web defines nanotechnology as any technology related to features
of nanometer scale: thin films, fine particles, chemical synthesis,
advanced microlithography, and so forth. Nanotechnology is
therefore more of a 'catch-all' description of activities
at the level of atoms and molecules that have applications
in the real world.
stocks are in a frenzy, and the media talks of nanotechnology
as being the "new technology", research in the field
has actually been ongoing for many years. In the last 15 years
over a dozen Nobel prizes have been awarded in nanotechnology,
including the development of the scanning probe microscope (SPM),
and the discovery of fullerenes.
was perhaps the discovery and potential applications of the fullerene molecule
(also called a buckyball) and a related structure, the buckytube (or nanotube),
that has sparked the current interest in the field.
are fullerenes and nanotubes? These are both compounds that are composed of carbon
atoms. An example of a fullerene molecule (shown below) is composed is composed
of 60 carbon atoms.
and manipulate this molecular model in 3-D --go to the
java applet-How Big --or small -- is a Buckyball?- |
Another interesting structure is the nanotube (which
can be described as a graphite sheet rolled up)
view and manipulate this molecular model in 3-D click
nanotube shown above has a length of only 4.3 nanometer. (A nanometer is a billionth
of a meter, or, about 1/80,000 of the diameter of a human hair)
Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have caught the imagination of scientists for everything
to transistors and diodes, material strengtheners, ion storage for batteries and
more. One of the most promising applications is a thin panel called a field
emitter display (FED). Both Motorola and DuPont are presently
investigating this application.
recently LSI Logic has joined up with Nantero a Massachesetts-based startup company.
LSI is providing manufacturing research and development for a that is creating
a new kind of computer memory using carbon nanotubes. LSI sees a product possibly
as early as 2006.For each bit of memory, multiple nanotubes are suspended above
a metal electrode and charged.
on the charge, the flexible nanotube can bend upward, away from the electrode,
or downward, into contact with the electrode. The resulting signals form the building
blocks of a digital device. "The best thing is, these switches are working," Norm
Armour from LSI said. "We built some test devices, and we fired them up the other
day, and they worked." The nanotube-based memory can act like "flash" memory,
a reprogrammable type of memory that can retain data even when power is switched
(C60) are being investigated for their potential use as a drug-delivery
system for cancer, AIDS and other diseases.
long term objective of nanotechnology is to build nano-sized machines which can
be inserted into the human body in order to detect and repair diseased cells is
a real possibility. Current research however, is only at the primitive levels
designing simple components e.g., a carbon nanotube based gears (below) For more
details see 11th Foresight
Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology).
to CMP Científica, a European nanotechnology information company, over
600 companies are currently active in nanotechnology, from small venture capital
backed start-ups to some of the world's largest corporations such as IBM and Samsung.
Governments and corporations worldwide have invested over $4 billion into nanotechnology
during the past year. In addition many universities around the world have a nanotechnology
department which being a truly multidisciplinary field draws on scientists from
physics, chemistry, biology material science, electronics and medicine.