology (perhaps analogously to the International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA) or general arms control may also be designed.[26] One may also jointly make differential technological progress on defensive technologies, a policy that players should usually favour.[20] The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology also suggest some technical restrictions.[28] Improved transparency regarding technological capabilities may be another important facilitator for arms-control.[29]

A grey goo is another catastrophic scenario, which was proposed by Eric Drexler in his 1986 book Engines of Creation,[30] has been analyzed by Freitas in “Some Limits to Global Ecophagy by Biovorous Nanoreplicators, with Public Policy Recommendations” [31] and has been a theme in mainstream media and fiction.[32][33] This scenario involves tiny self-replicating robots that consume the entire biosphere using it as a source of energy and building blocks. Nanotech experts including Drexler now discredit the scenario. According to Chris Phoenix a “So-called grey goo could only be the product of a deliberate and difficult engineering process, not an accident”.[34] With the advent of nano-biotech, a different scenario called green goo has been forwarded. Here, the malignant substance is not nanobots but rather self-replicating biological organisms engineered through nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology (or molecular nanotechnology to refer more specifically to the goals discussed here) will let us continue the historical trends in manufacturing right up to the fundamental limits imposed by physical law. It will let us make remarkably powerful molecular computers. It will let us make materials over fifty times lighter than steel or aluminium alloy but with the same strength. We’ll be able to make jets, rockets, cars or even chairs that, by today’s standards, would be remarkably light, strong, and inexpensive. Molecular surgical tools, guided by molecular computers and injected into the blood stream could find and destroy cancer cells or invading bacteria, unclog arteries, or provide oxygen when the circulation is impaired.

Nanotechnology will replace our entire manufacturing base with a new, radically more precise, radically less expensive, and radically more flexible way of making products. The aim is not simply to replace today’s computer chip making plants, but also to replace the assembly lines for cars, televisions, telephones, books, surgical tools, missiles, bookcases, airplanes, tractors, and all the rest. The objective is a pervasive change in manufacturing, a change that will leave virtually no product untouched. Economic progress and military readiness in the 21st Century will depend fundamentally on maintaining a competitive position in nanotechnology.

[35]

Despite the current early developmental status of nanotechnology and molecular nanotechnology, much concern surrounds MNT’s anticipated impact on economics[36][37] and on law. Whatever the exact effects, MNT, if achieved, would tend to reduce the scarcity of manufactured goods and make many more goods (such as food and health aids) manufacturable.

MNT should make possible nanomedical capabilities able to cure any medical condition not already cured by advances in other areas. Good health would be common, and poor health of any form would be as rare as smallpox and scurvy are today. Even cryonics would be feasible, as cryopreserved tissue could be fully repaired.

Molecular nanotechnology is one of the technologies that some analysts believe could lead to a technological singularity. Some feel that molecular nanotechnology would have daunting risks.[38] It conceivably could enable cheaper and more destructive conventional weapons. Also, molecular nanotechnology might permit weapons of mass destruction that could self-replicate, as viruses and cancer cells do when attacking the human body. Commentators generally agree that, in the event molecular nanotechnology were developed, its self-replication should be permitted only under very controlled or “inherently safe” conditions.

A fear exists that nanomechanical robots, if achieved, and if designed to self-replicate using naturally occurring materials (a difficult task), could consume the entire planet in their hunger for raw materials,[39] or simply crowd out natural life, out-competing it for energy (as happened historically when blue-green algae appeared and outcompeted earlier life forms). Some commentators have referred to this situation as the “grey goo” or “ecophagy” scenario. K. Eric Drexler considers an accidental “grey goo” scenario extremely unlikely and says so in later editions of Engines of Creation.

In light of this perception of potential danger, the Foresight Institute (founded by K. Eric Drexler to prepare for the arrival of future technologies) has drafted a set of guidelines[40] for the ethical development of nanotechnology. These include the banning of free-foraging self-replicating pseudo-organisms on the Earth’s surface, at least, and possibly in other places.

The feasibility of the basic technologies analyzed in Nanosystems has been the subject of a formal scientific review by U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and has also been the focus of extensive debate on the internet and in the popular press.

In 2006, U.S. National Academy of Sciences released the report of a study of molecular manufacturing as part of a longer report, A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative[41] The study committee reviewed the technical content of Nanosystems, and in its conclusion states that no current theoretical analysis can be considered definitive regarding several questions of potential system performance, and that optimal paths for implementing high-performance systems cannot be predicted with confidence. It recommends experimental research to advance knowledge in this area:

A section heading in Drexler’s Engines of Creation reads[42] “Universal Assemblers”, and the following text speaks of multiple types of assemblers which, collectively, could hypothetically “build almost anything that the laws of nature allow to exist.” Drexler’s colleague Ralph Merkle has noted that, contrary to widespread legend,[43] Drexler never claimed that assembler systems could build absolutely any molecular structure. The endnotes in Drexler’s book explain the qualification “almost”: “For example, a delicate structure might be designed that, like a stone arch, would self-destruct unless all its pieces were already in place. If there were no room in the design for the placement and removal of a scaffolding, then the structure might be impossible to build. Few structures of practical interest seem likely to exhibit such a problem, however.”

In 1992, Drexler published Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation,[44] a detailed proposal for synthesizing stiff covalent structures using a table-top factory. Diamondoid structures and other stiff covalent structures, if achieved, would have a wide range of possible applications, going far beyond current MEMS technology. An outline of a path was put forward in 1992 for building a table-top factory in the absence of an assembler. Other researchers have begun advancing tentative, alternative proposed paths [5] for this in the years since Nanosystems was published.

In 2004 Richard Jones wrote Soft Machines (nanotechnology and life), a book for lay audiences published by Oxford University. In this book he describes radical nanotechnology (as advocated by Drexler) as a deterministic/mechanistic idea of nano engineered machines that does not take into account the nanoscale challenges such as wetness, stickiness, Brownian motion, and high viscosity. He also explains what is soft nanotechnology or more appropriatelly biomimetic nanotechnology which is the way forward, if not the best way, to design functional nanodevices that can cope with all the problems at a nanoscale. One can think of soft nanotechnology as the development of nanomachines that uses the lessons learned from biology on how things work, chemistry to precisely engineer such devices and stochastic physics to model the system and its natural processes in detail.

Several researchers, including Nobel Prize winner Dr. Richard Smalley (19432005),[45] attacked the notion of universal assemblers, leading to a rebuttal from Drexler and colleagues,[46] and eventually to an exchange of letters.[47] Smalley argued that chemistry is extremely complicated, reactions are hard to control, and that a universal assembler is science fiction. Drexler and colleagues, however, noted that Drexler never proposed universal assemblers able to make absolutely anything, but instead proposed more limited assemblers able to make a very wide variety of things. They challenged the relevance of Smalley’s arguments to the more specific proposals advanced in Nanosystems. Also, Smalley argued that nearly all of modern chemistry involves reactions that take place in a solvent (usually water), because the small molecules of a solvent contribute many things, such as lowering binding energies for transition states. Since nearly all known chemistry requires a solvent, Smalley felt that Drexler’s proposal to use a high vacuum environment was not feasible. However, Drexler addresses this in Nanosystems by showing mathematically that well designed catalysts can provide the effects of a solvent and can fundamentally be made even more efficient than a solvent/enzyme reaction could ever be. It is noteworthy that, contrary to Smalley’s opinion that enzymes require water, “Not only do enzymes work vigorously in anhydrous organic media, but in this unnatural milieu they acquire remarkable properties such as greatly enhanced stability, radically altered substrate and enantiomeric specificities, molecular memory, and the ability to catalyse unusual reactions.”[48]

For the future, some means have to be found for MNT design evolution at the nanoscale which mimics the process of biological evolution at the molecular scale. Biological evolution proceeds by random variation in ensemble averages of organisms combined with culling of the less-successful variants and reproduction of the more-successful variants, and macroscale engineering design also proceeds by a process of design evolution from simplicity to complexity as set forth somewhat satirically by John Gall: “A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. . . . A complex system designed from scratch never works and can not be patched up to make it work. You have to start over, beginning with a system that works.” [49] A breakthrough in MNT is needed which proceeds from the simple atomic ensembles which can be built with, e.g., an STM to complex MNT systems via a process of design evolution. A handicap in this process is the difficulty of seeing and manipulation at the nanoscale compared to the macroscale which makes deterministic selection of successful trials difficult; in contrast biological evolution proceeds via action of what Richard Dawkins has called the “blind watchmaker” [50] comprising random molecular variation and deterministic reproduction/extinction.

At present in 2007 the practice of nanotechnology embraces both stochastic approaches (in which, for example, supramolecular chemistry creates waterproof pants) and deterministic approaches wherein single molecules (created by stochastic chemistry) are manipulated on substrate surfaces (created by stochastic deposition methods) by deterministic methods comprising nudging them with STM or AFM probes and causing simple binding or cleavage reactions to occur. The dream of a complex, deterministic molecular nanotechnology remains elusive. Since the mid-1990s, thousands of surface scientists and thin film technocrats have latched on to the nanotechnology bandwagon and redefined their disciplines as nanotechnology. This has caused much confusion in the field and has spawned thousands of “nano”-papers on the peer reviewed literature. Most of these reports are extensions of the more ordinary research done in the parent fields.

The feasibility of Drexler’s proposals largely depends, therefore, on whether designs like those in Nanosystems could be built in the absence of a universal assembler to build them and would work as described. Supporters of molecular nanotechnology frequently claim that no significant errors have been discovered in Nanosystems since 1992. Even some critics concede[51] that “Drexler has carefully considered a number of physical principles underlying the ‘high level’ aspects of the nanosystems he proposes and, indeed, has thought in some detail” about some issues.

Other critics claim, however, that Nanosystems omits important chemical details about the low-level ‘machine language’ of molecular nanotechnology.[52][53][54][55] They also claim that much of the other low-level chemistry in Nanosystems requires extensive further work, and that Drexler’s higher-level designs therefore rest on speculative foundations. Recent such further work by Freitas and Merkle [56] is aimed at strengthening these foundations by filling the existing gaps in the low-level chemistry.

Drexler argues that we may need to wait until our conventional nanotechnology improves before solving these issues: “Molecular manufacturing will result from a series of advances in molecular machine systems, much as the first Moon landing resulted from a series of advances in liquid-fuel rocket systems. We are now in a position like that of the British Interplanetary Society of the 1930s which described how multistage liquid-fueled rockets could reach the Moon and pointed to early rockets as illustrations of the basic principle.”[57] However, Freitas and Merkle argue [58] that a focused effort to achieve diamond mechanosynthesis (DMS) can begin now, using existing technology, and might achieve success in less than a decade if their “direct-to-DMS approach is pursued rather than a more circuitous development approach that seeks to implement less efficacious nondiamondoid molecular manufacturing technologies before progressing to diamondoid”.

To summarize the arguments against feasibility: First, critics argue that a primary barrier to achieving molecular nanotechnology is the lack of an efficient way to create machines on a molecular/atomic scale, especially in the absence of a well-defined path toward a self-replicating assembler or diamondoid nanofactory. Advocates respond that a preliminary research path leading to a diamondoid nanofactory is being developed.[6]

A second difficulty in reaching molecular nanotechnology is design. Hand design of a gear or bearing at the level of atoms might take a few to several weeks. While Drexler, Merkle and others have created designs of simple parts, no comprehensive design effort for anything approaching the complexity of a Model T Ford has been attempted. Advocates respond that it is difficult to undertake a comprehensive design effort in the absence of significant funding for such efforts, and that despite this handicap much useful design-ahead has nevertheless been accomplished with new software tools that have been developed, e.g., at Nanorex.[59]

In the latest report A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative[41] put out by the National Academies Press in December 2006 (roughly twenty years after Engines of Creation was published), no clear way forward toward molecular nanotechnology could yet be seen, as per the conclusion on page 108 of that report: “Although theoretical calculations can be made today, the eventually attainable range of chemical reaction cycles, error rates, speed of operation, and thermodynamic efficiencies of such bottom-up manufacturing systems cannot be reliably predicted at this time. Thus, the eventually attainable perfection and complexity of manufactured products, while they can be calculated in theory, cannot be predicted with confidence. Finally, the optimum research paths that might lead to systems which greatly exceed the thermodynamic efficiencies and other capabilities of biological systems cannot be reliably predicted at this time. Research funding that is based on the ability of investigators to produce experimental demonstrations that link to abstract models and guide long-term vision is most appropriate to achieve this goal.” This call for research leading to demonstrations is welcomed by groups such as the Nanofactory Collaboration who are specifically seeking experimental successes in diamond mechanosynthesis.[60] The “Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems”[61] aims to offer additional constructive insights.

It is perhaps interesting to ask whether or not most structures consistent with physical law can in fact be manufactured. Advocates assert that to achieve most of the vision of molecular manufacturing it is not necessary to be able to build “any structure that is compatible with natural law.” Rather, it is necessary to be able to build only a sufficient (possibly modest) subset of such structuresas is true, in fact, of any practical manufacturing process used in the world today, and is true even in biology. In any event, as Richard Feynman once said, “It is scientific only to say what’s more likely or less likely, and not to be proving all the time what’s possible or impossible.”[62]

There is a growing body of peer-reviewed theoretical work on synthesizing diamond by mechanically removing/adding hydrogen atoms [63] and depositing carbon atoms [64][65][66][67][68][69] (a process known as mechanosynthesis). This work is slowly permeating the broader nanoscience community and is being critiqued. For instance, Peng et al. (2006)[70] (in the continuing research effort by Freitas, Merkle and their collaborators) reports that the most-studied mechanosynthesis tooltip motif (DCB6Ge) successfully places a C2 carbon dimer on a C(110) diamond surface at both 300K (room temperature) and 80K (liquid nitrogen temperature), and that the silicon variant (DCB6Si) also works at 80K but not at 300K. Over 100,000 CPU hours were invested in this latest study. The DCB6 tooltip motif, initially described by Merkle and Freitas at a Foresight Conference in 2002, was the first complete tooltip ever proposed for diamond mechanosynthesis and remains the only tooltip motif that has been successfully simulated for its intended function on a full 200-atom diamond surface.

The tooltips modeled in this work are intended to be used only in carefully controlled environments (e.g., vacuum). Maximum acceptable limits for tooltip translational and rotational misplacement errors are reported in Peng et al. (2006) — tooltips must be positioned with great accuracy to avoid bonding the dimer incorrectly. Peng et al. (2006) reports that increasing the handle thickness from 4 support planes of C atoms above the tooltip to 5 planes decreases the resonance frequency of the entire structure from 2.0THz to 1.8THz. More importantly, the vibrational footprints of a DCB6Ge tooltip mounted on a 384-atom handle and of the same tooltip mounted on a similarly constrained but much larger 636-atom “crossbar” handle are virtually identical in the non-crossbar directions. Additional computational studies modeling still bigger handle structures are welcome, but the ability to precisely position SPM tips to the requisite atomic accuracy has been repeatedly demonstrated experimentally at low temperature,[71][72] or even at room temperature[73][74] constituting a basic existence proof for this capability.

Further research[75] to consider additional tooltips will require time-consuming computational chemistry and difficult laboratory work.

A working nanofactory would require a variety of well-designed tips for different reactions, and detailed analyses of placing atoms on more complicated surfaces. Although this appears a challenging problem given current resources, many tools will be available to help future researchers: Moore’s law predicts further increases in computer power, semiconductor fabrication techniques continue to approach the nanoscale, and researchers grow ever more skilled at using proteins, ribosomes and DNA to perform novel chemistry.

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Molecular nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Molecular nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Molecular nanotechnology (MNT) is a technology based on the ability to build structures to complex, atomic specifications by means of mechanosynthesis.[1] This is distinct from nanoscale materials. Based on Richard Feynman’s vision of miniature factories using nanomachines to build complex products (including additional nanomachines), this advanced form of nanotechnology (or molecular manufacturing[2]) would make use of positionally-controlled mechanosynthesis guided by molecular machine systems. MNT would involve combining physical principles demonstrated by biophysics, chemistry, other nanotechnologies, and the molecular machinery of life with the systems engineering principles found in modern macroscale factories.

While conventional chemistry uses inexact processes obtaining inexact results, and biology exploits inexact processes to obtain definitive results, molecular nanotechnology would employ original definitive processes to obtain definitive results. The desire in molecular nanotechnology would be to balance molecular reactions in positionally-controlled locations and orientations to obtain desired chemical reactions, and then to build systems by further assembling the products of these reactions.

A roadmap for the development of MNT is an objective of a broadly based technology project led by Battelle (the manager of several U.S. National Laboratories) and the Foresight Institute.[3] The roadmap was originally scheduled for completion by late 2006, but was released in January 2008.[4] The Nanofactory Collaboration[5] is a more focused ongoing effort involving 23 researchers from 10 organizations and 4 countries that is developing a practical research agenda[6] specifically aimed at positionally-controlled diamond mechanosynthesis and diamondoid nanofactory development. In August 2005, a task force consisting of 50+ international experts from various fields was organized by the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology to study the societal implications of molecular nanotechnology.[7]

One proposed application of MNT is so-called smart materials. This term refers to any sort of material designed and engineered at the nanometer scale for a specific task. It encompasses a wide variety of possible commercial applications. One example would be materials designed to respond differently to various molecules; such a capability could lead, for example, to artificial drugs which would recognize and render inert specific viruses. Another is the idea of self-healing structures, which would repair small tears in a surface naturally in the same way as self-sealing tires or human skin.

A MNT nanosensor would resemble a smart material, involving a small component within a larger machine that would react to its environment and change in some fundamental, intentional way. A very simple example: a photosensor might passively measure the incident light and discharge its absorbed energy as electricity when the light passes above or below a specified threshold, sending a signal to a larger machine. Such a sensor would supposedly cost less and use less power than a conventional sensor, and yet function usefully in all the same applications for example, turning on parking lot lights when it gets dark.

While smart materials and nanosensors both exemplify useful applications of MNT, they pale in comparison with the complexity of the technology most popularly associated with the term: the replicating nanorobot.

MNT nanofacturing is popularly linked with the idea of swarms of coordinated nanoscale robots working together, a popularization of an early proposal by K. Eric Drexler in his 1986 discussions of MNT, but superseded in 1992. In this early proposal, sufficiently capable nanorobots would construct more nanorobots in an artificial environment containing special molecular building blocks.

Critics have doubted both the feasibility of self-replicating nanorobots and the feasibility of control if self-replicating nanorobots could be achieved: they cite the possibility of mutations removing any control and favoring reproduction of mutant pathogenic variations. Advocates address the first doubt by pointing out that the first macroscale autonomous machine replicator, made of Lego blocks, was built and operated experimentally in 2002.[8] While there are sensory advantages present at the macroscale compared to the limited sensorium available at the nanoscale, proposals for positionally controlled nanoscale mechanosynthetic fabrication systems employ dead reckoning of tooltips combined with reliable reaction sequence design to ensure reliable results, hence a limited sensorium is no handicap; similar considerations apply to the positional assembly of small nanoparts. Advocates address the second doubt by arguing that bacteria are (of necessity) evolved to evolve, while nanorobot mutation could be actively prevented by common error-correcting techniques. Similar ideas are advocated in the Foresight Guidelines on Molecular Nanotechnology,[9] and a map of the 137-dimensional replicator design space[10] recently published by Freitas and Merkle provides numerous proposed methods by which replicators could, in principle, be safely controlled by good design.

However, the concept of suppressing mutation raises the question: How can design evolution occur at the nanoscale without a process of random mutation and deterministic selection? Critics argue that MNT advocates have not provided a substitute for such a process of evolution in this nanoscale arena where conventional sensory-based selection processes are lacking. The limits of the sensorium available at the nanoscale could make it difficult or impossible to winnow successes from failures. Advocates argue that design evolution should occur deterministically and strictly under human control, using the conventional engineering paradigm of modeling, design, prototyping, testing, analysis, and redesign.

In any event, since 1992 technical proposals for MNT do not include self-replicating nanorobots, and recent ethical guidelines put forth by MNT advocates prohibit unconstrained self-replication.[9][11]

One of the most important applications of MNT would be medical nanorobotics or nanomedicine, an area pioneered by Robert Freitas in numerous books[12] and papers.[13] The ability to design, build, and deploy large numbers of medical nanorobots would, at a minimum, make possible the rapid elimination of disease and the reliable and relatively painless recovery from physical trauma. Medical nanorobots might also make possible the convenient correction of genetic defects, and help to ensure a greatly expanded lifespan. More controversially, medical nanorobots might be used to augment natural human capabilities. One study has reported on the conditions like tumors, arteriosclerosis, blood clots leading to stroke, accumulation of scar tissue and localized pockets of infection can be possibly be addressed by employing medical nanorobots.[14][15]

Another proposed application of molecular nanotechnology is “utility fog”[16] in which a cloud of networked microscopic robots (simpler than assemblers) would change its shape and properties to form macroscopic objects and tools in accordance with software commands. Rather than modify the current practices of consuming material goods in different forms, utility fog would simply replace many physical objects.

