What if the entire world’s documented knowledge was available on a single pinhead, sensors sniffed out skin cancer, and microscopic implants patrolled human arteries to keep disease at bay? These are some of the ideas that drive nanotechnology—the science of manipulating microscopic elements, such as molecules and atoms, till they cannot be broken down any further.
Today, the giant strides made by nanotechnology are most evident in the field of healthcare. While nanomedicine is still considered to be in its infancy, over 60 drugs and drug-delivery systems and 90 medical devices and diagnostic tests that use this technology are being tested across the globe. Nanoparticles are being inserted into the human body to cure and detect illnesses that have perplexed science for decades. Using this technology, researchers believe that they might be close to finding a cure to Cancer, Alzheimer’s, and Diabetes. It is only a matter of time before the DNA of exhaled breath is tested for cancer biomarkers or nanoscopic scaffolding is used to regenerate broken bone.
The rapid strides made by this technology ensure that it has wide-scale influence that spreads far beyond the healthcare industry. A survey from Report Linker estimates that the global nanotechnology market will grow at a CAGR of about 19% during 2011-2014, driven by developments in the electronics, cosmetics, and defense segments. While electronic companies will use nanotechnology to improve their products’ processing capabilities, cosmetic companies will work with it to change their products’ physical properties, and defense companies will enhance product performance at a lower cost.
The multifarious ways in which these small particles are effecting big change is seen in the use of quantum dot technology. Quantum dots or light-emitting nanoparticles have diverse applications. While nanomedicine uses these particles as probes that detect cancer, the next generation of LCD televisions will use quantum dots to improve screen color performance, with reduced power consumption.
Clearly, nanomatrials and nanodevices will play a significant part in nanotechnology’s big impact across industries. This has special significance for computing, with researchers recommending nanotubes as a future alternative to today’s silicon-based computer chips, once they cannot be shrunk any further. Here, it is the nanomaterials’ microscopic quality that gives it a huge advantage over other substances.
With its propensity for efficient power consumption, nanotechnology provides a natural impetus to green technology solutions as well. Nanomaterials and nanodevices are smaller, utilize energy efficiently, and deliver high performance. This apart, they have also been used to drive a plethora of innovative green solutions that transform current energy utilization patterns. Take for instance the recently designed nanostructured-carbon-based catalyst that power air batteries for electric vehicles and green energy.
Considering that the scientific community has only begun to explore the potential of nanotechnology, we have just touched the tip of the iceberg. In the not too distant future, nanotechnology promises to transform diverse fields, such as medicine, computing, urban infrastructure, and defense. In this world, nano-bullets will attack cancerous tumors and nanocameras will monitor them. Nanoscience will create powerful microchips that keep computers functional even within minute bacteria. Nanotechnology will sanitize our drinking water, and armies fight wars in nanomaterial-based battle suits that morph to provide them with camouflage.
Is nanotechnology already revolutionizing your industry? Use the comments box to tell us more about it.