Broadly speaking, nanotechnology is the manipulation and manufacture of materials and artifacts at an atomic or molecular scale , that is, nanometric. It is a very broad field of research and applications still in consolidation. Nanotechnology involves subatomic matter , as well as specific knowledge from scientific disciplines such as organic chemistry , molecular biology, semiconductors, microfabrication, and surface science , among others. Put very simply, nanotechnology is based on the idea of building microscopic machines with which, in turn, they can produce novel materials with a unique and particular molecular configuration.
However, the nature of many of these “machines” is not similar to those we use in our day to day, but may well consist of genetically “reprogrammed” viruses and other biotechnological means. Consequently, this technology is an infinite source of possibilities and, naturally, of dangers. In addition, through nanotechnology , nanomaterials have been built, which are elements that do not exist in nature and have amazing properties. They were created from the modification of the molecules of already existing materials. Thus, a gigantic field of research has been opened with virtually infinite applications, which are still under definition and experimentation . Nanotechnology promises to bring with it a new industrial and scientific-technological revolution.
History of nanotechnology
In 1959 the possibility of nanotechnology and nanoscience was discussed for the first time. The first to refer to them was a Nobel Prize in Physics (1965), the American Richard Feynman (1918-1988), during his speech at Caltech (California, USA), in which he theorized about the synthesis by direct manipulation of the atoms. However, the term “nanotechnology” was coined in 1974 by the Japanese Norio Taniguchi (1912-1999). Since then, many have been those who have dreamed or have theorized with the possibility of this type of machines and advanced materials.
For example, the American engineer Kim Eric Drexler (1955-) participated in popularizing the term and this type of research, being largely responsible for the formal initiation of the field of study of nanotechnology in the 1980s . This also responds to the advances of the time in microscopy and the discovery of fullerenes in 1985. Starting in the year 2000, nanomaterials began to be used industrially . In response, the world’s governments began to invest huge sums in nanotechnology research and development. Its applications to the field of biochemistry , medicine and genetic engineering became apparent soon after. Today it is one of the scientific fields of greater validity and demand even in countries of the so-called Third World.
What is nanotechnology used for?
In basic terms, nanotechnology is a type of materials engineering on an atomic or molecular scale. This means that matter can be manipulated on an infinitely small scale , between 1 and 100 nanometers, that is, more or less between the size of a DNA molecule (2 nm) and a bacterium of the genus Mycoplasma (200 nm). Therefore, the uses of nanotechnology are virtually endless : from intervening in the chemical composition of living beings , thus making it possible to modify the DNA of microscopic living beings and “programming” them to carry out certain biochemical tasks, to the manufacture of novel materials. and unique properties, called nanomaterials.
Some of the current applications of nanotechnology have to do with:
- Textile industry. The creation of intelligent fabrics, capable of pre-programmed behaviors in chips or other electronic instruments, thus being able to be self-cleaning, stain-repellent or being able to change color and temperature .
- agricultural design. Elaboration of controlled biochemical pesticides , pesticides and fertilizers that allow the improvement of soils , as well as nanosensors for detection of groundwater, nutrient concentration, etc.
- Livestock support. Manufacture through nanoparticles of vaccines and drugs to care for the health of livestock, or nanosensors capable of alerting about the presence of diseases, parasites , etc.
- Food industry. In this area, they develop everything from food sensors, that is, elements that can check the viability of food , to nanopackaging for it, specially designed to slow down the natural process of food decomposition.
- It is a first generation of pharmacological products designed with nanosystems, capable of efficiently and specifically distributing the active compounds of medicines, obtaining better and faster results and minimizing collateral damage.
On the other hand, the industry envisions the following as future fields of research:
- The design of computerized systems of enormous power and speed through nanosystems.
- Application of nanomachines to efficiently and quickly regulate the local temperature.
- That they could well be efficient, safe and with a low environmental impact , as a solution to the energy crisis with which the 21st century begins.
- Environmental solutions. Such as nanotechnological systems for the disposal of hazardous waste or garbage disposal.