Yet another proposed application of MNT would be phased-array optics (PAO).[17] However, this appears to be a problem addressable by ordinary nanoscale technology. PAO would use the principle of phased-array millimeter technology but at optical wavelengths. This would permit the duplication of any sort of optical effect but virtually. Users could request holograms, sunrises and sunsets, or floating lasers as the mood strikes. PAO systems were described in BC Crandall’s Nanotechnology: Molecular Speculations on Global Abundance in the Brian Wowk article “Phased-Array Optics.”[18]

Molecular manufacturing is a potential future subfield of nanotechnology that would make it possible to build complex structures at atomic precision.[19] Molecular manufacturing requires significant advances in nanotechnology, but once achieved could produce highly advanced products at low costs and in large quantities in nanofactories weighing a kilogram or more.[19][20] When nanofactories gain the ability to produce other nanofactories production may only be limited by relatively abundant factors such as input materials, energy and software.[20]

The products of molecular manufacturing could range from cheaper, mass-produced versions of known high-tech products to novel products with added capabilities in many areas of application. Some applications that have been suggested are advanced smart materials, nanosensors, medical nanorobots and space travel.[19] Additionally, molecular manufacturing could be used to cheaply produce highly advanced, durable weapons, which is an area of special concern regarding the impact of nanotechnology.[20] Being equipped with compact computers and motors these could be increasingly autonomous and have a large range of capabilities.[20]

According to Chris Phoenix and Mike Treder from the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology as well as Anders Sandberg from the Future of Humanity Institute molecular manufacturing is the application of nanotechnology that poses the most significant global catastrophic risk.[20][21] Several nanotechnology researchers state that the bulk of risk from nanotechnology comes from the potential to lead to war, arms races and destructive global government.[20][21][22] Several reasons have been suggested why the availability of nanotech weaponry may with significant likelihood lead to unstable arms races (compared to e.g. nuclear arms races): (1) A large number of players may be tempted to enter the race since the threshold for doing so is low;[20] (2) the ability to make weapons with molecular manufacturing will be cheap and easy to hide;[20] (3) therefore lack of insight into the other parties’ capabilities can tempt players to arm out of caution or to launch preemptive strikes;[20][23] (4) molecular manufacturing may reduce dependency on international trade,[20] a potential peace-promoting factor;[24] (5) wars of aggression may pose a smaller economic threat to the aggressor since manufacturing is cheap and humans may not be needed on the battlefield.[20]

Since self-regulation by all state and non-state actors seems hard to achieve,[25] measures to mitigate war-related risks have mainly been proposed in the area of international cooperation.[20][26] International infrastructure may be expanded giving more sovereignty to the international level. This could help coordinate efforts for arms control.[27] International institutions dedicated specifically to nanotechnology (perhaps analogously to the International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA) or general arms control may also be designed.[26] One may also jointly make differential technological progress on defensive technologies, a policy that players should usually favour.[20] The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology also suggest some technical restrictions.[28] Improved transparency regarding technological capabilities may be another important facilitator for arms-control.[29]

A grey goo is another catastrophic scenario, which was proposed by Eric Drexler in his 1986 book Engines of Creation,[30] has been analyzed by Freitas in “Some Limits to Global Ecophagy by Biovorous Nanoreplicators, with Public Policy Recommendations” [31] and has been a theme in mainstream media and fiction.[32][33] This scenario involves tiny self-replicating robots that consume the entire biosphere using it as a source of energy and building blocks. Nanotech experts including Drexler now discredit the scenario. According to Chris Phoenix a “So-called grey goo could only be the product of a deliberate and difficult engineering process, not an accident”.[34] With the advent of nano-biotech, a different scenario called green goo has been forwarded. Here, the malignant substance is not nanobots but rather self-replicating biological organisms engineered through nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology (or molecular nanotechnology to refer more specifically to the goals discussed here) will let us continue the historical trends in manufacturing right up to the fundamental limits imposed by physical law. It will let us make remarkably powerful molecular computers. It will let us make materials over fifty times lighter than steel or aluminium alloy but with the same strength. We’ll be able to make jets, rockets, cars or even chairs that, by today’s standards, would be remarkably light, strong, and inexpensive. Molecular surgical tools, guided by molecular computers and injected into the blood stream could find and destroy cancer cells or invading bacteria, unclog arteries, or provide oxygen when the circulation is impaired.

Nanotechnology will replace our entire manufacturing base with a new, radically more precise, radically less expensive, and radically more flexible way of making products. The aim is not simply to replace today’s computer chip making plants, but also to replace the assembly lines for cars, televisions, telephones, books, surgical tools, missiles, bookcases, airplanes, tractors, and all the rest. The objective is a pervasive change in manufacturing, a change that will leave virtually no product untouched. Economic progress and military readiness in the 21st Century will depend fundamentally on maintaining a competitive position in nanotechnology.

[35]

Despite the current early developmental status of nanotechnology and molecular nanotechnology, much concern surrounds MNT’s anticipated impact on economics[36][37] and on law. Whatever the exact effects, MNT, if achieved, would tend to reduce the scarcity of manufactured goods and make many more goods (such as food and health aids) manufacturable.

MNT should make possible nanomedical capabilities able to cure any medical condition not already cured by advances in other areas. Good health would be common, and poor health of any form would be as rare as smallpox and scurvy are today. Even cryonics would be feasible, as cryopreserved tissue could be fully repaired.

Molecular nanotechnology is one of the technologies that some analysts believe could lead to a technological singularity. Some feel that molecular nanotechnology would have daunting risks.[38] It conceivably could enable cheaper and more destructive conventional weapons. Also, molecular nanotechnology might permit weapons of mass destruction that could self-replicate, as viruses and cancer cells do when attacking the human body. Commentators generally agree that, in the event molecular nanotechnology were developed, its self-replication should be permitted only under very controlled or “inherently safe” conditions.

A fear exists that nanomechanical robots, if achieved, and if designed to self-replicate using naturally occurring materials (a difficult task), could consume the entire planet in their hunger for raw materials,[39] or simply crowd out natural life, out-competing it for energy (as happened historically when blue-green algae appeared and outcompeted earlier life forms). Some commentators have referred to this situation as the “grey goo” or “ecophagy” scenario. K. Eric Drexler considers an accidental “grey goo” scenario extremely unlikely and says so in later editions of Engines of Creation.

In light of this perception of potential danger, the Foresight Institute (founded by K. Eric Drexler to prepare for the arrival of future technologies) has drafted a set of guidelines[40] for the ethical development of nanotechnology. These include the banning of free-foraging self-replicating pseudo-organisms on the Earth’s surface, at least, and possibly in other places.

The feasibility of the basic technologies analyzed in Nanosystems has been the subject of a formal scientific review by U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and has also been the focus of extensive debate on the internet and in the popular press.

In 2006, U.S. National Academy of Sciences released the report of a study of molecular manufacturing as part of a longer report, A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative[41] The study committee reviewed the technical content of Nanosystems, and in its conclusion states that no current theoretical analysis can be considered definitive regarding several questions of potential system performance, and that optimal paths for implementing high-performance systems cannot be predicted with confidence. It recommends experimental research to advance knowledge in this area:

A section heading in Drexler’s Engines of Creation reads[42] “Universal Assemblers”, and the following text speaks of multiple types of assemblers which, collectively, could hypothetically “build almost anything that the laws of nature allow to exist.” Drexler’s colleague Ralph Merkle has noted that, contrary to widespread legend,[43] Drexler never claimed that assembler systems could build absolutely any molecular structure. The endnotes in Drexler’s book explain the qualification “almost”: “For example, a delicate structure might be designed that, like a stone arch, would self-destruct unless all its pieces were already in place. If there were no room in the design for the placement and removal of a scaffolding, then the structure might be impossible to build. Few structures of practical interest seem likely to exhibit such a problem, however.”

In 1992, Drexler published Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation,[44] a detailed proposal for synthesizing stiff covalent structures using a table-top factory. Diamondoid structures and other stiff covalent structures, if achieved, would have a wide range of possible applications, going far beyond current MEMS technology. An outline of a path was put forward in 1992 for building a table-top factory in the absence of an assembler. Other researchers have begun advancing tentative, alternative proposed paths [5] for this in the years since Nanosystems was published.

In 2004 Richard Jones wrote Soft Machines (nanotechnology and life), a book for lay audiences published by Oxford University. In this book he describes radical nanotechnology (as advocated by Drexler) as a deterministic/mechanistic idea of nano engineered machines that does not take into account the nanoscale challenges such as wetness, stickiness, Brownian motion, and high viscosity. He also explains what is soft nanotechnology or more appropriatelly biomimetic nanotechnology which is the way forward, if not the best way, to design functional nanodevices that can cope with all the problems at a nanoscale. One can think of soft nanotechnology as the development of nanomachines that uses the lessons learned from biology on how things work, chemistry to precisely engineer such devices and stochastic physics to model the system and its natural processes in detail.

Several researchers, including Nobel Prize winner Dr. Richard Smalley (19432005),[45] attacked the notion of universal assemblers, leading to a rebuttal from Drexler and colleagues,[46] and eventually to an exchange of letters.[47] Smalley argued that chemistry is extremely complicated, reactions are hard to control, and that a universal assembler is science fiction. Drexler and colleagues, however, noted that Drexler never proposed universal assemblers able to make absolutely anything, but instead proposed more limited assemblers able to make a very wide variety of things. They challenged the relevance of Smalley’s arguments to the more specific proposals advanced in Nanosystems. Also, Smalley argued that nearly all of modern chemistry involves reactions that take place in a solvent (usually water), because the small molecules of a solvent contribute many things, such as lowering binding energies for transition states. Since nearly all known chemistry requires a solvent, Smalley felt that Drexler’s proposal to use a high vacuum environment was not feasible. However, Drexler addresses this in Nanosystems by showing mathematically that well designed catalysts can provide the effects of a solvent and can fundamentally be made even more efficient than a solvent/enzyme reaction could ever be. It is noteworthy that, contrary to Smalley’s opinion that enzymes require water, “Not only do enzymes work vigorously in anhydrous organic media, but in this unnatural milieu they acquire remarkable properties such as greatly enhanced stability, radically altered substrate and enantiomeric specificities, molecular memory, and the ability to catalyse unusual reactions.”[48]

For the future, some means have to be found for MNT design evolution at the nanoscale which mimics the process of biological evolution at the molecular scale. Biological evolution proceeds by random variation in ensemble averages of organisms combined with culling of the less-successful variants and reproduction of the more-successful variants, and macroscale engineering design also proceeds by a process of design evolution from simplicity to complexity as set forth somewhat satirically by John Gall: “A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. . . . A complex system designed from scratch never works and can not be patched up to make it work. You have to start over, beginning with a system that works.” [49] A breakthrough in MNT is needed which proceeds from the simple atomic ensembles which can be built with, e.g., an STM to complex MNT systems via a process of design evolution. A handicap in this process is the difficulty of seeing and manipulation at the nanoscale compared to the macroscale which makes deterministic selection of successful trials difficult; in contrast biological evolution proceeds via action of what Richard Dawkins has called the “blind watchmaker” [50] comprising random molecular variation and deterministic reproduction/extinction.

At present in 2007 the practice of nanotechnology embraces both stochastic approaches (in which, for example, supramolecular chemistry creates waterproof pants) and deterministic approaches wherein single molecules (created by stochastic chemistry) are manipulated on substrate surfaces (created by stochastic deposition methods) by deterministic methods comprising nudging them with STM or AFM probes and causing simple binding or cleavage reactions to occur. The dream of a complex, deterministic molecular nanotechnology remains elusive. Since the mid-1990s, thousands of surface scientists and thin film technocrats have latched on to the nanotechnology bandwagon and redefined their disciplines as nanotechnology. This has caused much confusion in the field and has spawned thousands of “nano”-papers on the peer reviewed literature. Most of these reports are extensions of the more ordinary research done in the parent fields.

The feasibility of Drexler’s proposals largely depends, therefore, on whether designs like those in Nanosystems could be built in the absence of a universal assembler to build them and would work as described. Supporters of molecular nanotechnology frequently claim that no significant errors have been discovered in Nanosystems since 1992. Even some critics concede[51] that “Drexler has carefully considered a number of physical principles underlying the ‘high level’ aspects of the nanosystems he proposes and, indeed, has thought in some detail” about some issues.

Other critics claim, however, that Nanosystems omits important chemical details about the low-level ‘machine language’ of molecular nanotechnology.[52][53][54][55] They also claim that much of the other low-level chemistry in Nanosystems requires extensive further work, and that Drexler’s higher-level designs therefore rest on speculative foundations. Recent such further work by Freitas and Merkle [56] is aimed at strengthening these foundations by filling the existing gaps in the low-level chemistry.

Drexler argues that we may need to wait until our conventional nanotechnology improves before solving these issues: “Molecular manufacturing will result from a series of advances in molecular machine systems, much as the first Moon landing resulted from a series of advances in liquid-fuel rocket systems. We are now in a position like that of the British Interplanetary Society of the 1930s which described how multistage liquid-fueled rockets could reach the Moon and pointed to early rockets as illustrations of the basic principle.”[57] However, Freitas and Merkle argue [58] that a focused effort to achieve diamond mechanosynthesis (DMS) can begin now, using existing technology, and might achieve success in less than a decade if their “direct-to-DMS approach is pursued rather than a more circuitous development approach that seeks to implement less efficacious nondiamondoid molecular manufacturing technologies before progressing to diamondoid”.

To summarize the arguments against feasibility: First, critics argue that a primary barrier to achieving molecular nanotechnology is the lack of an efficient way to create machines on a molecular/atomic scale, especially in the absence of a well-defined path toward a self-replicating assembler or diamondoid nanofactory. Advocates respond that a preliminary research path leading to a diamondoid nanofactory is being developed.[6]

A second difficulty in reaching molecular nanotechnology is design. Hand design of a gear or bearing at the level of atoms might take a few to several weeks. While Drexler, Merkle and others have created designs of simple parts, no comprehensive design effort for anything approaching the complexity of a Model T Ford has been attempted. Advocates respond that it is difficult to undertake a comprehensive design effort in the absence of significant funding for such efforts, and that despite this handicap much useful design-ahead has nevertheless been accomplished with new software tools that have been developed, e.g., at Nanorex.[59]

In the latest report A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative[41] put out by the National Academies Press in December 2006 (roughly twenty years after Engines of Creation was published), no clear way forward toward molecular nanotechnology could yet be seen, as per the conclusion on page 108 of that report: “Although theoretical calculations can be made today, the eventually attainable range of chemical reaction cycles, error rates, speed of operation, and thermodynamic efficiencies of such bottom-up manufacturing systems cannot be reliably predicted at this time. Thus, the eventually attainable perfection and complexity of manufactured products, while they can be calculated in theory, cannot be predicted with confidence. Finally, the optimum research paths that might lead to systems which greatly exceed the thermodynamic efficiencies and other capabilities of biological systems cannot be reliably predicted at this time. Research funding that is based on the ability of investigators to produce experimental demonstrations that link to abstract models and guide long-term vision is most appropriate to achieve this goal.” This call for research leading to demonstrations is welcomed by groups such as the Nanofactory Collaboration who are specifically seeking experimental successes in diamond mechanosynthesis.[60] The “Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems”[61] aims to offer additional constructive insights.

It is perhaps interesting to ask whether or not most structures consistent with physical law can in fact be manufactured. Advocates assert that to achieve most of the vision of molecular manufacturing it is not necessary to be able to build “any structure that is compatible with natural law.” Rather, it is necessary to be able to build only a sufficient (possibly modest) subset of such structuresas is true, in fact, of any practical manufacturing process used in the world today, and is true even in biology. In any event, as Richard Feynman once said, “It is scientific only to say what’s more likely or less likely, and not to be proving all the time what’s possible or impossible.”[62]

There is a growing body of peer-reviewed theoretical work on synthesizing diamond by mechanically removing/adding hydrogen atoms [63] and depositing carbon atoms [64][65][66][67][68][69] (a process known as mechanosynthesis). This work is slowly permeating the broader nanoscience community and is being critiqued. For instance, Peng et al. (2006)[70] (in the continuing research effort by Freitas, Merkle and their collaborators) reports that the most-studied mechanosynthesis tooltip motif (DCB6Ge) successfully places a C2 carbon dimer on a C(110) diamond surface at both 300K (room temperature) and 80K (liquid nitrogen temperature), and that the silicon variant (DCB6Si) also works at 80K but not at 300K. Over 100,000 CPU hours were invested in this latest study. The DCB6 tooltip motif, initially described by Merkle and Freitas at a Foresight Conference in 2002, was the first complete tooltip ever proposed for diamond mechanosynthesis and remains the only tooltip motif that has been successfully simulated for its intended function on a full 200-atom diamond surface.

The tooltips modeled in this work are intended to be used only in carefully controlled environments (e.g., vacuum). Maximum acceptable limits for tooltip translational and rotational misplacement errors are reported in Peng et al. (2006) — tooltips must be positioned with great accuracy to avoid bonding the dimer incorrectly. Peng et al. (2006) reports that increasing the handle thickness from 4 support planes of C atoms above the tooltip to 5 planes decreases the resonance frequency of the entire structure from 2.0THz to 1.8THz. More importantly, the vibrational footprints of a DCB6Ge tooltip mounted on a 384-atom handle and of the same tooltip mounted on a similarly constrained but much larger 636-atom “crossbar” handle are virtually identical in the non-crossbar directions. Additional computational studies modeling still bigger handle structures are welcome, but the ability to precisely position SPM tips to the requisite atomic accuracy has been repeatedly demonstrated experimentally at low temperature,[71][72] or even at room temperature[73][74] constituting a basic existence proof for this capability.

Further research[75] to consider additional tooltips will require time-consuming computational chemistry and difficult laboratory work.

A working nanofactory would require a variety of well-designed tips for different reactions, and detailed analyses of placing atoms on more complicated surfaces. Although this appears a challenging problem given current resources, many tools will be available to help future researchers: Moore’s law predicts further increases in computer power, semiconductor fabrication techniques continue to approach the nanoscale, and researchers grow ever more skilled at using proteins, ribosomes and DNA to perform novel chemistry.

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Molecular nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Nanotechnology (“nanotech”) is manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale. The earliest, widespread description of nanotechnology[1][2] referred to the particular technological goal of precisely manipulating atoms and molecules for fabrication of macroscale products, also now referred to as molecular nanotechnology. A more generalized description of nanotechnology was subsequently established by the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which defines nanotechnology as the manipulation of matter with at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers. This definition reflects the fact that quantum mechanical effects are important at this quantum-realm scale, and so the definition shifted from a particular technological goal to a research category inclusive of all types of research and technologies that deal with the special properties of matter which occur below the given size threshold. It is therefore common to see the plural form “nanotechnologies” as well as “nanoscale technologies” to refer to the broad range of research and applications whose common trait is size. Because of the variety of potential applications (including industrial and military), governments have invested billions of dollars in nanotechnology research. Through 2012, the USA has invested $3.7 billion using its National Nanotechnology Initiative, the European Union has invested $1.2 billion, and Japan has invested $750 million.[3]

Nanotechnology as defined by size is naturally very broad, including fields of science as diverse as surface science, organic chemistry, molecular biology, semiconductor physics, energy storage,[4][5] microfabrication,[6] molecular engineering, etc.[7] The associated research and applications are equally diverse, ranging from extensions of conventional device physics to completely new approaches based upon molecular self-assembly,[8] from developing new materials with dimensions on the nanoscale to direct control of matter on the atomic scale.

Scientists currently debate the future implications of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology may be able to create many new materials and devices with a vast range of applications, such as in nanomedicine, nanoelectronics, biomaterials energy production, and consumer products. On the other hand, nanotechnology raises many of the same issues as any new technology, including concerns about the toxicity and environmental impact of nanomaterials,[9] and their potential effects on global economics, as well as speculation about various doomsday scenarios. These concerns have led to a debate among advocacy groups and governments on whether special regulation of nanotechnology is warranted.

The concepts that seeded nanotechnology were first discussed in 1959 by renowned physicist Richard Feynman in his talk There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom, in which he described the possibility of synthesis via direct manipulation of atoms. The term “nano-technology” was first used by Norio Taniguchi in 1974, though it was not widely known.

Inspired by Feynman’s concepts, K. Eric Drexler used the term “nanotechnology” in his 1986 book Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology, which proposed the idea of a nanoscale “assembler” which would be able to build a copy of itself and of other items of arbitrary complexity with atomic control. Also in 1986, Drexler co-founded The Foresight Institute (with which he is no longer affiliated) to help increase public awareness and understanding of nanotechnology concepts and implications.

Thus, emergence of nanotechnology as a field in the 1980s occurred through convergence of Drexler’s theoretical and public work, which developed and popularized a conceptual framework for nanotechnology, and high-visibility experimental advances that drew additional wide-scale attention to the prospects of atomic control of matter. In the 1980s, two major breakthroughs sparked the growth of nanotechnology in modern era.

First, the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope in 1981 which provided unprecedented visualization of individual atoms and bonds, and was successfully used to manipulate individual atoms in 1989. The microscope’s developers Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer at IBM Zurich Research Laboratory received a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986.[10][11] Binnig, Quate and Gerber also invented the analogous atomic force microscope that year.

Second, Fullerenes were discovered in 1985 by Harry Kroto, Richard Smalley, and Robert Curl, who together won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.[12][13] C60 was not initially described as nanotechnology; the term was used regarding subsequent work with related graphene tubes (called carbon nanotubes and sometimes called Bucky tubes) which suggested potential applications for nanoscale electronics and devices.

In the early 2000s, the field garnered increased scientific, political, and commercial attention that led to both controversy and progress. Controversies emerged regarding the definitions and potential implications of nanotechnologies, exemplified by the Royal Society’s report on nanotechnology.[14] Challenges were raised regarding the feasibility of applications envisioned by advocates of molecular nanotechnology, which culminated in a public debate between Drexler and Smalley in 2001 and 2003.[15]

Meanwhile, commercialization of products based on advancements in nanoscale technologies began emerging. These products are limited to bulk applications of nanomaterials and do not involve atomic control of matter. Some examples include the Silver Nano platform for using silver nanoparticles as an antibacterial agent, nanoparticle-based transparent sunscreens, carbon fiber strengthening using silica nanoparticles, and carbon nanotubes for stain-resistant textiles.[16][17]

Governments moved to promote and fund research into nanotechnology, such as in the U.S. with the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which formalized a size-based definition of nanotechnology and established funding for research on the nanoscale, and in Europe via the European Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development.

By the mid-2000s new and serious scientific attention began to flourish. Projects emerged to produce nanotechnology roadmaps[18][19] which center on atomically precise manipulation of matter and discuss existing and projected capabilities, goals, and applications.

Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale. This covers both current work and concepts that are more advanced. In its original sense, nanotechnology refers to the projected ability to construct items from the bottom up, using techniques and tools being developed today to make complete, high performance products.

