Nanoscience and Nanotechnology

Edited by Chameleon, Sharingknowledge, SmartyPants, SarMal

Nanoscience and Nanotechnology

Nanoscience is the study of atoms and molecules at a nano (10-9 m) scale which is one billionth part of a meter. The properties of the materials at a nanoscale are significantly different from those at a macro-scale.

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Nanotechnology is a practical application of nanoscience which deals with the design, production, characterization and applications of physical structures and devices by controlling size and shape at the nanoscale.

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Significance of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology

The word Nano is derived from a Greek word Nano's which means dwarf. Dwarf is an apt term for nano. For example, the diameter of one piece of human hair is about 80,000 nanometer (nm), and the size of a red blood cell is approximately 7000 nm. Atomic sizes are in the range of 30-300 pm, which is actually smaller than a nanometer, while many molecules, including proteins and DNA, can be as big as several nanometers (below 100nm). Nanotechnology is an interdisciplinary field which focuses on the nanoscale amalgam of areas such as physics, engineering, biology, computer science and chemistry.

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There are several reasons for the importance and prominence of nanotechnology and nanoscience in materials, engineering, and physics. The characteristics (reactivity, electrical conductivity, color) of materials at nanoscale differ from the bulk properties. For example, bulk silver is non-toxic while silver nanoparticles are known to kill viruses. Nanomaterials can be fabricated by two different techniques; the first method is termed bottom-up technique and the second approach is termed top-down approach. Bottom-up approach has a capability to assemble the structure atom-by-atom while top-down approach deals with sub-sizing of the bulk substance to nano-level. In short, nanotechnology is not just a scale shift, but it is a whole new world of materials which needs to be explored. Size comparison of nanoscale is illustrated in the figure below:

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Figure.1- Size distribution of atoms to bulk/macro materials and Nano-devices

Examples of Nanoscale

  1. 1
    The growth of our fingernails is 1nm per second.
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  2. 2
    The head of a pin is around 10, 00000nm in diameter.
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  3. 3
    A human hair is approximately 80 000nm in diameter.
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  4. 4
    A DNA molecule is 1 to 2nm in size.
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  5. 5
    The size of a transistor used in computers is around 45nm.
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Figure.2- Image of a leaf with different magnification (i.e. from macro to nanoscale)

Physical Properties of Nanomaterials

Materials at nano-scale can show unique properities compared to what they exhibit on a bulk scale, producing exciting and exclusive applications. For example:

  1. 1
    Copper which is an opaque metal becomes transparent at the nano-scale.
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  2. 2
    Inert Platinum becomes a reactive catalyst at the nanoscale.
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  3. 3
    Aluminum nanoparticles are highly combustive, which can be used as rocket fuels.
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  4. 4
    Pure silicon is a semiconductor, but it becomes a conductor at the nanoscale.
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  5. 5
    Gold, an opaque and inert yellow solid at the micro scale becomes red in color at the nanoscale at room temperature
    .
    It also exhibits a strange catalytic property at the nanoscale.
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Applications of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology

The applications of nanoscience and nanotechnology in different areas are illustrated below:

  1. 1
    Nanoelectronics
    :
    Nanostructured devices are being extensively fabricated for their use in the electronics industry. The advent of nanoelectronics has revolutionized the electronics industry. Nanotechnology-based thin film technology has significantly condensed the size of a device. Researchers and scientists have developed nano-capacitors and nanochips. Millions of these nano chips and nano-capacitors can be fabricated on a one square inch area. The use of such nano-components in batteries, computer circuits, and other energy devices can enhance the efficiency and capacity of such devices immensely. Devices such as computer hard drives and portable storage devices work on the principle of magnetization, small areas of a rotating disk are magnetized to record information. Nanotechnology has enabled the IT manufacturers to manufacture the hard drive components at the nanoscale which has enhanced the storage capacity of the disk dramatically.
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  2. 2
    Health and Medicine
     
