Most of our everyday measurements are done in meters and kilometers. Whenever something cannot be seen by the naked eye and is too small to be measured in this way, a microscope is used to view it. Nanos are the particles, such as atoms, molecules, cells and proteins that form the foundation of animals, plants and things. Nanos are measured and observed using the nanoscale, which is 1000 times smaller than the microscopic scale. Nanotechnology consists of using particles that can only be measured using the nanoscale, to build new items. It is currently the fastest growing and, in many ways, the most versatile method of technology being explored.
Nanoscience helps us to understand how things function at a nano level, which can be significantly different from others. Once we have acquired this knowledge it can be converted into technology, which is the application of science to solving problems. Electron microscopes, which work by using beams of electrons instead of beams of light to magnify things, are used to view particles on a nanoscale. Other nanoscopes include quantum effects to produce visuals, and come equipped with tiny probes used to rearrange atoms.
Nanotechnology is already being applied in specific fields, including:
Nanotechnology is being applied to electronic devices to decrease their weight and power consumption, while increasing their output. Other ways it has been used in the electronics field include: improving the display screens on electronic devices, increasing the density of memory chips and reducing the size of transistors used in integrated circuits.
One of the most useful applications of nanotechnology is in the medical field. The technology has already played a major role in the way we treat diseases and repair damage done to the body. Researchers are exploring ways in which it can be developed to transport drugs directly to diseased cells, so that healthy cells are not damaged during treatment. This would be particularly helpful in patients that are undergoing chemotherapy.
Other scientists are experimenting with ways in which nanotechnology can be used to deliver vaccinations. The vaccine would be protected during transportation, throughout the system, allowing the body to develop stronger immunity to the disease.
The food industry is always expanding, and methods of product growth and preservation modernized. Nanotechnology is being applied in ways that will make the food taste better, as well as make it safer to consume. Clay nano composites have been used to provide a barrier that is impermeable to gases, such as carbon dioxide and oxygen, in lightweight bottles, packing film and cartons. In addition, storage bins are being made that contain silver nanoparticles embedded in the plastic. These kill bacteria that may be present in the container and decrease the chances of people becoming ill from the organisms.
Other areas in which nanotechnology is currently being applied, or researched, include: fuel and solar cells, space technology and providing impoverished societies with clean drinking water.