One nanometer (nm) is one billionth, or 109, of a meter. By comparison, typical carbon-carbon bond lengths, or the spacing between these atoms in a molecule, are in the range 0.120.15 nm, and a DNA double-helix has a diameter around 2nm. On the other hand, the smallest cellular life-forms, the bacteria of the genus Mycoplasma, are around 200nm in length. By convention, nanotechnology is taken as the scale range 1 to 100 nm following the definition used by the National Nanotechnology Initiative in the US. The lower limit is set by the size of atoms (hydrogen has the smallest atoms, which are approximately a quarter of a nm kinetic diameter) since nanotechnology must build its devices from atoms and molecules. The upper limit is more or less arbitrary but is around the size below which phenomena not observed in larger structures start to become apparent and can be made use of in the nano device.[20] These new phenomena make nanotechnology distinct from devices which are merely miniaturised versions of an equivalent macroscopic device; such devices are on a larger scale and come under the description of microtechnology.[21]

To put that scale in another context, the comparative size of a nanometer to a meter is the same as that of a marble to the size of the earth.[22] Or another way of putting it: a nanometer is the amount an average man’s beard grows in the time it takes him to raise the razor to his face.[22]

Two main approaches are used in nanotechnology. In the “bottom-up” approach, materials and devices are built from molecular components which assemble themselves chemically by principles of molecular recognition.[23] In the “top-down” approach, nano-objects are constructed from larger entities without atomic-level control.[24]

Areas of physics such as nanoelectronics, nanomechanics, nanophotonics and nanoionics have evolved during the last few decades to provide a basic scientific foundation of nanotechnology.

Several phenomena become pronounced as the size of the system decreases. These include statistical mechanical effects, as well as quantum mechanical effects, for example the “quantum size effect” where the electronic properties of solids are altered with great reductions in particle size. This effect does not come into play by going from macro to micro dimensions. However, quantum effects can become significant when the nanometer size range is reached, typically at distances of 100 nanometers or less, the so-called quantum realm. Additionally, a number of physical (mechanical, electrical, optical, etc.) properties change when compared to macroscopic systems. One example is the increase in surface area to volume ratio altering mechanical, thermal and catalytic properties of materials. Diffusion and reactions at nanoscale, nanostructures materials and nanodevices with fast ion transport are generally referred to nanoionics. Mechanical properties of nanosystems are of interest in the nanomechanics research. The catalytic activity of nanomaterials also opens potential risks in their interaction with biomaterials.

Materials reduced to the nanoscale can show different properties compared to what they exhibit on a macroscale, enabling unique applications. For instance, opaque substances can become transparent (copper); stable materials can turn combustible (aluminium); insoluble materials may become soluble (gold). A material such as gold, which is chemically inert at normal scales, can serve as a potent chemical catalyst at nanoscales. Much of the fascination with nanotechnology stems from these quantum and surface phenomena that matter exhibits at the nanoscale.[25]

Modern synthetic chemistry has reached the point where it is possible to prepare small molecules to almost any structure. These methods are used today to manufacture a wide variety of useful chemicals such as pharmaceuticals or commercial polymers. This ability raises the question of extending this kind of control to the next-larger level, seeking methods to assemble these single molecules into supramolecular assemblies consisting of many molecules arranged in a well defined manner.

These approaches utilize the concepts of molecular self-assembly and/or supramolecular chemistry to automatically arrange themselves into some useful conformation through a bottom-up approach. The concept of molecular recognition is especially important: molecules can be designed so that a specific configuration or arrangement is favored due to non-covalent intermolecular forces. The WatsonCrick basepairing rules are a direct result of this, as is the specificity of an enzyme being targeted to a single substrate, or the specific folding of the protein itself. Thus, two or more components can be designed to be complementary and mutually attractive so that they make a more complex and useful whole.

Such bottom-up approaches should be capable of producing devices in parallel and be much cheaper than top-down methods, but could potentially be overwhelmed as the size and complexity of the desired assembly increases. Most useful structures require complex and thermodynamically unlikely arrangements of atoms. Nevertheless, there are many examples of self-assembly based on molecular recognition in biology, most notably WatsonCrick basepairing and enzyme-substrate interactions. The challenge for nanotechnology is whether these principles can be used to engineer new constructs in addition to natural ones.

Molecular nanotechnology, sometimes called molecular manufacturing, describes engineered nanosystems (nanoscale machines) operating on the molecular scale. Molecular nanotechnology is especially associated with the molecular assembler, a machine that can produce a desired structure or device atom-by-atom using the principles of mechanosynthesis. Manufacturing in the context of productive nanosystems is not related to, and should be clearly distinguished from, the conventional technologies used to manufacture nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes and nanoparticles.

When the term “nanotechnology” was independently coined and popularized by Eric Drexler (who at the time was unaware of an earlier usage by Norio Taniguchi) it referred to a future manufacturing technology based on molecular machine systems. The premise was that molecular scale biological analogies of traditional machine components demonstrated molecular machines were possible: by the countless examples found in biology, it is known that sophisticated, stochastically optimised biological machines can be produced.

It is hoped that developments in nanotechnology will make possible their construction by some other means, perhaps using biomimetic principles. However, Drexler and other researchers[26] have proposed that advanced nanotechnology, although perhaps initially implemented by biomimetic means, ultimately could be based on mechanical engineering principles, namely, a manufacturing technology based on the mechanical functionality of these components (such as gears, bearings, motors, and structural members) that would enable programmable, positional assembly to atomic specification.[27] The physics and engineering performance of exemplar designs were analyzed in Drexler’s book Nanosystems.

In general it is very difficult to assemble devices on the atomic scale, as one has to position atoms on other atoms of comparable size and stickiness. Another view, put forth by Carlo Montemagno,[28] is that future nanosystems will be hybrids of silicon technology and biological molecular machines. Richard Smalley argued that mechanosynthesis are impossible due to the difficulties in mechanically manipulating individual molecules.

This led to an exchange of letters in the ACS publication Chemical & Engineering News in 2003.[29] Though biology clearly demonstrates that molecular machine systems are possible, non-biological molecular machines are today only in their infancy. Leaders in research on non-biological molecular machines are Dr. Alex Zettl and his colleagues at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories and UC Berkeley.[1] They have constructed at least three distinct molecular devices whose motion is controlled from the desktop with changing voltage: a nanotube nanomotor, a molecular actuator,[30] and a nanoelectromechanical relaxation oscillator.[31] See nanotube nanomotor for more examples.

An experiment indicating that positional molecular assembly is possible was performed by Ho and Lee at Cornell University in 1999. They used a scanning tunneling microscope to move an individual carbon monoxide molecule (CO) to an individual iron atom (Fe) sitting on a flat silver crystal, and chemically bound the CO to the Fe by applying a voltage.

The nanomaterials field includes subfields which develop or study materials having unique properties arising from their nanoscale dimensions.[34]

These seek to arrange smaller components into more complex assemblies.

These seek to create smaller devices by using larger ones to direct their assembly.

These seek to develop components of a desired functionality without regard to how they might be assembled.

These subfields seek to anticipate what inventions nanotechnology might yield, or attempt to propose an agenda along which inquiry might progress. These often take a big-picture view of nanotechnology, with more emphasis on its societal implications than the details of how such inventions could actually be created.

Nanomaterials can be classified in 0D, 1D, 2D and 3D nanomaterials. The dimensionality play a major role in determining the characteristic of nanomaterials including physical, chemical and biological characteristics. With the decrease in dimensionality, an increase in surface-to-volume ratio is observed. This indicate that smaller dimensional nanomaterials have higher surface area compared to 3D nanomaterials. Recently, two dimensional (2D) nanomaterials are extensively investigated for electronic, biomedical, drug delivery and biosensor applications.

There are several important modern developments. The atomic force microscope (AFM) and the Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM) are two early versions of scanning probes that launched nanotechnology. There are other types of scanning probe microscopy. Although conceptually similar to the scanning confocal microscope developed by Marvin Minsky in 1961 and the scanning acoustic microscope (SAM) developed by Calvin Quate and coworkers in the 1970s, newer scanning probe microscopes have much higher resolution, since they are not limited by the wavelength of sound or light.

The tip of a scanning probe can also be used to manipulate nanostructures (a process called positional assembly). Feature-oriented scanning methodology may be a promising way to implement these nanomanipulations in automatic mode.[49][50] However, this is still a slow process because of low scanning velocity of the microscope.

Various techniques of nanolithography such as optical lithography, X-ray lithography, dip pen nanolithography, electron beam lithography or nanoimprint lithography were also developed. Lithography is a top-down fabrication technique where a bulk material is reduced in size to nanoscale pattern.

Another group of nanotechnological techniques include those used for fabrication of nanotubes and nanowires, those used in semiconductor fabrication such as deep ultraviolet lithography, electron beam lithography, focused ion beam machining, nanoimprint lithography, atomic layer deposition, and molecular vapor deposition, and further including molecular self-assembly techniques such as those employing di-block copolymers. The precursors of these techniques preceded the nanotech era, and are extensions in the development of scientific advancements rather than techniques which were devised with the sole purpose of creating nanotechnology and which were results of nanotechnology research.[51]

The top-down approach anticipates nanodevices that must be built piece by piece in stages, much as manufactured items are made. Scanning probe microscopy is an important technique both for characterization and synthesis of nanomaterials. Atomic force microscopes and scanning tunneling microscopes can be used to look at surfaces and to move atoms around. By designing different tips for these microscopes, they can be used for carving out structures on surfaces and to help guide self-assembling structures. By using, for example, feature-oriented scanning approach, atoms or molecules can be moved around on a surface with scanning probe microscopy techniques.[49][50] At present, it is expensive and time-consuming for mass production but very suitable for laboratory experimentation.

In contrast, bottom-up techniques build or grow larger structures atom by atom or molecule by molecule. These techniques include chemical synthesis, self-assembly and positional assembly. Dual polarisation interferometry is one tool suitable for characterisation of self assembled thin films. Another variation of the bottom-up approach is molecular beam epitaxy or MBE. Researchers at Bell Telephone Laboratories like John R. Arthur. Alfred Y. Cho, and Art C. Gossard developed and implemented MBE as a research tool in the late 1960s and 1970s. Samples made by MBE were key to the discovery of the fractional quantum Hall effect for which the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded. MBE allows scientists to lay down atomically precise layers of atoms and, in the process, build up complex structures. Important for research on semiconductors, MBE is also widely used to make samples and devices for the newly emerging field of spintronics.

However, new therapeutic products, based on responsive nanomaterials, such as the ultradeformable, stress-sensitive Transfersome vesicles, are under development and already approved for human use in some countries.[52]

As of August 21, 2008, the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies estimates that over 800 manufacturer-identified nanotech products are publicly available, with new ones hitting the market at a pace of 34 per week.[17] The project lists all of the products in a publicly accessible online database. Most applications are limited to the use of “first generation” passive nanomaterials which includes titanium dioxide in sunscreen, cosmetics, surface coatings,[53] and some food products; Carbon allotropes used to produce gecko tape; silver in food packaging, clothing, disinfectants and household appliances; zinc oxide in sunscreens and cosmetics, surface coatings, paints and outdoor furniture varnishes; and cerium oxide as a fuel catalyst.[16]

Further applications allow tennis balls to last longer, golf balls to fly straighter, and even bowling balls to become more durable and have a harder surface. Trousers and socks have been infused with nanotechnology so that they will last longer and keep people cool in the summer. Bandages are being infused with silver nanoparticles to heal cuts faster.[54] Video game consoles and personal computers may become cheaper, faster, and contain more memory thanks to nanotechnology.[55] Also, to build structures for on chip computing with light, for example on chip optical quantum information processing, and picosecond transmission of information.[56]

Nanotechnology may have the ability to make existing medical applications cheaper and easier to use in places like the general practitioner’s office and at home.[57] Cars are being manufactured with nanomaterials so they may need fewer metals and less fuel to operate in the future.[58]

Scientists are now turning to nanotechnology in an attempt to develop diesel engines with cleaner exhaust fumes. Platinum is currently used as the diesel engine catalyst in these engines. The catalyst is what cleans the exhaust fume particles. First a reduction catalyst is employed to take nitrogen atoms from NOx molecules in order to free oxygen. Next the oxidation catalyst oxidizes the hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide to form carbon dioxide and water.[59] Platinum is used in both the reduction and the oxidation catalysts.[60] Using platinum though, is inefficient in that it is expensive and unsustainable. Danish company InnovationsFonden invested DKK 15 million in a search for new catalyst substitutes using nanotechnology. The goal of the project, launched in the autumn of 2014, is to maximize surface area and minimize the amount of material required. Objects tend to minimize their surface energy; two drops of water, for example, will join to form one drop and decrease surface area. If the catalyst’s surface area that is exposed to the exhaust fumes is maximized, efficiency of the catalyst is maximized. The team working on this project aims to create nanoparticles that will not merge. Every time the surface is optimized, material is saved. Thus, creating these nanoparticles will increase the effectiveness of the resulting diesel engine catalystin turn leading to cleaner exhaust fumesand will decrease cost. If successful, the team hopes to reduce platinum use by 25%.[61]

Nanotechnology also has a prominent role in the fast developing field of Tissue Engineering. When designing scaffolds, researchers attempt to the mimic the nanoscale features of a Cell’s microenvironment to direct its differentiation down a suitable lineage.[62] For example, when creating scaffolds to support the growth of bone, researchers may mimic osteoclast resorption pits.[63]

Researchers have successfully used DNA origami-based nanobots capable of carrying out logic functions to achieve targeted drug delivery in cockroaches. It is said that the computational power of these nanobots can be scaled up to that of a Commodore 64.[64]

An area of concern is the effect that industrial-scale manufacturing and use of nanomaterials would have on human health and the environment, as suggested by nanotoxicology research. For these reasons, some groups advocate that nanotechnology be regulated by governments. Others counter that overregulation would stifle scientific research and the development of beneficial innovations. Public health research agencies, such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are actively conducting research on potential health effects stemming from exposures to nanoparticles.[65][66]

Some nanoparticle products may have unintended consequences. Researchers have discovered that bacteriostatic silver nanoparticles used in socks to reduce foot odor are being released in the wash.[67] These particles are then flushed into the waste water stream and may destroy bacteria which are critical components of natural ecosystems, farms, and waste treatment processes.[68]

Public deliberations on risk perception in the US and UK carried out by the Center for Nanotechnology in Society found that participants were more positive about nanotechnologies for energy applications than for health applications, with health applications raising moral and ethical dilemmas such as cost and availability.[69]

Experts, including director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies David Rejeski, have testified[70] that successful commercialization depends on adequate oversight, risk research strategy, and public engagement. Berkeley, California is currently the only city in the United States to regulate nanotechnology;[71] Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2008 considered enacting a similar law,[72] but ultimately rejected it.[73] Relevant for both research on and application of nanotechnologies, the insurability of nanotechnology is contested.[74] Without state regulation of nanotechnology, the availability of private insurance for potential damages is seen as necessary to ensure that burdens are not socialised implicitly.

Nanofibers are used in several areas and in different products, in everything from aircraft wings to tennis rackets. Inhaling airborne nanoparticles and nanofibers may lead to a number of pulmonary diseases, e.g. fibrosis.[75] Researchers have found that when rats breathed in nanoparticles, the particles settled in the brain and lungs, which led to significant increases in biomarkers for inflammation and stress response[76] and that nanoparticles induce skin aging through oxidative stress in hairless mice.[77][78]

A two-year study at UCLA’s School of Public Health found lab mice consuming nano-titanium dioxide showed DNA and chromosome damage to a degree “linked to all the big killers of man, namely cancer, heart disease, neurological disease and aging”.[79]

A major study published more recently in Nature Nanotechnology suggests some forms of carbon nanotubes a poster child for the “nanotechnology revolution” could be as harmful as asbestos if inhaled in sufficient quantities. Anthony Seaton of the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh, Scotland, who contributed to the article on carbon nanotubes said “We know that some of them probably have the potential to cause mesothelioma. So those sorts of materials need to be handled very carefully.”[80] In the absence of specific regulation forthcoming from governments, Paull and Lyons (2008) have called for an exclusion of engineered nanoparticles in food.[81] A newspaper article reports that workers in a paint factory developed serious lung disease and nanoparticles were found in their lungs.[82][83][84][85]

Calls for tighter regulation of nanotechnology have occurred alongside a growing debate related to the human health and safety risks of nanotechnology.[86] There is significant debate about who is responsible for the regulation of nanotechnology. Some regulatory agencies currently cover some nanotechnology products and processes (to varying degrees) by “bolting on” nanotechnology to existing regulations there are clear gaps in these regimes.[87] Davies (2008) has proposed a regulatory road map describing steps to deal with these shortcomings.[88]

Stakeholders concerned by the lack of a regulatory framework to assess and control risks associated with the release of nanoparticles and nanotubes have drawn parallels with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (“mad cow” disease), thalidomide, genetically modified food,[89] nuclear energy, reproductive technologies, biotechnology, and asbestosis. Dr. Andrew Maynard, chief science advisor to the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, concludes that there is insufficient funding for human health and safety research, and as a result there is currently limited understanding of the human health and safety risks associated with nanotechnology.[90] As a result, some academics have called for stricter application of the precautionary principle, with delayed marketing approval, enhanced labelling and additional safety data development requirements in relation to certain forms of nanotechnology.[91][92]

The Royal Society report[14] identified a risk of nanoparticles or nanotubes being released during disposal, destruction and recycling, and recommended that “manufacturers of products that fall under extended producer responsibility regimes such as end-of-life regulations publish procedures outlining how these materials will be managed to minimize possible human and environmental exposure” (p. xiii).

The Center for Nanotechnology in Society has found that people respond to nanotechnologies differently, depending on application with participants in public deliberations more positive about nanotechnologies for energy than health applications suggesting that any public calls for nano regulations may differ by technology sector.[69]

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Nanotechnology – Wikipedia

NANOTECH SOLAR PANELS NanoTech Engineering

Nanoscience Enabled

Scientists have tried for decades to harness the power of the Sun to establish cost effective processes to convert sunlight into energy. Sadly, they have had little success. Yes, they exist, yes, they are sold, but they are expensive and not cost effective. There is such a demand for Solar Panels that sales have increased each year despite the fact that they are cost prohibitive. Even the Federal Government offered subsidies to offset losses. Our Nano Solar Panels now give consumers a positive return on investment, making them the ideal choice, and demand for our panels shall be enormous and immediate.

At Nanotech Engineering Inc. we are developing Solar Panels the size of a FedEx Envelope. By layering sheets of Graphene as a substructure, we put a Carbon Nanotube Forest over the top, with our proprietary mineral solution. As the Suns rays hit the array, electrons are generated through the forest much faster than Silicon. Clearly in less than ideal weather this number drops, however the Panels are still more efficient than traditional solar panels in cloudy weather, remember photons still move through clouds, so that we will see panels in places previously unthinkable in the past.

Our solar panels are combined using a printing device, it combines the Graphene sheets into a single structure, from there a Graphene Forest is applied on the surface with our proprietary minerals, creating a lightweight panel that is stronger than steel yet has pushed the upper limits of the energy that can be received and used by the Sun. In short this is by far the most efficient Solar Panel ever created.

Our main market is replacing the old Solar Panels and applications for those that otherwise wouldnt use solar. We also are anticipating applications in parts of the world that have less than ideal weather, if our panel can for example only get 40% in New York, or 20% in Denmark, it will be used, achieving the dream of a solar world!

Our invention has many applications outside of energy for homes and municipalities, John Hart, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, chemical engineering and art and design at the University of Michigan, says, “This is an exciting new approach to designing solar cells, and moreover an impressive example of how complementary nanostructured materials can be engineered to create new energy devices. For applications where weight is a crucial factor such as in spacecraft, aviation or for use in remote areas of the developing world where transportation costs are significant such lightweight cells could already have great potential

Solar Skin Design

One major barrier for the solar industry is the fact that a high percentage of homeowners consider solar panels to be an unsightlyhome addition. Luckily, Nanotech Engineering, is making major strides with the concept of aesthetic enhancement that allows solar panels to have a customized look. By including almost any color into the mineral solution, we can match or come close to most homes color.

Shockley-Queisser Limit

Ever since 1961 it has been known that there is an absolute theoretical limit, called the Shockley-Queisser Limit, to how efficient traditional solar cells can be in their energy conversion. For a single-layer cell made of silicon the type used for the vast majority of todays solar panels that upper limit is about 32 percent. However, by using Carbon Nanotubes with our proprietary Nano Particles with a layered Graphene base, our panel is about three times more efficient.

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NANOTECH SOLAR PANELS NanoTech Engineering

Nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Nanotechnology (“nanotech”) is manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale. The earliest, widespread description of nanotechnology[1][2] referred to the particular technological goal of precisely manipulating atoms and molecules for fabrication of macroscale products, also now referred to as molecular nanotechnology. A more generalized description of nanotechnology was subsequently established by the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which defines nanotechnology as the manipulation of matter with at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers. This definition reflects the fact that quantum mechanical effects are important at this quantum-realm scale, and so the definition shifted from a particular technological goal to a research category inclusive of all types of research and technologies that deal with the special properties of matter which occur below the given size threshold. It is therefore common to see the plural form “nanotechnologies” as well as “nanoscale technologies” to refer to the broad range of research and applications whose common trait is size. Because of the variety of potential applications (including industrial and military), governments have invested billions of dollars in nanotechnology research. Through 2012, the USA has invested $3.7 billion using its National Nanotechnology Initiative, the European Union has invested $1.2 billion, and Japan has invested $750 million.[3]

Nanotechnology as defined by size is naturally very broad, including fields of science as diverse as surface science, organic chemistry, molecular biology, semiconductor physics, energy storage,[4][5] microfabrication,[6] molecular engineering, etc.[7] The associated research and applications are equally diverse, ranging from extensions of conventional device physics to completely new approaches based upon molecular self-assembly,[8] from developing new materials with dimensions on the nanoscale to direct control of matter on the atomic scale.

Scientists currently debate the future implications of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology may be able to create many new materials and devices with a vast range of applications, such as in nanomedicine, nanoelectronics, biomaterials energy production, and consumer products. On the other hand, nanotechnology raises many of the same issues as any new technology, including concerns about the toxicity and environmental impact of nanomaterials,[9] and their potential effects on global economics, as well as speculation about various doomsday scenarios. These concerns have led to a debate among advocacy groups and governments on whether special regulation of nanotechnology is warranted.

The concepts that seeded nanotechnology were first discussed in 1959 by renowned physicist Richard Feynman in his talk There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom, in which he described the possibility of synthesis via direct manipulation of atoms. The term “nano-technology” was first used by Norio Taniguchi in 1974, though it was not widely known.