    1. Drug Delivery: Generally, injections deliver a drug, but nanotechnology has enabled the oral delivery of medicines. The drug is encapsulated in a nano-packet which facilitates its transportation and injection into the bloodstream. Extensive research is being carried out regarding the oral delivery of narcotics via different nanocarriers.
    2. Detection of Disease: Cancer has a dreadfully low survival rate because it is typically diagnosed at a critical stage.Scientists and researchers have developed tools for the early diagnosis of cancer by attaching nano-molecules (that bind to cancerous cells) to iron oxide nanoparticles which are clearly noticeable under magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
    3. Nanomedicine and Cosmetics: Nanomedicine has the potential to facilitate early diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of most diseases. Biological testing determines the presence of particular elements and substances which have become more efficient, sensitive and flexible when individual nanoparticles are utilized as tags and labels. Gene sequencing can be more useful with the help of nanodevices. Gold nanoparticles attach to short segments of DNA and can be employed for detection of genetic sequence in samples. Nanotechnology can facilitate the reproduction and repair of damaged tissues. This process is called tissue engineering, which uses nanofabricated artificially stimulated cells. Tissue engineering coupled with nanotechnology has the potential to replace the prevalent treatments, such as artificial implants or cross-transplantation of vital organs. Nano-sized zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are currently used in some sunscreens. These nano oxides absorb and reflect ultraviolet (UV) radiations and yet remain transparent to visible light. These unique properties are more attractive to the consumers.
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  3. 3
    Nanotechnology in Transportation
    :
    Nanomaterials and new fuels will render the business of more luxurious and financially feasible, by decreasing the weight of structural materials. It is, now, possible to develop carbon-based fibers which are six times lighter and 100x stronger than the steel. Nano-coatings of metallic surfaces on vehicles is being fabricated for increased hardness, low friction, and improved corrosion protection. Smart and self-healing nanomaterials are being developed which will be a breakthrough in the transportation industry. The materials automatically repair themselves after detection of defects.
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  4. 4
    Energy and Environment
    :
     
    1. Solar Cells: Using nanomaterials in the fabrication of solar cells can decrease the manufacturing costs by using a lower temperature. Third generation (thin film) solar cells are being produced at very low costs with higher efficiency. Nanofabrication of solar cells will substantially reduce the installation costs by fabricating soft rolls instead of rigid crystalline panels.
    2. Batteries: Innovations in the portable electronic devices (mobile phones, laptops, computers, remote sensors) has created a high demand for lightweight feel and batteries with high energy density. Nanocrystalline materials synthesized by chemical vapor deposition (CVD) techniques are being used as separator plates in batteries. They can store a significant amount of energy which is more than the conventional batteries.
    3. Self-Cleaning Surfaces: Self-cleaning surfaces are coated with highly activated films of titanium dioxide. Titanium dioxides thin films are exceptionally hydrophobic (water repellent coatings). These nano-coatings are capable of destroying chemical agents by catalysis. The efficiency of wear and scratch-resistant coatings are considerably improved by intermediate layers (nano-layers) And the substrate material and hard outer layer. The intermediate nano-layers provide excellent bonding thus improving adhesion.
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  5. 5
    Tougher and Harder Tools
    :
    Machining tools developed from nanocrystalline carbide materials, such as tantalum carbide-tungsten carbide, and titanium carbide, are significantly more durable, wear resistant and erosion-resistant. Conventional machining tools are being replaced by nano-coated tools to slit holes in circuit boards.
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  6. 6
    Military Battle Suits
    :
    State-of-the-art "Battle Suits" are being developed at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA. The materials used in the battle suits will contain energy absorbing nanomaterials (the fibers are covered with nanoparticles which make it blast resistant). Heat, temperature and pressure sensors will also be installed in the suits to detect chemical and biological weaponry.
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Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. (2017). In ScienceAid. Retrieved Dec 18, 2018, from https://scienceaid.net/Nanoscience_and_Nanotechnology

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Categories : Physics | Quantum Mechanics

Recent edits by: SmartyPants, Sharingknowledge, Chameleon

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