Advancements In Nanotechnology
- Amruta Bhaskar
- Feb 2, 2021
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The term nanotechnology itself dates back to the 1980s when it was coined by U.S. engineer Eric Drexler. In the past few decades, nanotech has found a steadily growing number of applications in everything from computing to textiles. It remains to be seen to what extent nanotechnology will reshape medicine, but nanotech advances are continually being announced.
The recent development in science and technology and the invention of wonderful nanomaterials by nanotechnology help advances in healthcare and treatment. Nerve degeneration, scar tissue formation and loss of communication between neurons and cells are the major issues of nerve injury. Till date, it remains a major challenge the regeneration of nerve tissue at the injury site. There are various kinds of nanomaterials-based engineering approaches have been developed and under investigation to prevent or treat nerve injuries. Different nanomaterials are classified into two categories such as inorganic and organic nanomaterials. Inorganic nanomaterials such as metal, alloys, silica, magnetic, upconversion nanoparticles and quantum dots; and organic nanomaterials such as polymeric nanoparticles, nanofibers, carbon-based nanomaterials namely carbon nanotubes and graphene, liposomes, micelles and dendrimers. These are promising nanomaterials with suitable physicochemical properties and hence employed for neural tissue engineering applications. The nanomaterials showed promising results and able to support cells adhesion, proliferation and promote neuronal cell differentiation and enhance regeneration of neuron.
The past 70 years have seen the way we live and work transformed by two tiny inventions. The electronic transistor and the microchip are what make all modern electronics possible, and since their development, in the 1940s they've been getting smaller. Today, one chip can contain as many as 5 billion transistors.
Wearable fitness technology means we can monitor our health by strapping gadgets to ourselves. There are even prototype electronic tattoos that can sense our vital signs. But by scaling down this technology, we could go further by implanting or injecting tiny sensors inside our bodies. This would capture much more detailed information with less hassle to the patient, enabling doctors to personalize their treatment.
The possibilities are endless, ranging from monitoring inflammation and post-surgery recovery to more exotic applications whereby electronic devices interfere with our body's signals for controlling organ function. Although these technologies might sound like a thing of the far future, multi-billion healthcare firms such as GlaxoSmithKline are already working on ways to develop so-called "electroceuticals".
These sensors rely on newly-invented nanomaterials and manufacturing techniques to make them smaller, more complex and more energy efficient. For example, sensors with very fine features can now be printed in large quantities on flexible rolls of plastic at low cost. This opens up the possibility of placing sensors at lots of points over critical infrastructure to constantly check that everything is running correctly. Bridges, aircraft and even nuclear power plants could benefit.
If cracks do appear then nanotechnology could play a further role. Changing the structure of materials at the nanoscale can give them some amazing properties – by giving them a texture that repels water, for example. In the future, nanotechnology coatings or additives will even have the potential to allow materials to "heal" when damaged or worn. For example, dispersing nanoparticles throughout a material means that they can migrate to fill in any cracks that appear. This could produce self-healing materials for everything from aircraft cockpits to microelectronics, preventing small fractures from turning into large, more problematic cracks.
All these sensors will produce more information than we've ever had to deal with before – so we'll need the technology to process it and spot the patterns that will alert us to problems. The same will be true if we want to use the "big data" from traffic sensors to help manage congestion and prevent accidents or prevent crime by using statistics to more effectively allocate police resources.
Here, nanotechnology is helping to create ultra-dense memory that will allow us to store this wealth of data. But it's also providing the inspiration for ultra-efficient algorithms for processing, encrypting and communicating data without compromising its reliability. Nature has several examples of big-data processes efficiently being performed in real-time by tiny structures, such as the parts of the eye and ear that turn external signals into information for the brain.
Computer architectures inspired by the brain could also use energy more efficiently and so would struggle less with excess heat – one of the key problems with shrinking electronic devices further.
The fight against climate change means we need new ways to generate and use electricity, and nanotechnology is already playing a role. It has helped create batteries that can store more energy for electric cars and has enabled solar panels to convert more sunlight into electricity.
The common trick in both applications are to use nanotexturing or nanomaterials (for example nanowires or carbon nanotubes) that turn a flat surface into a three-dimensional one with a much greater surface area. This means that there is more space for the reactions that enable energy storage or generation to take place, so the devices operate more efficiently
In the future, nanotechnology could also enable objects to harvest energy from their environment. New nano-materials and concepts are currently being developed that show potential for producing energy from movement, light, variations in temperature, glucose and other sources with high conversion efficiency.