Inspired by Feynman’s concepts, K. Eric Drexler used the term “nanotechnology” in his 1986 book Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology, which proposed the idea of a nanoscale “assembler” which would be able to build a copy of itself and of other items of arbitrary complexity with atomic control. Also in 1986, Drexler co-founded The Foresight Institute (with which he is no longer affiliated) to help increase public awareness and understanding of nanotechnology concepts and implications.

Thus, emergence of nanotechnology as a field in the 1980s occurred through convergence of Drexler’s theoretical and public work, which developed and popularized a conceptual framework for nanotechnology, and high-visibility experimental advances that drew additional wide-scale attention to the prospects of atomic control of matter. In the 1980s, two major breakthroughs sparked the growth of nanotechnology in modern era.

First, the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope in 1981 which provided unprecedented visualization of individual atoms and bonds, and was successfully used to manipulate individual atoms in 1989. The microscope’s developers Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer at IBM Zurich Research Laboratory received a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986.[10][11] Binnig, Quate and Gerber also invented the analogous atomic force microscope that year.

Second, Fullerenes were discovered in 1985 by Harry Kroto, Richard Smalley, and Robert Curl, who together won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.[12][13] C60 was not initially described as nanotechnology; the term was used regarding subsequent work with related graphene tubes (called carbon nanotubes and sometimes called Bucky tubes) which suggested potential applications for nanoscale electronics and devices.

In the early 2000s, the field garnered increased scientific, political, and commercial attention that led to both controversy and progress. Controversies emerged regarding the definitions and potential implications of nanotechnologies, exemplified by the Royal Society’s report on nanotechnology.[14] Challenges were raised regarding the feasibility of applications envisioned by advocates of molecular nanotechnology, which culminated in a public debate between Drexler and Smalley in 2001 and 2003.[15]

Meanwhile, commercialization of products based on advancements in nanoscale technologies began emerging. These products are limited to bulk applications of nanomaterials and do not involve atomic control of matter. Some examples include the Silver Nano platform for using silver nanoparticles as an antibacterial agent, nanoparticle-based transparent sunscreens, carbon fiber strengthening using silica nanoparticles, and carbon nanotubes for stain-resistant textiles.[16][17]

Governments moved to promote and fund research into nanotechnology, such as in the U.S. with the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which formalized a size-based definition of nanotechnology and established funding for research on the nanoscale, and in Europe via the European Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development.

By the mid-2000s new and serious scientific attention began to flourish. Projects emerged to produce nanotechnology roadmaps[18][19] which center on atomically precise manipulation of matter and discuss existing and projected capabilities, goals, and applications.

Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale. This covers both current work and concepts that are more advanced. In its original sense, nanotechnology refers to the projected ability to construct items from the bottom up, using techniques and tools being developed today to make complete, high performance products.

One nanometer (nm) is one billionth, or 109, of a meter. By comparison, typical carbon-carbon bond lengths, or the spacing between these atoms in a molecule, are in the range 0.120.15 nm, and a DNA double-helix has a diameter around 2nm. On the other hand, the smallest cellular life-forms, the bacteria of the genus Mycoplasma, are around 200nm in length. By convention, nanotechnology is taken as the scale range 1 to 100 nm following the definition used by the National Nanotechnology Initiative in the US. The lower limit is set by the size of atoms (hydrogen has the smallest atoms, which are approximately a quarter of a nm diameter) since nanotechnology must build its devices from atoms and molecules. The upper limit is more or less arbitrary but is around the size below which phenomena not observed in larger structures start to become apparent and can be made use of in the nano device.[20] These new phenomena make nanotechnology distinct from devices which are merely miniaturised versions of an equivalent macroscopic device; such devices are on a larger scale and come under the description of microtechnology.[21]

To put that scale in another context, the comparative size of a nanometer to a meter is the same as that of a marble to the size of the earth.[22] Or another way of putting it: a nanometer is the amount an average man’s beard grows in the time it takes him to raise the razor to his face.[22]

Two main approaches are used in nanotechnology. In the “bottom-up” approach, materials and devices are built from molecular components which assemble themselves chemically by principles of molecular recognition.[23] In the “top-down” approach, nano-objects are constructed from larger entities without atomic-level control.[24]

Areas of physics such as nanoelectronics, nanomechanics, nanophotonics and nanoionics have evolved during the last few decades to provide a basic scientific foundation of nanotechnology.

Several phenomena become pronounced as the size of the system decreases. These include statistical mechanical effects, as well as quantum mechanical effects, for example the “quantum size effect” where the electronic properties of solids are altered with great reductions in particle size. This effect does not come into play by going from macro to micro dimensions. However, quantum effects can become significant when the nanometer size range is reached, typically at distances of 100 nanometers or less, the so-called quantum realm. Additionally, a number of physical (mechanical, electrical, optical, etc.) properties change when compared to macroscopic systems. One example is the increase in surface area to volume ratio altering mechanical, thermal and catalytic properties of materials. Diffusion and reactions at nanoscale, nanostructures materials and nanodevices with fast ion transport are generally referred to nanoionics. Mechanical properties of nanosystems are of interest in the nanomechanics research. The catalytic activity of nanomaterials also opens potential risks in their interaction with biomaterials.

Materials reduced to the nanoscale can show different properties compared to what they exhibit on a macroscale, enabling unique applications. For instance, opaque substances can become transparent (copper); stable materials can turn combustible (aluminium); insoluble materials may become soluble (gold). A material such as gold, which is chemically inert at normal scales, can serve as a potent chemical catalyst at nanoscales. Much of the fascination with nanotechnology stems from these quantum and surface phenomena that matter exhibits at the nanoscale.[25]

Modern synthetic chemistry has reached the point where it is possible to prepare small molecules to almost any structure. These methods are used today to manufacture a wide variety of useful chemicals such as pharmaceuticals or commercial polymers. This ability raises the question of extending this kind of control to the next-larger level, seeking methods to assemble these single molecules into supramolecular assemblies consisting of many molecules arranged in a well defined manner.

These approaches utilize the concepts of molecular self-assembly and/or supramolecular chemistry to automatically arrange themselves into some useful conformation through a bottom-up approach. The concept of molecular recognition is especially important: molecules can be designed so that a specific configuration or arrangement is favored due to non-covalent intermolecular forces. The WatsonCrick basepairing rules are a direct result of this, as is the specificity of an enzyme being targeted to a single substrate, or the specific folding of the protein itself. Thus, two or more components can be designed to be complementary and mutually attractive so that they make a more complex and useful whole.

Such bottom-up approaches should be capable of producing devices in parallel and be much cheaper than top-down methods, but could potentially be overwhelmed as the size and complexity of the desired assembly increases. Most useful structures require complex and thermodynamically unlikely arrangements of atoms. Nevertheless, there are many examples of self-assembly based on molecular recognition in biology, most notably WatsonCrick basepairing and enzyme-substrate interactions. The challenge for nanotechnology is whether these principles can be used to engineer new constructs in addition to natural ones.

Molecular nanotechnology, sometimes called molecular manufacturing, describes engineered nanosystems (nanoscale machines) operating on the molecular scale. Molecular nanotechnology is especially associated with the molecular assembler, a machine that can produce a desired structure or device atom-by-atom using the principles of mechanosynthesis. Manufacturing in the context of productive nanosystems is not related to, and should be clearly distinguished from, the conventional technologies used to manufacture nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes and nanoparticles.

When the term “nanotechnology” was independently coined and popularized by Eric Drexler (who at the time was unaware of an earlier usage by Norio Taniguchi) it referred to a future manufacturing technology based on molecular machine systems. The premise was that molecular scale biological analogies of traditional machine components demonstrated molecular machines were possible: by the countless examples found in biology, it is known that sophisticated, stochastically optimised biological machines can be produced.

It is hoped that developments in nanotechnology will make possible their construction by some other means, perhaps using biomimetic principles. However, Drexler and other researchers[26] have proposed that advanced nanotechnology, although perhaps initially implemented by biomimetic means, ultimately could be based on mechanical engineering principles, namely, a manufacturing technology based on the mechanical functionality of these components (such as gears, bearings, motors, and structural members) that would enable programmable, positional assembly to atomic specification.[27] The physics and engineering performance of exemplar designs were analyzed in Drexler’s book Nanosystems.

In general it is very difficult to assemble devices on the atomic scale, as one has to position atoms on other atoms of comparable size and stickiness. Another view, put forth by Carlo Montemagno,[28] is that future nanosystems will be hybrids of silicon technology and biological molecular machines. Richard Smalley argued that mechanosynthesis are impossible due to the difficulties in mechanically manipulating individual molecules.

This led to an exchange of letters in the ACS publication Chemical & Engineering News in 2003.[29] Though biology clearly demonstrates that molecular machine systems are possible, non-biological molecular machines are today only in their infancy. Leaders in research on non-biological molecular machines are Dr. Alex Zettl and his colleagues at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories and UC Berkeley.[1] They have constructed at least three distinct molecular devices whose motion is controlled from the desktop with changing voltage: a nanotube nanomotor, a molecular actuator,[30] and a nanoelectromechanical relaxation oscillator.[31] See nanotube nanomotor for more examples.

An experiment indicating that positional molecular assembly is possible was performed by Ho and Lee at Cornell University in 1999. They used a scanning tunneling microscope to move an individual carbon monoxide molecule (CO) to an individual iron atom (Fe) sitting on a flat silver crystal, and chemically bound the CO to the Fe by applying a voltage.

The nanomaterials field includes subfields which develop or study materials having unique properties arising from their nanoscale dimensions.[34]

These seek to arrange smaller components into more complex assemblies.

These seek to create smaller devices by using larger ones to direct their assembly.

These seek to develop components of a desired functionality without regard to how they might be assembled.

These subfields seek to anticipate what inventions nanotechnology might yield, or attempt to propose an agenda along which inquiry might progress. These often take a big-picture view of nanotechnology, with more emphasis on its societal implications than the details of how such inventions could actually be created.

Nanomaterials can be classified in 0D, 1D, 2D and 3D nanomaterials. The dimensionality play a major role in determining the characteristic of nanomaterials including physical, chemical and biological characteristics. With the decrease in dimensionality, an increase in surface-to-volume ratio is observed. This indicate that smaller dimensional nanomaterials have higher surface area compared to 3D nanomaterials. Recently, two dimensional (2D) nanomaterials are extensively investigated for electronic, biomedical, drug delivery and biosensor applications.

There are several important modern developments. The atomic force microscope (AFM) and the Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM) are two early versions of scanning probes that launched nanotechnology. There are other types of scanning probe microscopy. Although conceptually similar to the scanning confocal microscope developed by Marvin Minsky in 1961 and the scanning acoustic microscope (SAM) developed by Calvin Quate and coworkers in the 1970s, newer scanning probe microscopes have much higher resolution, since they are not limited by the wavelength of sound or light.

The tip of a scanning probe can also be used to manipulate nanostructures (a process called positional assembly). Feature-oriented scanning methodology may be a promising way to implement these nanomanipulations in automatic mode.[49][50] However, this is still a slow process because of low scanning velocity of the microscope.

Various techniques of nanolithography such as optical lithography, X-ray lithography, dip pen nanolithography, electron beam lithography or nanoimprint lithography were also developed. Lithography is a top-down fabrication technique where a bulk material is reduced in size to nanoscale pattern.

Another group of nanotechnological techniques include those used for fabrication of nanotubes and nanowires, those used in semiconductor fabrication such as deep ultraviolet lithography, electron beam lithography, focused ion beam machining, nanoimprint lithography, atomic layer deposition, and molecular vapor deposition, and further including molecular self-assembly techniques such as those employing di-block copolymers. The precursors of these techniques preceded the nanotech era, and are extensions in the development of scientific advancements rather than techniques which were devised with the sole purpose of creating nanotechnology and which were results of nanotechnology research.[51]

The top-down approach anticipates nanodevices that must be built piece by piece in stages, much as manufactured items are made. Scanning probe microscopy is an important technique both for characterization and synthesis of nanomaterials. Atomic force microscopes and scanning tunneling microscopes can be used to look at surfaces and to move atoms around. By designing different tips for these microscopes, they can be used for carving out structures on surfaces and to help guide self-assembling structures. By using, for example, feature-oriented scanning approach, atoms or molecules can be moved around on a surface with scanning probe microscopy techniques.[49][50] At present, it is expensive and time-consuming for mass production but very suitable for laboratory experimentation.

In contrast, bottom-up techniques build or grow larger structures atom by atom or molecule by molecule. These techniques include chemical synthesis, self-assembly and positional assembly. Dual polarisation interferometry is one tool suitable for characterisation of self assembled thin films. Another variation of the bottom-up approach is molecular beam epitaxy or MBE. Researchers at Bell Telephone Laboratories like John R. Arthur. Alfred Y. Cho, and Art C. Gossard developed and implemented MBE as a research tool in the late 1960s and 1970s. Samples made by MBE were key to the discovery of the fractional quantum Hall effect for which the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded. MBE allows scientists to lay down atomically precise layers of atoms and, in the process, build up complex structures. Important for research on semiconductors, MBE is also widely used to make samples and devices for the newly emerging field of spintronics.

However, new therapeutic products, based on responsive nanomaterials, such as the ultradeformable, stress-sensitive Transfersome vesicles, are under development and already approved for human use in some countries.[52]

As of August 21, 2008, the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies estimates that over 800 manufacturer-identified nanotech products are publicly available, with new ones hitting the market at a pace of 34 per week.[17] The project lists all of the products in a publicly accessible online database. Most applications are limited to the use of “first generation” passive nanomaterials which includes titanium dioxide in sunscreen, cosmetics, surface coatings,[53] and some food products; Carbon allotropes used to produce gecko tape; silver in food packaging, clothing, disinfectants and household appliances; zinc oxide in sunscreens and cosmetics, surface coatings, paints and outdoor furniture varnishes; and cerium oxide as a fuel catalyst.[16]

Further applications allow tennis balls to last longer, golf balls to fly straighter, and even bowling balls to become more durable and have a harder surface. Trousers and socks have been infused with nanotechnology so that they will last longer and keep people cool in the summer. Bandages are being infused with silver nanoparticles to heal cuts faster.[54] Video game consoles and personal computers may become cheaper, faster, and contain more memory thanks to nanotechnology.[55] Also, to build structures for on chip computing with light, for example on chip optical quantum information processing, and picosecond transmission of information.[56]

Nanotechnology may have the ability to make existing medical applications cheaper and easier to use in places like the general practitioner’s office and at home.[57] Cars are being manufactured with nanomaterials so they may need fewer metals and less fuel to operate in the future.[58]

Scientists are now turning to nanotechnology in an attempt to develop diesel engines with cleaner exhaust fumes. Platinum is currently used as the diesel engine catalyst in these engines. The catalyst is what cleans the exhaust fume particles. First a reduction catalyst is employed to take nitrogen atoms from NOx molecules in order to free oxygen. Next the oxidation catalyst oxidizes the hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide to form carbon dioxide and water.[59] Platinum is used in both the reduction and the oxidation catalysts.[60] Using platinum though, is inefficient in that it is expensive and unsustainable. Danish company InnovationsFonden invested DKK 15 million in a search for new catalyst substitutes using nanotechnology. The goal of the project, launched in the autumn of 2014, is to maximize surface area and minimize the amount of material required. Objects tend to minimize their surface energy; two drops of water, for example, will join to form one drop and decrease surface area. If the catalyst’s surface area that is exposed to the exhaust fumes is maximized, efficiency of the catalyst is maximized. The team working on this project aims to create nanoparticles that will not merge. Every time the surface is optimized, material is saved. Thus, creating these nanoparticles will increase the effectiveness of the resulting diesel engine catalystin turn leading to cleaner exhaust fumesand will decrease cost. If successful, the team hopes to reduce platinum use by 25%.[61]

Nanotechnology also has a prominent role in the fast developing field of Tissue Engineering. When designing scaffolds, researchers attempt to the mimic the nanoscale features of a Cell’s microenvironment to direct its differentiation down a suitable lineage.[62] For example, when creating scaffolds to support the growth of bone, researchers may mimic osteoclast resorption pits.[63]

Researchers have successfully used DNA origami-based nanobots capable of carrying out logic functions to achieve targeted drug delivery in cockroaches. It is said that the computational power of these nanobots can be scaled up to that of a Commodore 64.[64]

An area of concern is the effect that industrial-scale manufacturing and use of nanomaterials would have on human health and the environment, as suggested by nanotoxicology research. For these reasons, some groups advocate that nanotechnology be regulated by governments. Others counter that overregulation would stifle scientific research and the development of beneficial innovations. Public health research agencies, such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are actively conducting research on potential health effects stemming from exposures to nanoparticles.[65][66]

Some nanoparticle products may have unintended consequences. Researchers have discovered that bacteriostatic silver nanoparticles used in socks to reduce foot odor are being released in the wash.[67] These particles are then flushed into the waste water stream and may destroy bacteria which are critical components of natural ecosystems, farms, and waste treatment processes.[68]

Public deliberations on risk perception in the US and UK carried out by the Center for Nanotechnology in Society found that participants were more positive about nanotechnologies for energy applications than for health applications, with health applications raising moral and ethical dilemmas such as cost and availability.[69]

Experts, including director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies David Rejeski, have testified[70] that successful commercialization depends on adequate oversight, risk research strategy, and public engagement. Berkeley, California is currently the only city in the United States to regulate nanotechnology;[71] Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2008 considered enacting a similar law,[72] but ultimately rejected it.[73] Relevant for both research on and application of nanotechnologies, the insurability of nanotechnology is contested.[74] Without state regulation of nanotechnology, the availability of private insurance for potential damages is seen as necessary to ensure that burdens are not socialised implicitly.

Nanofibers are used in several areas and in different products, in everything from aircraft wings to tennis rackets. Inhaling airborne nanoparticles and nanofibers may lead to a number of pulmonary diseases, e.g. fibrosis.[75] Researchers have found that when rats breathed in nanoparticles, the particles settled in the brain and lungs, which led to significant increases in biomarkers for inflammation and stress response[76] and that nanoparticles induce skin aging through oxidative stress in hairless mice.[77][78]

A two-year study at UCLA’s School of Public Health found lab mice consuming nano-titanium dioxide showed DNA and chromosome damage to a degree “linked to all the big killers of man, namely cancer, heart disease, neurological disease and aging”.[79]

A major study published more recently in Nature Nanotechnology suggests some forms of carbon nanotubes a poster child for the “nanotechnology revolution” could be as harmful as asbestos if inhaled in sufficient quantities. Anthony Seaton of the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh, Scotland, who contributed to the article on carbon nanotubes said “We know that some of them probably have the potential to cause mesothelioma. So those sorts of materials need to be handled very carefully.”[80] In the absence of specific regulation forthcoming from governments, Paull and Lyons (2008) have called for an exclusion of engineered nanoparticles in food.[81] A newspaper article reports that workers in a paint factory developed serious lung disease and nanoparticles were found in their lungs.[82][83][84][85]

Calls for tighter regulation of nanotechnology have occurred alongside a growing debate related to the human health and safety risks of nanotechnology.[86] There is significant debate about who is responsible for the regulation of nanotechnology. Some regulatory agencies currently cover some nanotechnology products and processes (to varying degrees) by “bolting on” nanotechnology to existing regulations there are clear gaps in these regimes.[87] Davies (2008) has proposed a regulatory road map describing steps to deal with these shortcomings.[88]

Stakeholders concerned by the lack of a regulatory framework to assess and control risks associated with the release of nanoparticles and nanotubes have drawn parallels with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (“mad cow” disease), thalidomide, genetically modified food,[89] nuclear energy, reproductive technologies, biotechnology, and asbestosis. Dr. Andrew Maynard, chief science advisor to the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, concludes that there is insufficient funding for human health and safety research, and as a result there is currently limited understanding of the human health and safety risks associated with nanotechnology.[90] As a result, some academics have called for stricter application of the precautionary principle, with delayed marketing approval, enhanced labelling and additional safety data development requirements in relation to certain forms of nanotechnology.[91][92]

The Royal Society report[14] identified a risk of nanoparticles or nanotubes being released during disposal, destruction and recycling, and recommended that “manufacturers of products that fall under extended producer responsibility regimes such as end-of-life regulations publish procedures outlining how these materials will be managed to minimize possible human and environmental exposure” (p. xiii).

The Center for Nanotechnology in Society has found that people respond to nanotechnologies differently, depending on application with participants in public deliberations more positive about nanotechnologies for energy than health applications suggesting that any public calls for nano regulations may differ by technology sector.[69]

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Nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Nanotechnology (“nanotech”) is manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale. The earliest, widespread description of nanotechnology[1][2] referred to the particular technological goal of precisely manipulating atoms and molecules for fabrication of macroscale products, also now referred to as molecular nanotechnology. A more generalized description of nanotechnology was subsequently established by the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which defines nanotechnology as the manipulation of matter with at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers. This definition reflects the fact that quantum mechanical effects are important at this quantum-realm scale, and so the definition shifted from a particular technological goal to a research category inclusive of all types of research and technologies that deal with the special properties of matter which occur below the given size threshold. It is therefore common to see the plural form “nanotechnologies” as well as “nanoscale technologies” to refer to the broad range of research and applications whose common trait is size. Because of the variety of potential applications (including industrial and military), governments have invested billions of dollars in nanotechnology research. Through 2012, the USA has invested $3.7 billion using its National Nanotechnology Initiative, the European Union has invested $1.2 billion, and Japan has invested $750 million.[3]

Nanotechnology as defined by size is naturally very broad, including fields of science as diverse as surface science, organic chemistry, molecular biology, semiconductor physics, energy storage,[4][5] microfabrication,[6] molecular engineering, etc.[7] The associated research and applications are equally diverse, ranging from extensions of conventional device physics to completely new approaches based upon molecular self-assembly,[8] from developing new materials with dimensions on the nanoscale to direct control of matter on the atomic scale.

Scientists currently debate the future implications of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology may be able to create many new materials and devices with a vast range of applications, such as in nanomedicine, nanoelectronics, biomaterials energy production, and consumer products. On the other hand, nanotechnology raises many of the same issues as any new technology, including concerns about the toxicity and environmental impact of nanomaterials,[9] and their potential effects on global economics, as well as speculation about various doomsday scenarios. These concerns have led to a debate among advocacy groups and governments on whether special regulation of nanotechnology is warranted.

