March 18, 2019
New Strides in Nanotechnology
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The National Nanotechnology Initiative defines nanotechnology as the manipulation of matter with at least one dimension of a size from 1 to 100
Nanomedicine and Biomaterials
Nanomedicine encompasses the medical applications of biomaterials and biological devices. Biomaterials science deals with engineered substances that interact with biological systems for a diagnostic or therapeutic purpose.
In medial diagnoses, nanoparticles are being used with MRIs for better tumor detection. Nanosized agents have greater magnetic susceptibility than traditional MRI contrast agents. What this means is that nanosized agents can characterize tumors on the liver more reliably and quickly when doctors introduce them in a patient intravenously. Further, testing of nanoparticles coated with antibodies, collagen, and micro-molecules is underway to determine their effectiveness for early detection of many diseases, including cancer of the breast, prostate, cervix
The other aspect of nanomedicine is therapeutic. The current focus is on the targeted delivery of drugs, nucleic acids, and other nanoparticles to patients. Nanodevices such as the dendrometer, ceramic nanoparticles, and carbon nanotubes may be useful in targeting cancer cells and cells of the immune system to treat infectious diseases like HIV and leishmaniasis. Nanodevices also can help prevent rejection of transplanted organs because of a property known as
A team at
Research in the are of polysynthetic fibers for faster and more effective wound closure suggests that traditional sutures may become a “thing of the past.” Though the materials used in sutures have improved over time, scar tissue from the healing process remains an issue and often causes reduced functionality of the affected tissue. Scientists now have developed a photosynthetic suture made of genetically modified microalgae that
In one of the most interesting fields of research, doctors are teaming with engineers to advance tendon tissue engineering. The impetus for this research is the unsatisfactory
Nanoelectronics refers to the use of nanotechnology in electronic components. Nanoelectronics devices and materials are so small as to require study of interatomic interactions and quantum mechanical properties. Experts consider nanoelectronics to be a disruptive technology in that present applications differ significantly from traditional transistors. Applications under development include clothing that can recharge electronics, vibrant paint that changes display and color, flexible computers, implantable electronic sensors for biological and health applications, and more precise sensors of gases, light, and acoustics, among others.
The current generation of wearable electronics involves fixing devices to fabrics, which can be rigid and frequently malfunctioning. The next generation of wearable or “smart” electronics will be embedded into the fabric thanks to the development of graphene. Graphene is an atomic-scale, hexagonal lattice of carbon atoms that has many unique properties. It is nearly transparent and is the strongest material ever tested. It conducts heat and electricity efficiently, and it can be levitated by magnets. Engineers at the University of Exeter have devised a method for producing fully electronic fibers that can be integrated into the production of day-to-day clothing with graphene. This method could revolutionize the fashion industry with implantable sensors, biological and health applications, and more.
Nano paints contain crystalline particles. A low-grade magnetic field controls the ability of the particles to reflect light and change color. This application is in use already for cars, buildings (interiors and exteriors), and a variety of consumer and industrial products. A small electromagnetic charge maintains the color. At the press of a button, however, the user can change the color.
Flexible Computers and Sensors
Nanoelectronics is also transforming computers and their uses. For example, a biomaterials scientist at MIT is testing a tiny pill that is an ingestible computer. The pill combines a microphone, thermometer, and a battery to collect data from inside the body. Other ingestible computers like the Proteus sensor track how patients take prescribed medications and a PillCam that allows people to skip colonoscopies.
There are a variety of ways experts are exploring to produce energy more efficiently and cost-effectively. For example, researchers have demonstrated that concentrated sunlight on nanoparticles produces steam with high energy efficiency (more than twice the efficiency of fluorescence bulbs, in fact). The intended use is in developing countries is to run power plants and purify water. A non-engineered polymer is being used in high-efficiency light bulbs. The polymer makes these bulbs shatterproof. Others are seeking to use nano-sized crystalline structures wrapped around the filaments in incandescent bulbs to convert some of the infrared radiation to visible light.
Lighter-weight windmill blades made of carbon nanotubes, potentially, can produce more electricity. Sheets of nanotubes wrapped around heat sources (e.g., the exhaust pipe of a car) could generate electricity from what currently is “wasted” heat. Piezoelectric nanofibers woven into clothing can turn normal motion into electricity to power cell phones and other mobile devices. New nanotechnology in batteries can charge them faster and extend their shelf-life life for decades. Other applications are in development for Solar Cells, Fuel Cells, and Fuels themselves.
Some of the more interesting consumer products with nanotechnology that are evolving include a topical nanoparticle application that is more effective in blocking UV rays without leaving a residue on the skin, lithium batteries with nanoparticle-based electrodes for electric
In 1959, Richard Feynman delivered a lecture to the American Physical Society entitled, “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom.” In his talk, he argued that humans would continue to innovate smaller and more powerful devices. How right he was! In 1986, K. Eric Drexler first introduced the term, “nanotechnology.” Clearly, advancements in nanotechnology are showing us that more and more science fiction is becoming science fact.
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