by Huy Nguyen
Businesses are constantly striving to establish competitive advantages using different technologies. In this world of information technology, we are constantly pushing to obtain the latest advances in science to apply to businesses. The computer revolution gave forth amazing applications that pushed efficiencies to maximum levels. However, with the rise of breakthroughs in nanotechnology, a new era of machines, computers, and materials will accelerate everything we know today to what used to be considered “science fiction” levels.
Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale(1). It has become very popular and is used to describe many types of research where the characteristic dimensions are less than about 1000 nanometers(2). To put into scale, the comparative size of a nanometer to a meter is the same as that of a marble to the size of the earth(4).
The idea of nanotechnology was first mentioned in 1959 in a talk given by physicist Richard Freyman(4). Freyman envisioned that theoretically, he can produce machines that can manufacture objects at the atomic level. This idea did not become popular until the 1980’s when nanotechnology became accepted and advances were made in the field(1). Nanotechnology can be used to manufacture different products just by arranging atoms in different configurations. Using atoms to build objects will increase the efficiency of the system. Chips will be able to be produced in much smaller sizes and have increased speeds and capacities. Traditionally, circuits have been etched onto chips by removing material in small regions; however, it is possible, in theory to build a chip up one atom at a time to obtain devices much smaller than those manufactured by etching(5). Data capacity can also increase. Bits can be represented my the absence or the presence of an electron making massive amounts of storage capacities in the size of less than a grain of salt(3).
In the last couple years, carbon nanotubes have been a popular subject within the science community. Carbon nanotubes are sheets of carbon atoms rolled into a tubular form. Although carbon nanotubes are all made of carbon, different properties can arise based on how individual atoms are aligned(3). With the right arrangement of atoms, carbon nanotubes can be created with the strength a hundred times stronger than steel yet six times lighter(3). This can be used in a wide range of applications ranging from more stronger and fuel efficient cars to more sturdier computers and devices.
As far as what is in production today dealing with nanotechnology, we haven’t been able to produce machines that have the precision needed to build systems atom by atom. Scientists say that within twenty years, we will have the technology to do so. Regardless, many improvements such as smaller computer chips, sun block, wrinkle free fabrics, automotive lubricants, and many more. When products are produced in microscopic levels, the precision in how they are made drastically increases.
There are also some drawbacks with using nanotechnology. Many of the properties that materials have seem to change the smaller we go. In the nano realm, everything seems to obey a different law of physics. Scientists are having to relearn each and every property of materials used and observe how they behave in the nano world. Secondly, many repercussions of nanotechnology have not been assessed. Problems that may arise from misuse of nanotechnology may include environmental, warfare, a different breed of humans, and much more. We need to really figure out many ethical dilemmas that might arise from this technology and whether we are yet ready to face its challenges.
Nanotechnology is a new and exciting field that is going to bring many positive advances to information technology and business in general. All fields will be able to benefit from it from computer chips to bio-pharmaceuticals. It is something that will eventually bring the science fiction of the replicators in the old Star Trek shows to reality. Nanotechnology will change the way we do everything like computers have changed our lives today. Although we see many benefits from nanotechnology, caution should also be used to make sure that it is used to increase the standard of living and not detriment the human race.
1) “What is Nanotechnology?” Center for Responsible Nanotechnology. Web. 28 Nov. 2010. < http://www.crnano.org/whatis.htm>
2) “ Nanotechnology.” Nanotechnology. Web. 28 Nov. 2010. <http://www.zyvex.com/nano/>
3) “The World of Nantechnology.” How Stuff Works. Web. 28 Nov. 2010. <http://science.howstuffworks.com/nanotechnology1.htm>
4) “ Nanotechnology.” Absolute Astronomy. Web. 28 Nov. 2010. <http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Nanotechnology>
5) “ Nanotechnology.” Whatis.com. Web. 28 Nov. 2010.