The concepts that seeded nanotechnology were first discussed in 1959 by renowned physicist Richard Feynman in his talk There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom, in which he described the possibility of synthesis via direct manipulation of atoms. The term “nano-technology” was first used by Norio Taniguchi in 1974, though it was not widely known.

Inspired by Feynman’s concepts, K. Eric Drexler used the term “nanotechnology” in his 1986 book Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology, which proposed the idea of a nanoscale “assembler” which would be able to build a copy of itself and of other items of arbitrary complexity with atomic control. Also in 1986, Drexler co-founded The Foresight Institute (with which he is no longer affiliated) to help increase public awareness and understanding of nanotechnology concepts and implications.

Thus, emergence of nanotechnology as a field in the 1980s occurred through convergence of Drexler’s theoretical and public work, which developed and popularized a conceptual framework for nanotechnology, and high-visibility experimental advances that drew additional wide-scale attention to the prospects of atomic control of matter. In the 1980s, two major breakthroughs sparked the growth of nanotechnology in modern era.

First, the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope in 1981 which provided unprecedented visualization of individual atoms and bonds, and was successfully used to manipulate individual atoms in 1989. The microscope’s developers Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer at IBM Zurich Research Laboratory received a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986.[10][11] Binnig, Quate and Gerber also invented the analogous atomic force microscope that year.

Second, Fullerenes were discovered in 1985 by Harry Kroto, Richard Smalley, and Robert Curl, who together won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.[12][13] C60 was not initially described as nanotechnology; the term was used regarding subsequent work with related graphene tubes (called carbon nanotubes and sometimes called Bucky tubes) which suggested potential applications for nanoscale electronics and devices.

In the early 2000s, the field garnered increased scientific, political, and commercial attention that led to both controversy and progress. Controversies emerged regarding the definitions and potential implications of nanotechnologies, exemplified by the Royal Society’s report on nanotechnology.[14] Challenges were raised regarding the feasibility of applications envisioned by advocates of molecular nanotechnology, which culminated in a public debate between Drexler and Smalley in 2001 and 2003.[15]

Meanwhile, commercialization of products based on advancements in nanoscale technologies began emerging. These products are limited to bulk applications of nanomaterials and do not involve atomic control of matter. Some examples include the Silver Nano platform for using silver nanoparticles as an antibacterial agent, nanoparticle-based transparent sunscreens, carbon fiber strengthening using silica nanoparticles, and carbon nanotubes for stain-resistant textiles.[16][17]

Governments moved to promote and fund research into nanotechnology, such as in the U.S. with the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which formalized a size-based definition of nanotechnology and established funding for research on the nanoscale, and in Europe via the European Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development.

By the mid-2000s new and serious scientific attention began to flourish. Projects emerged to produce nanotechnology roadmaps[18][19] which center on atomically precise manipulation of matter and discuss existing and projected capabilities, goals, and applications.

Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale. This covers both current work and concepts that are more advanced. In its original sense, nanotechnology refers to the projected ability to construct items from the bottom up, using techniques and tools being developed today to make complete, high performance products.

One nanometer (nm) is one billionth, or 109, of a meter. By comparison, typical carbon-carbon bond lengths, or the spacing between these atoms in a molecule, are in the range 0.120.15 nm, and a DNA double-helix has a diameter around 2nm. On the other hand, the smallest cellular life-forms, the bacteria of the genus Mycoplasma, are around 200nm in length. By convention, nanotechnology is taken as the scale range 1 to 100 nm following the definition used by the National Nanotechnology Initiative in the US. The lower limit is set by the size of atoms (hydrogen has the smallest atoms, which are approximately a quarter of a nm diameter) since nanotechnology must build its devices from atoms and molecules. The upper limit is more or less arbitrary but is around the size below which phenomena not observed in larger structures start to become apparent and can be made use of in the nano device.[20] These new phenomena make nanotechnology distinct from devices which are merely miniaturised versions of an equivalent macroscopic device; such devices are on a larger scale and come under the description of microtechnology.[21]

To put that scale in another context, the comparative size of a nanometer to a meter is the same as that of a marble to the size of the earth.[22] Or another way of putting it: a nanometer is the amount an average man’s beard grows in the time it takes him to raise the razor to his face.[22]

Two main approaches are used in nanotechnology. In the “bottom-up” approach, materials and devices are built from molecular components which assemble themselves chemically by principles of molecular recognition.[23] In the “top-down” approach, nano-objects are constructed from larger entities without atomic-level control.[24]

Areas of physics such as nanoelectronics, nanomechanics, nanophotonics and nanoionics have evolved during the last few decades to provide a basic scientific foundation of nanotechnology.

Several phenomena become pronounced as the size of the system decreases. These include statistical mechanical effects, as well as quantum mechanical effects, for example the “quantum size effect” where the electronic properties of solids are altered with great reductions in particle size. This effect does not come into play by going from macro to micro dimensions. However, quantum effects can become significant when the nanometer size range is reached, typically at distances of 100 nanometers or less, the so-called quantum realm. Additionally, a number of physical (mechanical, electrical, optical, etc.) properties change when compared to macroscopic systems. One example is the increase in surface area to volume ratio altering mechanical, thermal and catalytic properties of materials. Diffusion and reactions at nanoscale, nanostructures materials and nanodevices with fast ion transport are generally referred to nanoionics. Mechanical properties of nanosystems are of interest in the nanomechanics research. The catalytic activity of nanomaterials also opens potential risks in their interaction with biomaterials.

Materials reduced to the nanoscale can show different properties compared to what they exhibit on a macroscale, enabling unique applications. For instance, opaque substances can become transparent (copper); stable materials can turn combustible (aluminium); insoluble materials may become soluble (gold). A material such as gold, which is chemically inert at normal scales, can serve as a potent chemical catalyst at nanoscales. Much of the fascination with nanotechnology stems from these quantum and surface phenomena that matter exhibits at the nanoscale.[25]

Modern synthetic chemistry has reached the point where it is possible to prepare small molecules to almost any structure. These methods are used today to manufacture a wide variety of useful chemicals such as pharmaceuticals or commercial polymers. This ability raises the question of extending this kind of control to the next-larger level, seeking methods to assemble these single molecules into supramolecular assemblies consisting of many molecules arranged in a well defined manner.

These approaches utilize the concepts of molecular self-assembly and/or supramolecular chemistry to automatically arrange themselves into some useful conformation through a bottom-up approach. The concept of molecular recognition is especially important: molecules can be designed so that a specific configuration or arrangement is favored due to non-covalent intermolecular forces. The WatsonCrick basepairing rules are a direct result of this, as is the specificity of an enzyme being targeted to a single substrate, or the specific folding of the protein itself. Thus, two or more components can be designed to be complementary and mutually attractive so that they make a more complex and useful whole.

Such bottom-up approaches should be capable of producing devices in parallel and be much cheaper than top-down methods, but could potentially be overwhelmed as the size and complexity of the desired assembly increases. Most useful structures require complex and thermodynamically unlikely arrangements of atoms. Nevertheless, there are many examples of self-assembly based on molecular recognition in biology, most notably WatsonCrick basepairing and enzyme-substrate interactions. The challenge for nanotechnology is whether these principles can be used to engineer new constructs in addition to natural ones.

Molecular nanotechnology, sometimes called molecular manufacturing, describes engineered nanosystems (nanoscale machines) operating on the molecular scale. Molecular nanotechnology is especially associated with the molecular assembler, a machine that can produce a desired structure or device atom-by-atom using the principles of mechanosynthesis. Manufacturing in the context of productive nanosystems is not related to, and should be clearly distinguished from, the conventional technologies used to manufacture nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes and nanoparticles.

When the term “nanotechnology” was independently coined and popularized by Eric Drexler (who at the time was unaware of an earlier usage by Norio Taniguchi) it referred to a future manufacturing technology based on molecular machine systems. The premise was that molecular scale biological analogies of traditional machine components demonstrated molecular machines were possible: by the countless examples found in biology, it is known that sophisticated, stochastically optimised biological machines can be produced.

It is hoped that developments in nanotechnology will make possible their construction by some other means, perhaps using biomimetic principles. However, Drexler and other researchers[26] have proposed that advanced nanotechnology, although perhaps initially implemented by biomimetic means, ultimately could be based on mechanical engineering principles, namely, a manufacturing technology based on the mechanical functionality of these components (such as gears, bearings, motors, and structural members) that would enable programmable, positional assembly to atomic specification.[27] The physics and engineering performance of exemplar designs were analyzed in Drexler’s book Nanosystems.

In general it is very difficult to assemble devices on the atomic scale, as one has to position atoms on other atoms of comparable size and stickiness. Another view, put forth by Carlo Montemagno,[28] is that future nanosystems will be hybrids of silicon technology and biological molecular machines. Richard Smalley argued that mechanosynthesis are impossible due to the difficulties in mechanically manipulating individual molecules.

This led to an exchange of letters in the ACS publication Chemical & Engineering News in 2003.[29] Though biology clearly demonstrates that molecular machine systems are possible, non-biological molecular machines are today only in their infancy. Leaders in research on non-biological molecular machines are Dr. Alex Zettl and his colleagues at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories and UC Berkeley.[1] They have constructed at least three distinct molecular devices whose motion is controlled from the desktop with changing voltage: a nanotube nanomotor, a molecular actuator,[30] and a nanoelectromechanical relaxation oscillator.[31] See nanotube nanomotor for more examples.

An experiment indicating that positional molecular assembly is possible was performed by Ho and Lee at Cornell University in 1999. They used a scanning tunneling microscope to move an individual carbon monoxide molecule (CO) to an individual iron atom (Fe) sitting on a flat silver crystal, and chemically bound the CO to the Fe by applying a voltage.

The nanomaterials field includes subfields which develop or study materials having unique properties arising from their nanoscale dimensions.[34]

These seek to arrange smaller components into more complex assemblies.

These seek to create smaller devices by using larger ones to direct their assembly.

These seek to develop components of a desired functionality without regard to how they might be assembled.

These subfields seek to anticipate what inventions nanotechnology might yield, or attempt to propose an agenda along which inquiry might progress. These often take a big-picture view of nanotechnology, with more emphasis on its societal implications than the details of how such inventions could actually be created.

Nanomaterials can be classified in 0D, 1D, 2D and 3D nanomaterials. The dimensionality play a major role in determining the characteristic of nanomaterials including physical, chemical and biological characteristics. With the decrease in dimensionality, an increase in surface-to-volume ratio is observed. This indicate that smaller dimensional nanomaterials have higher surface area compared to 3D nanomaterials. Recently, two dimensional (2D) nanomaterials are extensively investigated for electronic, biomedical, drug delivery and biosensor applications.

There are several important modern developments. The atomic force microscope (AFM) and the Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM) are two early versions of scanning probes that launched nanotechnology. There are other types of scanning probe microscopy. Although conceptually similar to the scanning confocal microscope developed by Marvin Minsky in 1961 and the scanning acoustic microscope (SAM) developed by Calvin Quate and coworkers in the 1970s, newer scanning probe microscopes have much higher resolution, since they are not limited by the wavelength of sound or light.

The tip of a scanning probe can also be used to manipulate nanostructures (a process called positional assembly). Feature-oriented scanning methodology may be a promising way to implement these nanomanipulations in automatic mode.[49][50] However, this is still a slow process because of low scanning velocity of the microscope.

Various techniques of nanolithography such as optical lithography, X-ray lithography, dip pen nanolithography, electron beam lithography or nanoimprint lithography were also developed. Lithography is a top-down fabrication technique where a bulk material is reduced in size to nanoscale pattern.

Another group of nanotechnological techniques include those used for fabrication of nanotubes and nanowires, those used in semiconductor fabrication such as deep ultraviolet lithography, electron beam lithography, focused ion beam machining, nanoimprint lithography, atomic layer deposition, and molecular vapor deposition, and further including molecular self-assembly techniques such as those employing di-block copolymers. The precursors of these techniques preceded the nanotech era, and are extensions in the development of scientific advancements rather than techniques which were devised with the sole purpose of creating nanotechnology and which were results of nanotechnology research.[51]

The top-down approach anticipates nanodevices that must be built piece by piece in stages, much as manufactured items are made. Scanning probe microscopy is an important technique both for characterization and synthesis of nanomaterials. Atomic force microscopes and scanning tunneling microscopes can be used to look at surfaces and to move atoms around. By designing different tips for these microscopes, they can be used for carving out structures on surfaces and to help guide self-assembling structures. By using, for example, feature-oriented scanning approach, atoms or molecules can be moved around on a surface with scanning probe microscopy techniques.[49][50] At present, it is expensive and time-consuming for mass production but very suitable for laboratory experimentation.

In contrast, bottom-up techniques build or grow larger structures atom by atom or molecule by molecule. These techniques include chemical synthesis, self-assembly and positional assembly. Dual polarisation interferometry is one tool suitable for characterisation of self assembled thin films. Another variation of the bottom-up approach is molecular beam epitaxy or MBE. Researchers at Bell Telephone Laboratories like John R. Arthur. Alfred Y. Cho, and Art C. Gossard developed and implemented MBE as a research tool in the late 1960s and 1970s. Samples made by MBE were key to the discovery of the fractional quantum Hall effect for which the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded. MBE allows scientists to lay down atomically precise layers of atoms and, in the process, build up complex structures. Important for research on semiconductors, MBE is also widely used to make samples and devices for the newly emerging field of spintronics.

However, new therapeutic products, based on responsive nanomaterials, such as the ultradeformable, stress-sensitive Transfersome vesicles, are under development and already approved for human use in some countries.[52]

As of August 21, 2008, the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies estimates that over 800 manufacturer-identified nanotech products are publicly available, with new ones hitting the market at a pace of 34 per week.[17] The project lists all of the products in a publicly accessible online database. Most applications are limited to the use of “first generation” passive nanomaterials which includes titanium dioxide in sunscreen, cosmetics, surface coatings,[53] and some food products; Carbon allotropes used to produce gecko tape; silver in food packaging, clothing, disinfectants and household appliances; zinc oxide in sunscreens and cosmetics, surface coatings, paints and outdoor furniture varnishes; and cerium oxide as a fuel catalyst.[16]

Further applications allow tennis balls to last longer, golf balls to fly straighter, and even bowling balls to become more durable and have a harder surface. Trousers and socks have been infused with nanotechnology so that they will last longer and keep people cool in the summer. Bandages are being infused with silver nanoparticles to heal cuts faster.[54] Video game consoles and personal computers may become cheaper, faster, and contain more memory thanks to nanotechnology.[55] Also, to build structures for on chip computing with light, for example on chip optical quantum information processing, and picosecond transmission of information.[56]

Nanotechnology may have the ability to make existing medical applications cheaper and easier to use in places like the general practitioner’s office and at home.[57] Cars are being manufactured with nanomaterials so they may need fewer metals and less fuel to operate in the future.[58]

Scientists are now turning to nanotechnology in an attempt to develop diesel engines with cleaner exhaust fumes. Platinum is currently used as the diesel engine catalyst in these engines. The catalyst is what cleans the exhaust fume particles. First a reduction catalyst is employed to take nitrogen atoms from NOx molecules in order to free oxygen. Next the oxidation catalyst oxidizes the hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide to form carbon dioxide and water.[59] Platinum is used in both the reduction and the oxidation catalysts.[60] Using platinum though, is inefficient in that it is expensive and unsustainable. Danish company InnovationsFonden invested DKK 15 million in a search for new catalyst substitutes using nanotechnology. The goal of the project, launched in the autumn of 2014, is to maximize surface area and minimize the amount of material required. Objects tend to minimize their surface energy; two drops of water, for example, will join to form one drop and decrease surface area. If the catalyst’s surface area that is exposed to the exhaust fumes is maximized, efficiency of the catalyst is maximized. The team working on this project aims to create nanoparticles that will not merge. Every time the surface is optimized, material is saved. Thus, creating these nanoparticles will increase the effectiveness of the resulting diesel engine catalystin turn leading to cleaner exhaust fumesand will decrease cost. If successful, the team hopes to reduce platinum use by 25%.[61]

Nanotechnology also has a prominent role in the fast developing field of Tissue Engineering. When designing scaffolds, researchers attempt to the mimic the nanoscale features of a Cell’s microenvironment to direct its differentiation down a suitable lineage.[62] For example, when creating scaffolds to support the growth of bone, researchers may mimic osteoclast resorption pits.[63]

Researchers have successfully used DNA origami-based nanobots capable of carrying out logic functions to achieve targeted drug delivery in cockroaches. It is said that the computational power of these nanobots can be scaled up to that of a Commodore 64.[64]

An area of concern is the effect that industrial-scale manufacturing and use of nanomaterials would have on human health and the environment, as suggested by nanotoxicology research. For these reasons, some groups advocate that nanotechnology be regulated by governments. Others counter that overregulation would stifle scientific research and the development of beneficial innovations. Public health research agencies, such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are actively conducting research on potential health effects stemming from exposures to nanoparticles.[65][66]

Some nanoparticle products may have unintended consequences. Researchers have discovered that bacteriostatic silver nanoparticles used in socks to reduce foot odor are being released in the wash.[67] These particles are then flushed into the waste water stream and may destroy bacteria which are critical components of natural ecosystems, farms, and waste treatment processes.[68]

Public deliberations on risk perception in the US and UK carried out by the Center for Nanotechnology in Society found that participants were more positive about nanotechnologies for energy applications than for health applications, with health applications raising moral and ethical dilemmas such as cost and availability.[69]

Experts, including director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies David Rejeski, have testified[70] that successful commercialization depends on adequate oversight, risk research strategy, and public engagement. Berkeley, California is currently the only city in the United States to regulate nanotechnology;[71] Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2008 considered enacting a similar law,[72] but ultimately rejected it.[73] Relevant for both research on and application of nanotechnologies, the insurability of nanotechnology is contested.[74] Without state regulation of nanotechnology, the availability of private insurance for potential damages is seen as necessary to ensure that burdens are not socialised implicitly.

Nanofibers are used in several areas and in different products, in everything from aircraft wings to tennis rackets. Inhaling airborne nanoparticles and nanofibers may lead to a number of pulmonary diseases, e.g. fibrosis.[75] Researchers have found that when rats breathed in nanoparticles, the particles settled in the brain and lungs, which led to significant increases in biomarkers for inflammation and stress response[76] and that nanoparticles induce skin aging through oxidative stress in hairless mice.[77][78]

A two-year study at UCLA’s School of Public Health found lab mice consuming nano-titanium dioxide showed DNA and chromosome damage to a degree “linked to all the big killers of man, namely cancer, heart disease, neurological disease and aging”.[79]

A major study published more recently in Nature Nanotechnology suggests some forms of carbon nanotubes a poster child for the “nanotechnology revolution” could be as harmful as asbestos if inhaled in sufficient quantities. Anthony Seaton of the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh, Scotland, who contributed to the article on carbon nanotubes said “We know that some of them probably have the potential to cause mesothelioma. So those sorts of materials need to be handled very carefully.”[80] In the absence of specific regulation forthcoming from governments, Paull and Lyons (2008) have called for an exclusion of engineered nanoparticles in food.[81] A newspaper article reports that workers in a paint factory developed serious lung disease and nanoparticles were found in their lungs.[82][83][84][85]

Calls for tighter regulation of nanotechnology have occurred alongside a growing debate related to the human health and safety risks of nanotechnology.[86] There is significant debate about who is responsible for the regulation of nanotechnology. Some regulatory agencies currently cover some nanotechnology products and processes (to varying degrees) by “bolting on” nanotechnology to existing regulations there are clear gaps in these regimes.[87] Davies (2008) has proposed a regulatory road map describing steps to deal with these shortcomings.[88]

Stakeholders concerned by the lack of a regulatory framework to assess and control risks associated with the release of nanoparticles and nanotubes have drawn parallels with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (“mad cow” disease), thalidomide, genetically modified food,[89] nuclear energy, reproductive technologies, biotechnology, and asbestosis. Dr. Andrew Maynard, chief science advisor to the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, concludes that there is insufficient funding for human health and safety research, and as a result there is currently limited understanding of the human health and safety risks associated with nanotechnology.[90] As a result, some academics have called for stricter application of the precautionary principle, with delayed marketing approval, enhanced labelling and additional safety data development requirements in relation to certain forms of nanotechnology.[91][92]

The Royal Society report[14] identified a risk of nanoparticles or nanotubes being released during disposal, destruction and recycling, and recommended that “manufacturers of products that fall under extended producer responsibility regimes such as end-of-life regulations publish procedures outlining how these materials will be managed to minimize possible human and environmental exposure” (p. xiii).

The Center for Nanotechnology in Society has found that people respond to nanotechnologies differently, depending on application with participants in public deliberations more positive about nanotechnologies for energy than health applications suggesting that any public calls for nano regulations may differ by technology sector.[69]

Read the rest here:

Nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Nanotechnology (“nanotech”) is manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale. The earliest, widespread description of nanotechnology[1][2] referred to the particular technological goal of precisely manipulating atoms and molecules for fabrication of macroscale products, also now referred to as molecular nanotechnology. A more generalized description of nanotechnology was subsequently established by the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which defines nanotechnology as the manipulation of matter with at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers. This definition reflects the fact that quantum mechanical effects are important at this quantum-realm scale, and so the definition shifted from a particular technological goal to a research category inclusive of all types of research and technologies that deal with the special properties of matter which occur below the given size threshold. It is therefore common to see the plural form “nanotechnologies” as well as “nanoscale technologies” to refer to the broad range of research and applications whose common trait is size. Because of the variety of potential applications (including industrial and military), governments have invested billions of dollars in nanotechnology research. Through 2012, the USA has invested $3.7 billion using its National Nanotechnology Initiative, the European Union has invested $1.2 billion, and Japan has invested $750 million.[3]

Nanotechnology as defined by size is naturally very broad, including fields of science as diverse as surface science, organic chemistry, molecular biology, semiconductor physics, energy storage,[4][5] microfabrication,[6] molecular engineering, etc.[7] The associated research and applications are equally diverse, ranging from extensions of conventional device physics to completely new approaches based upon molecular self-assembly,[8] from developing new materials with dimensions on the nanoscale to direct control of matter on the atomic scale.

