The Name’s Nano..Nanotech!

Nanotechnology is the latest buzz word in science and technology. The wonders of the stream are unimaginable. Hence, it was a unique opportunity for me to be able to see a nano-particle photographed by an Atomic Force Microscope commonly called the AFM. Imagine my thrill at being able to see the smallest particle that can be viewed in the world!

We have all heard about nanotechnology. If I try to tell you what nanotechnology can do, it will certainly not be a revelation as all the science miracles we imagine can be achieved by it. But the question remains, why nanotechnology? What exactly is the ultimate objective of all the technology in the world? The ultimate objective is to emulate the perfection of nature. We may come up with numerous alternatives but no energy system can be as perfect as that of photosynthesis in plants. No camera can achieve the perfection of the eye. And yes, no sensor can be as powerful as the olfactory nerve of the body which helps us to smell! To implement the efficiency of nature, we need to examine each and every mechanism up to the molecular level. And here comes the need for nanotechnology which helps us to manipulate the bio-molecules at the nano level – one billionth of a unit.

Seems like a good idea, doesn’t it? But is it that easy?

Well, once you know how to do it, nothing seems difficult!  But the process of making nano particles remains a very big challenge for scientists all over the world. The procedure involves the splitting of molecules of substrate elements in plasma state (the fourth state of matter) and then obtaining one atom of the molecule in vacuum states. The most perfect vacuum can be as low as ten raised to power negative fourteen atmospheres! Then these particles which we obtain are examined for various properties or used directly for treatments or other purposes.

The incredible thing about nanotechnology is that it follows its own laws and rules. At the nano level, particles have properties which are very different. For example, if we consider carbon at nano level, it actually looks like flowing waves. In fact recently, I heard about a species of fungi, which actually produce silver nano particles having various medicinal properties.

If one thought that nanotech is for scientists and researchers; well, there is a lot more to it! Developments in nanotechnology also play an important role in the cosmetics industry. International Laboratories Corp (ILC), a cosmetics manufacturer, has adopted nanotechnology to improve skin-care products by giving them better anti-ageing properties. Researchers have focused on studying materials on a nano scale to develop new properties for products. The “nanoshirt” is one result. Co-developed by researchers from Chulalongkorn University’s Institute of Metallurgy and Material Science along with those of United Textile Mills Co Ltd, a local textile manufacturer, the nanoshirt is a kind of fairy-tale garment which offers wearers bacteria resistance and freshness all day long. To keep the shirt clean and fresh, the research team turned silver nitrate, which has the power to sterilize and deodorize, into silver atoms with a size of less than 100 nanometers to be coated on textiles. Once in contact with clothes, the silver atoms penetrate the fibers and attach themselves strongly.

I would like to bring to the notice of the readers a discovery that was highlighted only on May 7, 2008 where Scientists at UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara and MIT have developed nanometer-sized “nanoworms” that can cruise through the bloodstream without significant interference from the body’s immune defense system and can home in on tumors like tiny anti-cancer missiles

Slowly and steadily, nanotechnology is aiming to achieve the unachievable. The day is not far when we will think about everything at the nano level.

Ayushi Uberoi

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