Scientists currently debate the future implications of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology may be able to create many new materials and devices with a vast range of applications, such as in nanomedicine, nanoelectronics, biomaterials energy production, and consumer products. On the other hand, nanotechnology raises many of the same issues as any new technology, including concerns about the toxicity and environmental impact of nanomaterials,[9] and their potential effects on global economics, as well as speculation about various doomsday scenarios. These concerns have led to a debate among advocacy groups and governments on whether special regulation of nanotechnology is warranted.

The concepts that seeded nanotechnology were first discussed in 1959 by renowned physicist Richard Feynman in his talk There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom, in which he described the possibility of synthesis via direct manipulation of atoms. The term “nano-technology” was first used by Norio Taniguchi in 1974, though it was not widely known.

Inspired by Feynman’s concepts, K. Eric Drexler used the term “nanotechnology” in his 1986 book Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology, which proposed the idea of a nanoscale “assembler” which would be able to build a copy of itself and of other items of arbitrary complexity with atomic control. Also in 1986, Drexler co-founded The Foresight Institute (with which he is no longer affiliated) to help increase public awareness and understanding of nanotechnology concepts and implications.

Thus, emergence of nanotechnology as a field in the 1980s occurred through convergence of Drexler’s theoretical and public work, which developed and popularized a conceptual framework for nanotechnology, and high-visibility experimental advances that drew additional wide-scale attention to the prospects of atomic control of matter. In the 1980s, two major breakthroughs sparked the growth of nanotechnology in modern era.

First, the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope in 1981 which provided unprecedented visualization of individual atoms and bonds, and was successfully used to manipulate individual atoms in 1989. The microscope’s developers Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer at IBM Zurich Research Laboratory received a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986.[10][11] Binnig, Quate and Gerber also invented the analogous atomic force microscope that year.

Second, Fullerenes were discovered in 1985 by Harry Kroto, Richard Smalley, and Robert Curl, who together won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.[12][13] C60 was not initially described as nanotechnology; the term was used regarding subsequent work with related graphene tubes (called carbon nanotubes and sometimes called Bucky tubes) which suggested potential applications for nanoscale electronics and devices.

In the early 2000s, the field garnered increased scientific, political, and commercial attention that led to both controversy and progress. Controversies emerged regarding the definitions and potential implications of nanotechnologies, exemplified by the Royal Society’s report on nanotechnology.[14] Challenges were raised regarding the feasibility of applications envisioned by advocates of molecular nanotechnology, which culminated in a public debate between Drexler and Smalley in 2001 and 2003.[15]

Meanwhile, commercialization of products based on advancements in nanoscale technologies began emerging. These products are limited to bulk applications of nanomaterials and do not involve atomic control of matter. Some examples include the Silver Nano platform for using silver nanoparticles as an antibacterial agent, nanoparticle-based transparent sunscreens, carbon fiber strengthening using silica nanoparticles, and carbon nanotubes for stain-resistant textiles.[16][17]

Governments moved to promote and fund research into nanotechnology, such as in the U.S. with the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which formalized a size-based definition of nanotechnology and established funding for research on the nanoscale, and in Europe via the European Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development.

By the mid-2000s new and serious scientific attention began to flourish. Projects emerged to produce nanotechnology roadmaps[18][19] which center on atomically precise manipulation of matter and discuss existing and projected capabilities, goals, and applications.

Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale. This covers both current work and concepts that are more advanced. In its original sense, nanotechnology refers to the projected ability to construct items from the bottom up, using techniques and tools being developed today to make complete, high performance products.

One nanometer (nm) is one billionth, or 109, of a meter. By comparison, typical carbon-carbon bond lengths, or the spacing between these atoms in a molecule, are in the range 0.120.15 nm, and a DNA double-helix has a diameter around 2nm. On the other hand, the smallest cellular life-forms, the bacteria of the genus Mycoplasma, are around 200nm in length. By convention, nanotechnology is taken as the scale range 1 to 100 nm following the definition used by the National Nanotechnology Initiative in the US. The lower limit is set by the size of atoms (hydrogen has the smallest atoms, which are approximately a quarter of a nm diameter) since nanotechnology must build its devices from atoms and molecules. The upper limit is more or less arbitrary but is around the size below which phenomena not observed in larger structures start to become apparent and can be made use of in the nano device.[20] These new phenomena make nanotechnology distinct from devices which are merely miniaturised versions of an equivalent macroscopic device; such devices are on a larger scale and come under the description of microtechnology.[21]

To put that scale in another context, the comparative size of a nanometer to a meter is the same as that of a marble to the size of the earth.[22] Or another way of putting it: a nanometer is the amount an average man’s beard grows in the time it takes him to raise the razor to his face.[22]

Two main approaches are used in nanotechnology. In the “bottom-up” approach, materials and devices are built from molecular components which assemble themselves chemically by principles of molecular recognition.[23] In the “top-down” approach, nano-objects are constructed from larger entities without atomic-level control.[24]

Areas of physics such as nanoelectronics, nanomechanics, nanophotonics and nanoionics have evolved during the last few decades to provide a basic scientific foundation of nanotechnology.

Several phenomena become pronounced as the size of the system decreases. These include statistical mechanical effects, as well as quantum mechanical effects, for example the “quantum size effect” where the electronic properties of solids are altered with great reductions in particle size. This effect does not come into play by going from macro to micro dimensions. However, quantum effects can become significant when the nanometer size range is reached, typically at distances of 100 nanometers or less, the so-called quantum realm. Additionally, a number of physical (mechanical, electrical, optical, etc.) properties change when compared to macroscopic systems. One example is the increase in surface area to volume ratio altering mechanical, thermal and catalytic properties of materials. Diffusion and reactions at nanoscale, nanostructures materials and nanodevices with fast ion transport are generally referred to nanoionics. Mechanical properties of nanosystems are of interest in the nanomechanics research. The catalytic activity of nanomaterials also opens potential risks in their interaction with biomaterials.

Materials reduced to the nanoscale can show different properties compared to what they exhibit on a macroscale, enabling unique applications. For instance, opaque substances can become transparent (copper); stable materials can turn combustible (aluminium); insoluble materials may become soluble (gold). A material such as gold, which is chemically inert at normal scales, can serve as a potent chemical catalyst at nanoscales. Much of the fascination with nanotechnology stems from these quantum and surface phenomena that matter exhibits at the nanoscale.[25]

Modern synthetic chemistry has reached the point where it is possible to prepare small molecules to almost any structure. These methods are used today to manufacture a wide variety of useful chemicals such as pharmaceuticals or commercial polymers. This ability raises the question of extending this kind of control to the next-larger level, seeking methods to assemble these single molecules into supramolecular assemblies consisting of many molecules arranged in a well defined manner.

These approaches utilize the concepts of molecular self-assembly and/or supramolecular chemistry to automatically arrange themselves into some useful conformation through a bottom-up approach. The concept of molecular recognition is especially important: molecules can be designed so that a specific configuration or arrangement is favored due to non-covalent intermolecular forces. The WatsonCrick basepairing rules are a direct result of this, as is the specificity of an enzyme being targeted to a single substrate, or the specific folding of the protein itself. Thus, two or more components can be designed to be complementary and mutually attractive so that they make a more complex and useful whole.

Such bottom-up approaches should be capable of producing devices in parallel and be much cheaper than top-down methods, but could potentially be overwhelmed as the size and complexity of the desired assembly increases. Most useful structures require complex and thermodynamically unlikely arrangements of atoms. Nevertheless, there are many examples of self-assembly based on molecular recognition in biology, most notably WatsonCrick basepairing and enzyme-substrate interactions. The challenge for nanotechnology is whether these principles can be used to engineer new constructs in addition to natural ones.

Molecular nanotechnology, sometimes called molecular manufacturing, describes engineered nanosystems (nanoscale machines) operating on the molecular scale. Molecular nanotechnology is especially associated with the molecular assembler, a machine that can produce a desired structure or device atom-by-atom using the principles of mechanosynthesis. Manufacturing in the context of productive nanosystems is not related to, and should be clearly distinguished from, the conventional technologies used to manufacture nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes and nanoparticles.

When the term “nanotechnology” was independently coined and popularized by Eric Drexler (who at the time was unaware of an earlier usage by Norio Taniguchi) it referred to a future manufacturing technology based on molecular machine systems. The premise was that molecular scale biological analogies of traditional machine components demonstrated molecular machines were possible: by the countless examples found in biology, it is known that sophisticated, stochastically optimised biological machines can be produced.

It is hoped that developments in nanotechnology will make possible their construction by some other means, perhaps using biomimetic principles. However, Drexler and other researchers[26] have proposed that advanced nanotechnology, although perhaps initially implemented by biomimetic means, ultimately could be based on mechanical engineering principles, namely, a manufacturing technology based on the mechanical functionality of these components (such as gears, bearings, motors, and structural members) that would enable programmable, positional assembly to atomic specification.[27] The physics and engineering performance of exemplar designs were analyzed in Drexler’s book Nanosystems.

In general it is very difficult to assemble devices on the atomic scale, as one has to position atoms on other atoms of comparable size and stickiness. Another view, put forth by Carlo Montemagno,[28] is that future nanosystems will be hybrids of silicon technology and biological molecular machines. Richard Smalley argued that mechanosynthesis are impossible due to the difficulties in mechanically manipulating individual molecules.

This led to an exchange of letters in the ACS publication Chemical & Engineering News in 2003.[29] Though biology clearly demonstrates that molecular machine systems are possible, non-biological molecular machines are today only in their infancy. Leaders in research on non-biological molecular machines are Dr. Alex Zettl and his colleagues at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories and UC Berkeley.[1] They have constructed at least three distinct molecular devices whose motion is controlled from the desktop with changing voltage: a nanotube nanomotor, a molecular actuator,[30] and a nanoelectromechanical relaxation oscillator.[31] See nanotube nanomotor for more examples.

An experiment indicating that positional molecular assembly is possible was performed by Ho and Lee at Cornell University in 1999. They used a scanning tunneling microscope to move an individual carbon monoxide molecule (CO) to an individual iron atom (Fe) sitting on a flat silver crystal, and chemically bound the CO to the Fe by applying a voltage.

The nanomaterials field includes subfields which develop or study materials having unique properties arising from their nanoscale dimensions.[34]

These seek to arrange smaller components into more complex assemblies.

These seek to create smaller devices by using larger ones to direct their assembly.

These seek to develop components of a desired functionality without regard to how they might be assembled.

These subfields seek to anticipate what inventions nanotechnology might yield, or attempt to propose an agenda along which inquiry might progress. These often take a big-picture view of nanotechnology, with more emphasis on its societal implications than the details of how such inventions could actually be created.

Nanomaterials can be classified in 0D, 1D, 2D and 3D nanomaterials. The dimensionality play a major role in determining the characteristic of nanomaterials including physical, chemical and biological characteristics. With the decrease in dimensionality, an increase in surface-to-volume ratio is observed. This indicate that smaller dimensional nanomaterials have higher surface area compared to 3D nanomaterials. Recently, two dimensional (2D) nanomaterials are extensively investigated for electronic, biomedical, drug delivery and biosensor applications.

There are several important modern developments. The atomic force microscope (AFM) and the Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM) are two early versions of scanning probes that launched nanotechnology. There are other types of scanning probe microscopy. Although conceptually similar to the scanning confocal microscope developed by Marvin Minsky in 1961 and the scanning acoustic microscope (SAM) developed by Calvin Quate and coworkers in the 1970s, newer scanning probe microscopes have much higher resolution, since they are not limited by the wavelength of sound or light.

The tip of a scanning probe can also be used to manipulate nanostructures (a process called positional assembly). Feature-oriented scanning methodology may be a promising way to implement these nanomanipulations in automatic mode.[49][50] However, this is still a slow process because of low scanning velocity of the microscope.

Various techniques of nanolithography such as optical lithography, X-ray lithography, dip pen nanolithography, electron beam lithography or nanoimprint lithography were also developed. Lithography is a top-down fabrication technique where a bulk material is reduced in size to nanoscale pattern.

Another group of nanotechnological techniques include those used for fabrication of nanotubes and nanowires, those used in semiconductor fabrication such as deep ultraviolet lithography, electron beam lithography, focused ion beam machining, nanoimprint lithography, atomic layer deposition, and molecular vapor deposition, and further including molecular self-assembly techniques such as those employing di-block copolymers. The precursors of these techniques preceded the nanotech era, and are extensions in the development of scientific advancements rather than techniques which were devised with the sole purpose of creating nanotechnology and which were results of nanotechnology research.[51]

The top-down approach anticipates nanodevices that must be built piece by piece in stages, much as manufactured items are made. Scanning probe microscopy is an important technique both for characterization and synthesis of nanomaterials. Atomic force microscopes and scanning tunneling microscopes can be used to look at surfaces and to move atoms around. By designing different tips for these microscopes, they can be used for carving out structures on surfaces and to help guide self-assembling structures. By using, for example, feature-oriented scanning approach, atoms or molecules can be moved around on a surface with scanning probe microscopy techniques.[49][50] At present, it is expensive and time-consuming for mass production but very suitable for laboratory experimentation.

In contrast, bottom-up techniques build or grow larger structures atom by atom or molecule by molecule. These techniques include chemical synthesis, self-assembly and positional assembly. Dual polarisation interferometry is one tool suitable for characterisation of self assembled thin films. Another variation of the bottom-up approach is molecular beam epitaxy or MBE. Researchers at Bell Telephone Laboratories like John R. Arthur. Alfred Y. Cho, and Art C. Gossard developed and implemented MBE as a research tool in the late 1960s and 1970s. Samples made by MBE were key to the discovery of the fractional quantum Hall effect for which the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded. MBE allows scientists to lay down atomically precise layers of atoms and, in the process, build up complex structures. Important for research on semiconductors, MBE is also widely used to make samples and devices for the newly emerging field of spintronics.

However, new therapeutic products, based on responsive nanomaterials, such as the ultradeformable, stress-sensitive Transfersome vesicles, are under development and already approved for human use in some countries.[52]

As of August 21, 2008, the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies estimates that over 800 manufacturer-identified nanotech products are publicly available, with new ones hitting the market at a pace of 34 per week.[17] The project lists all of the products in a publicly accessible online database. Most applications are limited to the use of “first generation” passive nanomaterials which includes titanium dioxide in sunscreen, cosmetics, surface coatings,[53] and some food products; Carbon allotropes used to produce gecko tape; silver in food packaging, clothing, disinfectants and household appliances; zinc oxide in sunscreens and cosmetics, surface coatings, paints and outdoor furniture varnishes; and cerium oxide as a fuel catalyst.[16]

Further applications allow tennis balls to last longer, golf balls to fly straighter, and even bowling balls to become more durable and have a harder surface. Trousers and socks have been infused with nanotechnology so that they will last longer and keep people cool in the summer. Bandages are being infused with silver nanoparticles to heal cuts faster.[54] Video game consoles and personal computers may become cheaper, faster, and contain more memory thanks to nanotechnology.[55] Also, to build structures for on chip computing with light, for example on chip optical quantum information processing, and picosecond transmission of information.[56]

Nanotechnology may have the ability to make existing medical applications cheaper and easier to use in places like the general practitioner’s office and at home.[57] Cars are being manufactured with nanomaterials so they may need fewer metals and less fuel to operate in the future.[58]

Scientists are now turning to nanotechnology in an attempt to develop diesel engines with cleaner exhaust fumes. Platinum is currently used as the diesel engine catalyst in these engines. The catalyst is what cleans the exhaust fume particles. First a reduction catalyst is employed to take nitrogen atoms from NOx molecules in order to free oxygen. Next the oxidation catalyst oxidizes the hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide to form carbon dioxide and water.[59] Platinum is used in both the reduction and the oxidation catalysts.[60] Using platinum though, is inefficient in that it is expensive and unsustainable. Danish company InnovationsFonden invested DKK 15 million in a search for new catalyst substitutes using nanotechnology. The goal of the project, launched in the autumn of 2014, is to maximize surface area and minimize the amount of material required. Objects tend to minimize their surface energy; two drops of water, for example, will join to form one drop and decrease surface area. If the catalyst’s surface area that is exposed to the exhaust fumes is maximized, efficiency of the catalyst is maximized. The team working on this project aims to create nanoparticles that will not merge. Every time the surface is optimized, material is saved. Thus, creating these nanoparticles will increase the effectiveness of the resulting diesel engine catalystin turn leading to cleaner exhaust fumesand will decrease cost. If successful, the team hopes to reduce platinum use by 25%.[61]

Nanotechnology also has a prominent role in the fast developing field of Tissue Engineering. When designing scaffolds, researchers attempt to the mimic the nanoscale features of a Cell’s microenvironment to direct its differentiation down a suitable lineage.[62] For example, when creating scaffolds to support the growth of bone, researchers may mimic osteoclast resorption pits.[63]

Researchers have successfully used DNA origami-based nanobots capable of carrying out logic functions to achieve targeted drug delivery in cockroaches. It is said that the computational power of these nanobots can be scaled up to that of a Commodore 64.[64]

An area of concern is the effect that industrial-scale manufacturing and use of nanomaterials would have on human health and the environment, as suggested by nanotoxicology research. For these reasons, some groups advocate that nanotechnology be regulated by governments. Others counter that overregulation would stifle scientific research and the development of beneficial innovations. Public health research agencies, such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are actively conducting research on potential health effects stemming from exposures to nanoparticles.[65][66]

Some nanoparticle products may have unintended consequences. Researchers have discovered that bacteriostatic silver nanoparticles used in socks to reduce foot odor are being released in the wash.[67] These particles are then flushed into the waste water stream and may destroy bacteria which are critical components of natural ecosystems, farms, and waste treatment processes.[68]

Public deliberations on risk perception in the US and UK carried out by the Center for Nanotechnology in Society found that participants were more positive about nanotechnologies for energy applications than for health applications, with health applications raising moral and ethical dilemmas such as cost and availability.[69]

Experts, including director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies David Rejeski, have testified[70] that successful commercialization depends on adequate oversight, risk research strategy, and public engagement. Berkeley, California is currently the only city in the United States to regulate nanotechnology;[71] Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2008 considered enacting a similar law,[72] but ultimately rejected it.[73] Relevant for both research on and application of nanotechnologies, the insurability of nanotechnology is contested.[74] Without state regulation of nanotechnology, the availability of private insurance for potential damages is seen as necessary to ensure that burdens are not socialised implicitly.

Nanofibers are used in several areas and in different products, in everything from aircraft wings to tennis rackets. Inhaling airborne nanoparticles and nanofibers may lead to a number of pulmonary diseases, e.g. fibrosis.[75] Researchers have found that when rats breathed in nanoparticles, the particles settled in the brain and lungs, which led to significant increases in biomarkers for inflammation and stress response[76] and that nanoparticles induce skin aging through oxidative stress in hairless mice.[77][78]

A two-year study at UCLA’s School of Public Health found lab mice consuming nano-titanium dioxide showed DNA and chromosome damage to a degree “linked to all the big killers of man, namely cancer, heart disease, neurological disease and aging”.[79]

A major study published more recently in Nature Nanotechnology suggests some forms of carbon nanotubes a poster child for the “nanotechnology revolution” could be as harmful as asbestos if inhaled in sufficient quantities. Anthony Seaton of the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh, Scotland, who contributed to the article on carbon nanotubes said “We know that some of them probably have the potential to cause mesothelioma. So those sorts of materials need to be handled very carefully.”[80] In the absence of specific regulation forthcoming from governments, Paull and Lyons (2008) have called for an exclusion of engineered nanoparticles in food.[81] A newspaper article reports that workers in a paint factory developed serious lung disease and nanoparticles were found in their lungs.[82][83][84][85]

Calls for tighter regulation of nanotechnology have occurred alongside a growing debate related to the human health and safety risks of nanotechnology.[86] There is significant debate about who is responsible for the regulation of nanotechnology. Some regulatory agencies currently cover some nanotechnology products and processes (to varying degrees) by “bolting on” nanotechnology to existing regulations there are clear gaps in these regimes.[87] Davies (2008) has proposed a regulatory road map describing steps to deal with these shortcomings.[88]

Stakeholders concerned by the lack of a regulatory framework to assess and control risks associated with the release of nanoparticles and nanotubes have drawn parallels with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (“mad cow” disease), thalidomide, genetically modified food,[89] nuclear energy, reproductive technologies, biotechnology, and asbestosis. Dr. Andrew Maynard, chief science advisor to the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, concludes that there is insufficient funding for human health and safety research, and as a result there is currently limited understanding of the human health and safety risks associated with nanotechnology.[90] As a result, some academics have called for stricter application of the precautionary principle, with delayed marketing approval, enhanced labelling and additional safety data development requirements in relation to certain forms of nanotechnology.[91][92]

The Royal Society report[14] identified a risk of nanoparticles or nanotubes being released during disposal, destruction and recycling, and recommended that “manufacturers of products that fall under extended producer responsibility regimes such as end-of-life regulations publish procedures outlining how these materials will be managed to minimize possible human and environmental exposure” (p. xiii).

The Center for Nanotechnology in Society has found that people respond to nanotechnologies differently, depending on application with participants in public deliberations more positive about nanotechnologies for energy than health applications suggesting that any public calls for nano regulations may differ by technology sector.[69]

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Nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Nanotechnology (“nanotech”) is manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale. The earliest, widespread description of nanotechnology[1][2] referred to the particular technological goal of precisely manipulating atoms and molecules for fabrication of macroscale products, also now referred to as molecular nanotechnology. A more generalized description of nanotechnology was subsequently established by the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which defines nanotechnology as the manipulation of matter with at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers. This definition reflects the fact that quantum mechanical effects are important at this quantum-realm scale, and so the definition shifted from a particular technological goal to a research category inclusive of all types of research and technologies that deal with the special properties of matter which occur below the given size threshold. It is therefore common to see the plural form “nanotechnologies” as well as “nanoscale technologies” to refer to the broad range of research and applications whose common trait is size. Because of the variety of potential applications (including industrial and military), governments have invested billions of dollars in nanotechnology research. Through 2012, the USA has invested $3.7 billion using its National Nanotechnology Initiative, the European Union has invested $1.2 billion, and Japan has invested $750 million.[3]

Nanotechnology as defined by size is naturally very broad, including fields of science as diverse as surface science, organic chemistry, molecular biology, semiconductor physics, energy storage,[4][5] microfabrication,[6] molecular engineering, etc.[7] The associated research and applications are equally diverse, ranging from extensions of conventional device physics to completely new approaches based upon molecular self-assembly,[8] from developing new materials with dimensions on the nanoscale to direct control of matter on the atomic scale.

Scientists currently debate the future implications of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology may be able to create many new materials and devices with a vast range of applications, such as in nanomedicine, nanoelectronics, biomaterials energy production, and consumer products. On the other hand, nanotechnology raises many of the same issues as any new technology, including concerns about the toxicity and environmental impact of nanomaterials,[9] and their potential effects on global economics, as well as speculation about various doomsday scenarios. These concerns have led to a debate among advocacy groups and governments on whether special regulation of nanotechnology is warranted.

The concepts that seeded nanotechnology were first discussed in 1959 by renowned physicist Richard Feynman in his talk There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom, in which he described the possibility of synthesis via direct manipulation of atoms. The term “nano-technology” was first used by Norio Taniguchi in 1974, though it was not widely known.

Inspired by Feynman’s concepts, K. Eric Drexler used the term “nanotechnology” in his 1986 book Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology, which proposed the idea of a nanoscale “assembler” which would be able to build a copy of itself and of other items of arbitrary complexity with atomic control. Also in 1986, Drexler co-founded The Foresight Institute (with which he is no longer affiliated) to help increase public awareness and understanding of nanotechnology concepts and implications.

Thus, emergence of nanotechnology as a field in the 1980s occurred through convergence of Drexler’s theoretical and public work, which developed and popularized a conceptual framework for nanotechnology, and high-visibility experimental advances that drew additional wide-scale attention to the prospects of atomic control of matter. In the 1980s, two major breakthroughs sparked the growth of nanotechnology in modern era.

First, the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope in 1981 which provided unprecedented visualization of individual atoms and bonds, and was successfully used to manipulate individual atoms in 1989. The microscope’s developers Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer at IBM Zurich Research Laboratory received a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986.[10][11] Binnig, Quate and Gerber also invented the analogous atomic force microscope that year.

Second, Fullerenes were discovered in 1985 by Harry Kroto, Richard Smalley, and Robert Curl, who together won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.[12][13] C60 was not initially described as nanotechnology; the term was used regarding subsequent work with related graphene tubes (called carbon nanotubes and sometimes called Bucky tubes) which suggested potential applications for nanoscale electronics and devices.

In the early 2000s, the field garnered increased scientific, political, and commercial attention that led to both controversy and progress. Controversies emerged regarding the definitions and potential implications of nanotechnologies, exemplified by the Royal Society’s report on nanotechnology.[14] Challenges were raised regarding the feasibility of applications envisioned by advocates of molecular nanotechnology, which culminated in a public debate between Drexler and Smalley in 2001 and 2003.[15]

Meanwhile, commercialization of products based on advancements in nanoscale technologies began emerging. These products are limited to bulk applications of nanomaterials and do not involve atomic control of matter. Some examples include the Silver Nano platform for using silver nanoparticles as an antibacterial agent, nanoparticle-based transparent sunscreens, carbon fiber strengthening using silica nanoparticles, and carbon nanotubes for stain-resistant textiles.[16][17]

Governments moved to promote and fund research into nanotechnology, such as in the U.S. with the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which formalized a size-based definition of nanotechnology and established funding for research on the nanoscale, and in Europe via the European Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development.

By the mid-2000s new and serious scientific attention began to flourish. Projects emerged to produce nanotechnology roadmaps[18][19] which center on atomically precise manipulation of matter and discuss existing and projected capabilities, goals, and applications.

Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale. This covers both current work and concepts that are more advanced. In its original sense, nanotechnology refers to the projected ability to construct items from the bottom up, using techniques and tools being developed today to make complete, high performance products.

One nanometer (nm) is one billionth, or 109, of a meter. By comparison, typical carbon-carbon bond lengths, or the spacing between these atoms in a molecule, are in the range 0.120.15 nm, and a DNA double-helix has a diameter around 2nm. On the other hand, the smallest cellular life-forms, the bacteria of the genus Mycoplasma, are around 200nm in length. By convention, nanotechnology is taken as the scale range 1 to 100 nm following the definition used by the National Nanotechnology Initiative in the US. The lower limit is set by the size of atoms (hydrogen has the smallest atoms, which are approximately a quarter of a nm diameter) since nanotechnology must build its devices from atoms and molecules. The upper limit is more or less arbitrary but is around the size below which phenomena not observed in larger structures start to become apparent and can be made use of in the nano device.[20] These new phenomena make nanotechnology distinct from devices which are merely miniaturised versions of an equivalent macroscopic device; such devices are on a larger scale and come under the description of microtechnology.[21]

To put that scale in another context, the comparative size of a nanometer to a meter is the same as that of a marble to the size of the earth.[22] Or another way of putting it: a nanometer is the amount an average man’s beard grows in the time it takes him to raise the razor to his face.[22]

Two main approaches are used in nanotechnology. In the “bottom-up” approach, materials and devices are built from molecular components which assemble themselves chemically by principles of molecular recognition.[23] In the “top-down” approach, nano-objects are constructed from larger entities without atomic-level control.[24]

Areas of physics such as nanoelectronics, nanomechanics, nanophotonics and nanoionics have evolved during the last few decades to provide a basic scientific foundation of nanotechnology.

Several phenomena become pronounced as the size of the system decreases. These include statistical mechanical effects, as well as quantum mechanical effects, for example the “quantum size effect” where the electronic properties of solids are altered with great reductions in particle size. This effect does not come into play by going from macro to micro dimensions. However, quantum effects can become significant when the nanometer size range is reached, typically at distances of 100 nanometers or less, the so-called quantum realm. Additionally, a number of physical (mechanical, electrical, optical, etc.) properties change when compared to macroscopic systems. One example is the increase in surface area to volume ratio altering mechanical, thermal and catalytic properties of materials. Diffusion and reactions at nanoscale, nanostructures materials and nanodevices with fast ion transport are generally referred to nanoionics. Mechanical properties of nanosystems are of interest in the nanomechanics research. The catalytic activity of nanomaterials also opens potential risks in their interaction with biomaterials.

Materials reduced to the nanoscale can show different properties compared to what they exhibit on a macroscale, enabling unique applications. For instance, opaque substances can become transparent (copper); stable materials can turn combustible (aluminium); insoluble materials may become soluble (gold). A material such as gold, which is chemically inert at normal scales, can serve as a potent chemical catalyst at nanoscales. Much of the fascination with nanotechnology stems from these quantum and surface phenomena that matter exhibits at the nanoscale.[25]

Modern synthetic chemistry has reached the point where it is possible to prepare small molecules to almost any structure. These methods are used today to manufacture a wide variety of useful chemicals such as pharmaceuticals or commercial polymers. This ability raises the question of extending this kind of control to the next-larger level, seeking methods to assemble these single molecules into supramolecular assemblies consisting of many molecules arranged in a well defined manner.

These approaches utilize the concepts of molecular self-assembly and/or supramolecular chemistry to automatically arrange themselves into some useful conformation through a bottom-up approach. The concept of molecular recognition is especially important: molecules can be designed so that a specific configuration or arrangement is favored due to non-covalent intermolecular forces. The WatsonCrick basepairing rules are a direct result of this, as is the specificity of an enzyme being targeted to a single substrate, or the specific folding of the protein itself. Thus, two or more components can be designed to be complementary and mutually attractive so that they make a more complex and useful whole.

Such bottom-up approaches should be capable of producing devices in parallel and be much cheaper than top-down methods, but could potentially be overwhelmed as the size and complexity of the desired assembly increases. Most useful structures require complex and thermodynamically unlikely arrangements of atoms. Nevertheless, there are many examples of self-assembly based on molecular recognition in biology, most notably WatsonCrick basepairing and enzyme-substrate interactions. The challenge for nanotechnology is whether these principles can be used to engineer new constructs in addition to natural ones.

Molecular nanotechnology, sometimes called molecular manufacturing, describes engineered nanosystems (nanoscale machines) operating on the molecular scale. Molecular nanotechnology is especially associated with the molecular assembler, a machine that can produce a desired structure or device atom-by-atom using the principles of mechanosynthesis. Manufacturing in the context of productive nanosystems is not related to, and should be clearly distinguished from, the conventional technologies used to manufacture nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes and nanoparticles.

When the term “nanotechnology” was independently coined and popularized by Eric Drexler (who at the time was unaware of an earlier usage by Norio Taniguchi) it referred to a future manufacturing technology based on molecular machine systems. The premise was that molecular scale biological analogies of traditional machine components demonstrated molecular machines were possible: by the countless examples found in biology, it is known that sophisticated, stochastically optimised biological machines can be produced.

It is hoped that developments in nanotechnology will make possible their construction by some other means, perhaps using biomimetic principles. However, Drexler and other researchers[26] have proposed that advanced nanotechnology, although perhaps initially implemented by biomimetic means, ultimately could be based on mechanical engineering principles, namely, a manufacturing technology based on the mechanical functionality of these components (such as gears, bearings, motors, and structural members) that would enable programmable, positional assembly to atomic specification.[27] The physics and engineering performance of exemplar designs were analyzed in Drexler’s book Nanosystems.

In general it is very difficult to assemble devices on the atomic scale, as one has to position atoms on other atoms of comparable size and stickiness. Another view, put forth by Carlo Montemagno,[28] is that future nanosystems will be hybrids of silicon technology and biological molecular machines. Richard Smalley argued that mechanosynthesis are impossible due to the difficulties in mechanically manipulating individual molecules.

This led to an exchange of letters in the ACS publication Chemical & Engineering News in 2003.[29] Though biology clearly demonstrates that molecular machine systems are possible, non-biological molecular machines are today only in their infancy. Leaders in research on non-biological molecular machines are Dr. Alex Zettl and his colleagues at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories and UC Berkeley.[1] They have constructed at least three distinct molecular devices whose motion is controlled from the desktop with changing voltage: a nanotube nanomotor, a molecular actuator,[30] and a nanoelectromechanical relaxation oscillator.[31] See nanotube nanomotor for more examples.

An experiment indicating that positional molecular assembly is possible was performed by Ho and Lee at Cornell University in 1999. They used a scanning tunneling microscope to move an individual carbon monoxide molecule (CO) to an individual iron atom (Fe) sitting on a flat silver crystal, and chemically bound the CO to the Fe by applying a voltage.

The nanomaterials field includes subfields which develop or study materials having unique properties arising from their nanoscale dimensions.[34]

These seek to arrange smaller components into more complex assemblies.

These seek to create smaller devices by using larger ones to direct their assembly.

These seek to develop components of a desired functionality without regard to how they might be assembled.

These subfields seek to anticipate what inventions nanotechnology might yield, or attempt to propose an agenda along which inquiry might progress. These often take a big-picture view of nanotechnology, with more emphasis on its societal implications than the details of how such inventions could actually be created.

Nanomaterials can be classified in 0D, 1D, 2D and 3D nanomaterials. The dimensionality play a major role in determining the characteristic of nanomaterials including physical, chemical and biological characteristics. With the decrease in dimensionality, an increase in surface-to-volume ratio is observed. This indicate that smaller dimensional nanomaterials have higher surface area compared to 3D nanomaterials. Recently, two dimensional (2D) nanomaterials are extensively investigated for electronic, biomedical, drug delivery and biosensor applications.

There are several important modern developments. The atomic force microscope (AFM) and the Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM) are two early versions of scanning probes that launched nanotechnology. There are other types of scanning probe microscopy. Although conceptually similar to the scanning confocal microscope developed by Marvin Minsky in 1961 and the scanning acoustic microscope (SAM) developed by Calvin Quate and coworkers in the 1970s, newer scanning probe microscopes have much higher resolution, since they are not limited by the wavelength of sound or light.

The tip of a scanning probe can also be used to manipulate nanostructures (a process called positional assembly). Feature-oriented scanning methodology may be a promising way to implement these nanomanipulations in automatic mode.[49][50] However, this is still a slow process because of low scanning velocity of the microscope.

Various techniques of nanolithography such as optical lithography, X-ray lithography, dip pen nanolithography, electron beam lithography or nanoimprint lithography were also developed. Lithography is a top-down fabrication technique where a bulk material is reduced in size to nanoscale pattern.

Another group of nanotechnological techniques include those used for fabrication of nanotubes and nanowires, those used in semiconductor fabrication such as deep ultraviolet lithography, electron beam lithography, focused ion beam machining, nanoimprint lithography, atomic layer deposition, and molecular vapor deposition, and further including molecular self-assembly techniques such as those employing di-block copolymers. The precursors of these techniques preceded the nanotech era, and are extensions in the development of scientific advancements rather than techniques which were devised with the sole purpose of creating nanotechnology and which were results of nanotechnology research.[51]

The top-down approach anticipates nanodevices that must be built piece by piece in stages, much as manufactured items are made. Scanning probe microscopy is an important technique both for characterization and synthesis of nanomaterials. Atomic force microscopes and scanning tunneling microscopes can be used to look at surfaces and to move atoms around. By designing different tips for these microscopes, they can be used for carving out structures on surfaces and to help guide self-assembling structures. By using, for example, feature-oriented scanning approach, atoms or molecules can be moved around on a surface with scanning probe microscopy techniques.[49][50] At present, it is expensive and time-consuming for mass production but very suitable for laboratory experimentation.

In contrast, bottom-up techniques build or grow larger structures atom by atom or molecule by molecule. These techniques include chemical synthesis, self-assembly and positional assembly. Dual polarisation interferometry is one tool suitable for characterisation of self assembled thin films. Another variation of the bottom-up approach is molecular beam epitaxy or MBE. Researchers at Bell Telephone Laboratories like John R. Arthur. Alfred Y. Cho, and Art C. Gossard developed and implemented MBE as a research tool in the late 1960s and 1970s. Samples made by MBE were key to the discovery of the fractional quantum Hall effect for which the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded. MBE allows scientists to lay down atomically precise layers of atoms and, in the process, build up complex structures. Important for research on semiconductors, MBE is also widely used to make samples and devices for the newly emerging field of spintronics.

However, new therapeutic products, based on responsive nanomaterials, such as the ultradeformable, stress-sensitive Transfersome vesicles, are under development and already approved for human use in some countries.[52]

As of August 21, 2008, the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies estimates that over 800 manufacturer-identified nanotech products are publicly available, with new ones hitting the market at a pace of 34 per week.[17] The project lists all of the products in a publicly accessible online database. Most applications are limited to the use of “first generation” passive nanomaterials which includes titanium dioxide in sunscreen, cosmetics, surface coatings,[53] and some food products; Carbon allotropes used to produce gecko tape; silver in food packaging, clothing, disinfectants and household appliances; zinc oxide in sunscreens and cosmetics, surface coatings, paints and outdoor furniture varnishes; and cerium oxide as a fuel catalyst.[16]

Further applications allow tennis balls to last longer, golf balls to fly straighter, and even bowling balls to become more durable and have a harder surface. Trousers and socks have been infused with nanotechnology so that they will last longer and keep people cool in the summer. Bandages are being infused with silver nanoparticles to heal cuts faster.[54] Video game consoles and personal computers may become cheaper, faster, and contain more memory thanks to nanotechnology.[55] Also, to build structures for on chip computing with light, for example on chip optical quantum information processing, and picosecond transmission of information.[56]

Nanotechnology may have the ability to make existing medical applications cheaper and easier to use in places like the general practitioner’s office and at home.[57] Cars are being manufactured with nanomaterials so they may need fewer metals and less fuel to operate in the future.[58]

Scientists are now turning to nanotechnology in an attempt to develop diesel engines with cleaner exhaust fumes. Platinum is currently used as the diesel engine catalyst in these engines. The catalyst is what cleans the exhaust fume particles. First a reduction catalyst is employed to take nitrogen atoms from NOx molecules in order to free oxygen. Next the oxidation catalyst oxidizes the hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide to form carbon dioxide and water.[59] Platinum is used in both the reduction and the oxidation catalysts.[60] Using platinum though, is inefficient in that it is expensive and unsustainable. Danish company InnovationsFonden invested DKK 15 million in a search for new catalyst substitutes using nanotechnology. The goal of the project, launched in the autumn of 2014, is to maximize surface area and minimize the amount of material required. Objects tend to minimize their surface energy; two drops of water, for example, will join to form one drop and decrease surface area. If the catalyst’s surface area that is exposed to the exhaust fumes is maximized, efficiency of the catalyst is maximized. The team working on this project aims to create nanoparticles that will not merge. Every time the surface is optimized, material is saved. Thus, creating these nanoparticles will increase the effectiveness of the resulting diesel engine catalystin turn leading to cleaner exhaust fumesand will decrease cost. If successful, the team hopes to reduce platinum use by 25%.[61]

Nanotechnology also has a prominent role in the fast developing field of Tissue Engineering. When designing scaffolds, researchers attempt to the mimic the nanoscale features of a Cell’s microenvironment to direct its differentiation down a suitable lineage.[62] For example, when creating scaffolds to support the growth of bone, researchers may mimic osteoclast resorption pits.[63]

Researchers have successfully used DNA origami-based nanobots capable of carrying out logic functions to achieve targeted drug delivery in cockroaches. It is said that the computational power of these nanobots can be scaled up to that of a Commodore 64.[64]

An area of concern is the effect that industrial-scale manufacturing and use of nanomaterials would have on human health and the environment, as suggested by nanotoxicology research. For these reasons, some groups advocate that nanotechnology be regulated by governments. Others counter that overregulation would stifle scientific research and the development of beneficial innovations. Public health research agencies, such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are actively conducting research on potential health effects stemming from exposures to nanoparticles.[65][66]

Some nanoparticle products may have unintended consequences. Researchers have discovered that bacteriostatic silver nanoparticles used in socks to reduce foot odor are being released in the wash.[67] These particles are then flushed into the waste water stream and may destroy bacteria which are critical components of natural ecosystems, farms, and waste treatment processes.[68]

Public deliberations on risk perception in the US and UK carried out by the Center for Nanotechnology in Society found that participants were more positive about nanotechnologies for energy applications than for health applications, with health applications raising moral and ethical dilemmas such as cost and availability.[69]

Experts, including director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies David Rejeski, have testified[70] that successful commercialization depends on adequate oversight, risk research strategy, and public engagement. Berkeley, California is currently the only city in the United States to regulate nanotechnology;[71] Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2008 considered enacting a similar law,[72] but ultimately rejected it.[73] Relevant for both research on and application of nanotechnologies, the insurability of nanotechnology is contested.[74] Without state regulation of nanotechnology, the availability of private insurance for potential damages is seen as necessary to ensure that burdens are not socialised implicitly.

Nanofibers are used in several areas and in different products, in everything from aircraft wings to tennis rackets. Inhaling airborne nanoparticles and nanofibers may lead to a number of pulmonary diseases, e.g. fibrosis.[75] Researchers have found that when rats breathed in nanoparticles, the particles settled in the brain and lungs, which led to significant increases in biomarkers for inflammation and stress response[76] and that nanoparticles induce skin aging through oxidative stress in hairless mice.[77][78]

A two-year study at UCLA’s School of Public Health found lab mice consuming nano-titanium dioxide showed DNA and chromosome damage to a degree “linked to all the big killers of man, namely cancer, heart disease, neurological disease and aging”.[79]

A major study published more recently in Nature Nanotechnology suggests some forms of carbon nanotubes a poster child for the “nanotechnology revolution” could be as harmful as asbestos if inhaled in sufficient quantities. Anthony Seaton of the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh, Scotland, who contributed to the article on carbon nanotubes said “We know that some of them probably have the potential to cause mesothelioma. So those sorts of materials need to be handled very carefully.”[80] In the absence of specific regulation forthcoming from governments, Paull and Lyons (2008) have called for an exclusion of engineered nanoparticles in food.[81] A newspaper article reports that workers in a paint factory developed serious lung disease and nanoparticles were found in their lungs.[82][83][84][85]

Calls for tighter regulation of nanotechnology have occurred alongside a growing debate related to the human health and safety risks of nanotechnology.[86] There is significant debate about who is responsible for the regulation of nanotechnology. Some regulatory agencies currently cover some nanotechnology products and processes (to varying degrees) by “bolting on” nanotechnology to existing regulations there are clear gaps in these regimes.[87] Davies (2008) has proposed a regulatory road map describing steps to deal with these shortcomings.[88]

Stakeholders concerned by the lack of a regulatory framework to assess and control risks associated with the release of nanoparticles and nanotubes have drawn parallels with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (“mad cow” disease), thalidomide, genetically modified food,[89] nuclear energy, reproductive technologies, biotechnology, and asbestosis. Dr. Andrew Maynard, chief science advisor to the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, concludes that there is insufficient funding for human health and safety research, and as a result there is currently limited understanding of the human health and safety risks associated with nanotechnology.[90] As a result, some academics have called for stricter application of the precautionary principle, with delayed marketing approval, enhanced labelling and additional safety data development requirements in relation to certain forms of nanotechnology.[91][92]

The Royal Society report[14] identified a risk of nanoparticles or nanotubes being released during disposal, destruction and recycling, and recommended that “manufacturers of products that fall under extended producer responsibility regimes such as end-of-life regulations publish procedures outlining how these materials will be managed to minimize possible human and environmental exposure” (p. xiii).

The Center for Nanotechnology in Society has found that people respond to nanotechnologies differently, depending on application with participants in public deliberations more positive about nanotechnologies for energy than health applications suggesting that any public calls for nano regulations may differ by technology sector.[69]

See the rest here:

Nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Nanotechnology (“nanotech”) is manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale. The earliest, widespread description of nanotechnology[1][2] referred to the particular technological goal of precisely manipulating atoms and molecules for fabrication of macroscale products, also now referred to as molecular nanotechnology. A more generalized description of nanotechnology was subsequently established by the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which defines nanotechnology as the manipulation of matter with at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers. This definition reflects the fact that quantum mechanical effects are important at this quantum-realm scale, and so the definition shifted from a particular technological goal to a research category inclusive of all types of research and technologies that deal with the special properties of matter which occur below the given size threshold. It is therefore common to see the plural form “nanotechnologies” as well as “nanoscale technologies” to refer to the broad range of research and applications whose common trait is size. Because of the variety of potential applications (including industrial and military), governments have invested billions of dollars in nanotechnology research. Through 2012, the USA has invested $3.7 billion using its National Nanotechnology Initiative, the European Union has invested $1.2 billion, and Japan has invested $750 million.[3]

Nanotechnology as defined by size is naturally very broad, including fields of science as diverse as surface science, organic chemistry, molecular biology, semiconductor physics, energy storage,[4][5] microfabrication,[6] molecular engineering, etc.[7] The associated research and applications are equally diverse, ranging from extensions of conventional device physics to completely new approaches based upon molecular self-assembly,[8] from developing new materials with dimensions on the nanoscale to direct control of matter on the atomic scale.

Scientists currently debate the future implications of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology may be able to create many new materials and devices with a vast range of applications, such as in nanomedicine, nanoelectronics, biomaterials energy production, and consumer products. On the other hand, nanotechnology raises many of the same issues as any new technology, including concerns about the toxicity and environmental impact of nanomaterials,[9] and their potential effects on global economics, as well as speculation about various doomsday scenarios. These concerns have led to a debate among advocacy groups and governments on whether special regulation of nanotechnology is warranted.

The concepts that seeded nanotechnology were first discussed in 1959 by renowned physicist Richard Feynman in his talk There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom, in which he described the possibility of synthesis via direct manipulation of atoms. The term “nano-technology” was first used by Norio Taniguchi in 1974, though it was not widely known.

Inspired by Feynman’s concepts, K. Eric Drexler used the term “nanotechnology” in his 1986 book Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology, which proposed the idea of a nanoscale “assembler” which would be able to build a copy of itself and of other items of arbitrary complexity with atomic control. Also in 1986, Drexler co-founded The Foresight Institute (with which he is no longer affiliated) to help increase public awareness and understanding of nanotechnology concepts and implications.

Thus, emergence of nanotechnology as a field in the 1980s occurred through convergence of Drexler’s theoretical and public work, which developed and popularized a conceptual framework for nanotechnology, and high-visibility experimental advances that drew additional wide-scale attention to the prospects of atomic control of matter. In the 1980s, two major breakthroughs sparked the growth of nanotechnology in modern era.

First, the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope in 1981 which provided unprecedented visualization of individual atoms and bonds, and was successfully used to manipulate individual atoms in 1989. The microscope’s developers Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer at IBM Zurich Research Laboratory received a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986.[10][11] Binnig, Quate and Gerber also invented the analogous atomic force microscope that year.

Second, Fullerenes were discovered in 1985 by Harry Kroto, Richard Smalley, and Robert Curl, who together won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.[12][13] C60 was not initially described as nanotechnology; the term was used regarding subsequent work with related graphene tubes (called carbon nanotubes and sometimes called Bucky tubes) which suggested potential applications for nanoscale electronics and devices.

In the early 2000s, the field garnered increased scientific, political, and commercial attention that led to both controversy and progress. Controversies emerged regarding the definitions and potential implications of nanotechnologies, exemplified by the Royal Society’s report on nanotechnology.[14] Challenges were raised regarding the feasibility of applications envisioned by advocates of molecular nanotechnology, which culminated in a public debate between Drexler and Smalley in 2001 and 2003.[15]

Meanwhile, commercialization of products based on advancements in nanoscale technologies began emerging. These products are limited to bulk applications of nanomaterials and do not involve atomic control of matter. Some examples include the Silver Nano platform for using silver nanoparticles as an antibacterial agent, nanoparticle-based transparent sunscreens, carbon fiber strengthening using silica nanoparticles, and carbon nanotubes for stain-resistant textiles.[16][17]

Governments moved to promote and fund research into nanotechnology, such as in the U.S. with the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which formalized a size-based definition of nanotechnology and established funding for research on the nanoscale, and in Europe via the European Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development.

By the mid-2000s new and serious scientific attention began to flourish. Projects emerged to produce nanotechnology roadmaps[18][19] which center on atomically precise manipulation of matter and discuss existing and projected capabilities, goals, and applications.

Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale. This covers both current work and concepts that are more advanced. In its original sense, nanotechnology refers to the projected ability to construct items from the bottom up, using techniques and tools being developed today to make complete, high performance products.

One nanometer (nm) is one billionth, or 109, of a meter. By comparison, typical carbon-carbon bond lengths, or the spacing between these atoms in a molecule, are in the range 0.120.15 nm, and a DNA double-helix has a diameter around 2nm. On the other hand, the smallest cellular life-forms, the bacteria of the genus Mycoplasma, are around 200nm in length. By convention, nanotechnology is taken as the scale range 1 to 100 nm following the definition used by the National Nanotechnology Initiative in the US. The lower limit is set by the size of atoms (hydrogen has the smallest atoms, which are approximately a quarter of a nm diameter) since nanotechnology must build its devices from atoms and molecules. The upper limit is more or less arbitrary but is around the size below which phenomena not observed in larger structures start to become apparent and can be made use of in the nano device.[20] These new phenomena make nanotechnology distinct from devices which are merely miniaturised versions of an equivalent macroscopic device; such devices are on a larger scale and come under the description of microtechnology.[21]

To put that scale in another context, the comparative size of a nanometer to a meter is the same as that of a marble to the size of the earth.[22] Or another way of putting it: a nanometer is the amount an average man’s beard grows in the time it takes him to raise the razor to his face.[22]

Two main approaches are used in nanotechnology. In the “bottom-up” approach, materials and devices are built from molecular components which assemble themselves chemically by principles of molecular recognition.[23] In the “top-down” approach, nano-objects are constructed from larger entities without atomic-level control.[24]

Areas of physics such as nanoelectronics, nanomechanics, nanophotonics and nanoionics have evolved during the last few decades to provide a basic scientific foundation of nanotechnology.

Several phenomena become pronounced as the size of the system decreases. These include statistical mechanical effects, as well as quantum mechanical effects, for example the “quantum size effect” where the electronic properties of solids are altered with great reductions in particle size. This effect does not come into play by going from macro to micro dimensions. However, quantum effects can become significant when the nanometer size range is reached, typically at distances of 100 nanometers or less, the so-called quantum realm. Additionally, a number of physical (mechanical, electrical, optical, etc.) properties change when compared to macroscopic systems. One example is the increase in surface area to volume ratio altering mechanical, thermal and catalytic properties of materials. Diffusion and reactions at nanoscale, nanostructures materials and nanodevices with fast ion transport are generally referred to nanoionics. Mechanical properties of nanosystems are of interest in the nanomechanics research. The catalytic activity of nanomaterials also opens potential risks in their interaction with biomaterials.

Materials reduced to the nanoscale can show different properties compared to what they exhibit on a macroscale, enabling unique applications. For instance, opaque substances can become transparent (copper); stable materials can turn combustible (aluminium); insoluble materials may become soluble (gold). A material such as gold, which is chemically inert at normal scales, can serve as a potent chemical catalyst at nanoscales. Much of the fascination with nanotechnology stems from these quantum and surface phenomena that matter exhibits at the nanoscale.[25]

Modern synthetic chemistry has reached the point where it is possible to prepare small molecules to almost any structure. These methods are used today to manufacture a wide variety of useful chemicals such as pharmaceuticals or commercial polymers. This ability raises the question of extending this kind of control to the next-larger level, seeking methods to assemble these single molecules into supramolecular assemblies consisting of many molecules arranged in a well defined manner.

These approaches utilize the concepts of molecular self-assembly and/or supramolecular chemistry to automatically arrange themselves into some useful conformation through a bottom-up approach. The concept of molecular recognition is especially important: molecules can be designed so that a specific configuration or arrangement is favored due to non-covalent intermolecular forces. The WatsonCrick basepairing rules are a direct result of this, as is the specificity of an enzyme being targeted to a single substrate, or the specific folding of the protein itself. Thus, two or more components can be designed to be complementary and mutually attractive so that they make a more complex and useful whole.

Such bottom-up approaches should be capable of producing devices in parallel and be much cheaper than top-down methods, but could potentially be overwhelmed as the size and complexity of the desired assembly increases. Most useful structures require complex and thermodynamically unlikely arrangements of atoms. Nevertheless, there are many examples of self-assembly based on molecular recognition in biology, most notably WatsonCrick basepairing and enzyme-substrate interactions. The challenge for nanotechnology is whether these principles can be used to engineer new constructs in addition to natural ones.

Molecular nanotechnology, sometimes called molecular manufacturing, describes engineered nanosystems (nanoscale machines) operating on the molecular scale. Molecular nanotechnology is especially associated with the molecular assembler, a machine that can produce a desired structure or device atom-by-atom using the principles of mechanosynthesis. Manufacturing in the context of productive nanosystems is not related to, and should be clearly distinguished from, the conventional technologies used to manufacture nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes and nanoparticles.

When the term “nanotechnology” was independently coined and popularized by Eric Drexler (who at the time was unaware of an earlier usage by Norio Taniguchi) it referred to a future manufacturing technology based on molecular machine systems. The premise was that molecular scale biological analogies of traditional machine components demonstrated molecular machines were possible: by the countless examples found in biology, it is known that sophisticated, stochastically optimised biological machines can be produced.

It is hoped that developments in nanotechnology will make possible their construction by some other means, perhaps using biomimetic principles. However, Drexler and other researchers[26] have proposed that advanced nanotechnology, although perhaps initially implemented by biomimetic means, ultimately could be based on mechanical engineering principles, namely, a manufacturing technology based on the mechanical functionality of these components (such as gears, bearings, motors, and structural members) that would enable programmable, positional assembly to atomic specification.[27] The physics and engineering performance of exemplar designs were analyzed in Drexler’s book Nanosystems.

In general it is very difficult to assemble devices on the atomic scale, as one has to position atoms on other atoms of comparable size and stickiness. Another view, put forth by Carlo Montemagno,[28] is that future nanosystems will be hybrids of silicon technology and biological molecular machines. Richard Smalley argued that mechanosynthesis are impossible due to the difficulties in mechanically manipulating individual molecules.

This led to an exchange of letters in the ACS publication Chemical & Engineering News in 2003.[29] Though biology clearly demonstrates that molecular machine systems are possible, non-biological molecular machines are today only in their infancy. Leaders in research on non-biological molecular machines are Dr. Alex Zettl and his colleagues at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories and UC Berkeley.[1] They have constructed at least three distinct molecular devices whose motion is controlled from the desktop with changing voltage: a nanotube nanomotor, a molecular actuator,[30] and a nanoelectromechanical relaxation oscillator.[31] See nanotube nanomotor for more examples.

An experiment indicating that positional molecular assembly is possible was performed by Ho and Lee at Cornell University in 1999. They used a scanning tunneling microscope to move an individual carbon monoxide molecule (CO) to an individual iron atom (Fe) sitting on a flat silver crystal, and chemically bound the CO to the Fe by applying a voltage.

The nanomaterials field includes subfields which develop or study materials having unique properties arising from their nanoscale dimensions.[34]

These seek to arrange smaller components into more complex assemblies.

These seek to create smaller devices by using larger ones to direct their assembly.

These seek to develop components of a desired functionality without regard to how they might be assembled.

These subfields seek to anticipate what inventions nanotechnology might yield, or attempt to propose an agenda along which inquiry might progress. These often take a big-picture view of nanotechnology, with more emphasis on its societal implications than the details of how such inventions could actually be created.

Nanomaterials can be classified in 0D, 1D, 2D and 3D nanomaterials. The dimensionality play a major role in determining the characteristic of nanomaterials including physical, chemical and biological characteristics. With the decrease in dimensionality, an increase in surface-to-volume ratio is observed. This indicate that smaller dimensional nanomaterials have higher surface area compared to 3D nanomaterials. Recently, two dimensional (2D) nanomaterials are extensively investigated for electronic, biomedical, drug delivery and biosensor applications.

There are several important modern developments. The atomic force microscope (AFM) and the Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM) are two early versions of scanning probes that launched nanotechnology. There are other types of scanning probe microscopy. Although conceptually similar to the scanning confocal microscope developed by Marvin Minsky in 1961 and the scanning acoustic microscope (SAM) developed by Calvin Quate and coworkers in the 1970s, newer scanning probe microscopes have much higher resolution, since they are not limited by the wavelength of sound or light.

The tip of a scanning probe can also be used to manipulate nanostructures (a process called positional assembly). Feature-oriented scanning methodology may be a promising way to implement these nanomanipulations in automatic mode.[49][50] However, this is still a slow process because of low scanning velocity of the microscope.

Various techniques of nanolithography such as optical lithography, X-ray lithography, dip pen nanolithography, electron beam lithography or nanoimprint lithography were also developed. Lithography is a top-down fabrication technique where a bulk material is reduced in size to nanoscale pattern.

Another group of nanotechnological techniques include those used for fabrication of nanotubes and nanowires, those used in semiconductor fabrication such as deep ultraviolet lithography, electron beam lithography, focused ion beam machining, nanoimprint lithography, atomic layer deposition, and molecular vapor deposition, and further including molecular self-assembly techniques such as those employing di-block copolymers. The precursors of these techniques preceded the nanotech era, and are extensions in the development of scientific advancements rather than techniques which were devised with the sole purpose of creating nanotechnology and which were results of nanotechnology research.[51]

The top-down approach anticipates nanodevices that must be built piece by piece in stages, much as manufactured items are made. Scanning probe microscopy is an important technique both for characterization and synthesis of nanomaterials. Atomic force microscopes and scanning tunneling microscopes can be used to look at surfaces and to move atoms around. By designing different tips for these microscopes, they can be used for carving out structures on surfaces and to help guide self-assembling structures. By using, for example, feature-oriented scanning approach, atoms or molecules can be moved around on a surface with scanning probe microscopy techniques.[49][50] At present, it is expensive and time-consuming for mass production but very suitable for laboratory experimentation.

In contrast, bottom-up techniques build or grow larger structures atom by atom or molecule by molecule. These techniques include chemical synthesis, self-assembly and positional assembly. Dual polarisation interferometry is one tool suitable for characterisation of self assembled thin films. Another variation of the bottom-up approach is molecular beam epitaxy or MBE. Researchers at Bell Telephone Laboratories like John R. Arthur. Alfred Y. Cho, and Art C. Gossard developed and implemented MBE as a research tool in the late 1960s and 1970s. Samples made by MBE were key to the discovery of the fractional quantum Hall effect for which the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded. MBE allows scientists to lay down atomically precise layers of atoms and, in the process, build up complex structures. Important for research on semiconductors, MBE is also widely used to make samples and devices for the newly emerging field of spintronics.

However, new therapeutic products, based on responsive nanomaterials, such as the ultradeformable, stress-sensitive Transfersome vesicles, are under development and already approved for human use in some countries.[52]

As of August 21, 2008, the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies estimates that over 800 manufacturer-identified nanotech products are publicly available, with new ones hitting the market at a pace of 34 per week.[17] The project lists all of the products in a publicly accessible online database. Most applications are limited to the use of “first generation” passive nanomaterials which includes titanium dioxide in sunscreen, cosmetics, surface coatings,[53] and some food products; Carbon allotropes used to produce gecko tape; silver in food packaging, clothing, disinfectants and household appliances; zinc oxide in sunscreens and cosmetics, surface coatings, paints and outdoor furniture varnishes; and cerium oxide as a fuel catalyst.[16]

Further applications allow tennis balls to last longer, golf balls to fly straighter, and even bowling balls to become more durable and have a harder surface. Trousers and socks have been infused with nanotechnology so that they will last longer and keep people cool in the summer. Bandages are being infused with silver nanoparticles to heal cuts faster.[54] Video game consoles and personal computers may become cheaper, faster, and contain more memory thanks to nanotechnology.[55] Also, to build structures for on chip computing with light, for example on chip optical quantum information processing, and picosecond transmission of information.[56]

Nanotechnology may have the ability to make existing medical applications cheaper and easier to use in places like the general practitioner’s office and at home.[57] Cars are being manufactured with nanomaterials so they may need fewer metals and less fuel to operate in the future.[58]

Scientists are now turning to nanotechnology in an attempt to develop diesel engines with cleaner exhaust fumes. Platinum is currently used as the diesel engine catalyst in these engines. The catalyst is what cleans the exhaust fume particles. First a reduction catalyst is employed to take nitrogen atoms from NOx molecules in order to free oxygen. Next the oxidation catalyst oxidizes the hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide to form carbon dioxide and water.[59] Platinum is used in both the reduction and the oxidation catalysts.[60] Using platinum though, is inefficient in that it is expensive and unsustainable. Danish company InnovationsFonden invested DKK 15 million in a search for new catalyst substitutes using nanotechnology. The goal of the project, launched in the autumn of 2014, is to maximize surface area and minimize the amount of material required. Objects tend to minimize their surface energy; two drops of water, for example, will join to form one drop and decrease surface area. If the catalyst’s surface area that is exposed to the exhaust fumes is maximized, efficiency of the catalyst is maximized. The team working on this project aims to create nanoparticles that will not merge. Every time the surface is optimized, material is saved. Thus, creating these nanoparticles will increase the effectiveness of the resulting diesel engine catalystin turn leading to cleaner exhaust fumesand will decrease cost. If successful, the team hopes to reduce platinum use by 25%.[61]

Nanotechnology also has a prominent role in the fast developing field of Tissue Engineering. When designing scaffolds, researchers attempt to the mimic the nanoscale features of a Cell’s microenvironment to direct its differentiation down a suitable lineage.[62] For example, when creating scaffolds to support the growth of bone, researchers may mimic osteoclast resorption pits.[63]

Researchers have successfully used DNA origami-based nanobots capable of carrying out logic functions to achieve targeted drug delivery in cockroaches. It is said that the computational power of these nanobots can be scaled up to that of a Commodore 64.[64]

An area of concern is the effect that industrial-scale manufacturing and use of nanomaterials would have on human health and the environment, as suggested by nanotoxicology research. For these reasons, some groups advocate that nanotechnology be regulated by governments. Others counter that overregulation would stifle scientific research and the development of beneficial innovations. Public health research agencies, such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are actively conducting research on potential health effects stemming from exposures to nanoparticles.[65][66]

Some nanoparticle products may have unintended consequences. Researchers have discovered that bacteriostatic silver nanoparticles used in socks to reduce foot odor are being released in the wash.[67] These particles are then flushed into the waste water stream and may destroy bacteria which are critical components of natural ecosystems, farms, and waste treatment processes.[68]

Public deliberations on risk perception in the US and UK carried out by the Center for Nanotechnology in Society found that participants were more positive about nanotechnologies for energy applications than for health applications, with health applications raising moral and ethical dilemmas such as cost and availability.[69]

Experts, including director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies David Rejeski, have testified[70] that successful commercialization depends on adequate oversight, risk research strategy, and public engagement. Berkeley, California is currently the only city in the United States to regulate nanotechnology;[71] Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2008 considered enacting a similar law,[72] but ultimately rejected it.[73] Relevant for both research on and application of nanotechnologies, the insurability of nanotechnology is contested.[74] Without state regulation of nanotechnology, the availability of private insurance for potential damages is seen as necessary to ensure that burdens are not socialised implicitly.

Nanofibers are used in several areas and in different products, in everything from aircraft wings to tennis rackets. Inhaling airborne nanoparticles and nanofibers may lead to a number of pulmonary diseases, e.g. fibrosis.[75] Researchers have found that when rats breathed in nanoparticles, the particles settled in the brain and lungs, which led to significant increases in biomarkers for inflammation and stress response[76] and that nanoparticles induce skin aging through oxidative stress in hairless mice.[77][78]

A two-year study at UCLA’s School of Public Health found lab mice consuming nano-titanium dioxide showed DNA and chromosome damage to a degree “linked to all the big killers of man, namely cancer, heart disease, neurological disease and aging”.[79]

A major study published more recently in Nature Nanotechnology suggests some forms of carbon nanotubes a poster child for the “nanotechnology revolution” could be as harmful as asbestos if inhaled in sufficient quantities. Anthony Seaton of the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh, Scotland, who contributed to the article on carbon nanotubes said “We know that some of them probably have the potential to cause mesothelioma. So those sorts of materials need to be handled very carefully.”[80] In the absence of specific regulation forthcoming from governments, Paull and Lyons (2008) have called for an exclusion of engineered nanoparticles in food.[81] A newspaper article reports that workers in a paint factory developed serious lung disease and nanoparticles were found in their lungs.[82][83][84][85]

Calls for tighter regulation of nanotechnology have occurred alongside a growing debate related to the human health and safety risks of nanotechnology.[86] There is significant debate about who is responsible for the regulation of nanotechnology. Some regulatory agencies currently cover some nanotechnology products and processes (to varying degrees) by “bolting on” nanotechnology to existing regulations there are clear gaps in these regimes.[87] Davies (2008) has proposed a regulatory road map describing steps to deal with these shortcomings.[88]

Stakeholders concerned by the lack of a regulatory framework to assess and control risks associated with the release of nanoparticles and nanotubes have drawn parallels with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (“mad cow” disease), thalidomide, genetically modified food,[89] nuclear energy, reproductive technologies, biotechnology, and asbestosis. Dr. Andrew Maynard, chief science advisor to the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, concludes that there is insufficient funding for human health and safety research, and as a result there is currently limited understanding of the human health and safety risks associated with nanotechnology.[90] As a result, some academics have called for stricter application of the precautionary principle, with delayed marketing approval, enhanced labelling and additional safety data development requirements in relation to certain forms of nanotechnology.[91][92]

The Royal Society report[14] identified a risk of nanoparticles or nanotubes being released during disposal, destruction and recycling, and recommended that “manufacturers of products that fall under extended producer responsibility regimes such as end-of-life regulations publish procedures outlining how these materials will be managed to minimize possible human and environmental exposure” (p. xiii).

The Center for Nanotechnology in Society has found that people respond to nanotechnologies differently, depending on application with participants in public deliberations more positive about nanotechnologies for energy than health applications suggesting that any public calls for nano regulations may differ by technology sector.[69]

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