Nanotechnology: Smaller materials create a big impact on modern technology
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Since the onset of the Industrial Revolution, the economy has revolved around supply and demand, encouraging the development of new inventions to improve efficiency, thus beginning the origins and transformations of modern technology. For many years, science has introduced newer equipment and gadgets that make human life easier and more manageable. Technology has had many breakthroughs and contributions to communication, knowledge and health. Although technology has been continuously aiming for better and bigger ideas, there has been a growing trend in physically smaller devices and materials and a “smaller” type of science -- nanotechnology.
The foundations of nanotechnology have emerged over many decades of research in many different fields. Computer circuits have been getting smaller and chemicals have been getting more complex. Biochemists have learned more about the study and control of the molecular basis of organisms. Mechanical engineering has been reaching milestones in precision and inventions. Federal funding for nanotechnology began under President Clinton with the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). Nanoscale technology is defined as anything with a size between one and 100 nanometers with novel properties. The initiative encompassed innovative semiconductor research and cutting-edge advances in materials. Presently in the nanotechnology field, scientists are taking control of atoms and molecules, manipulating them and utilizing them with an extraordinary degree of precision.
Since 2000, there has been a rising awareness of nanotechnology among environmental activists, regulators and lawmakers. Their associated organizations have expressed fears about potential ecological and health consequences of this emerging technology. They have insisted on increased and extensive research into the safety of nanoparticles. Seemingly, the only governmental organization in America actively exploring regulation to address these concerns is the FDA. Since 2011, they have released a series of draft guidelines to direct the development and incorporation of nanotechnology into consumer products, particularly the food and cosmetics industry. There have also been recent claims and issues concerning the negative effects of nanotechnology. UCLA researchers have identified nanomaterials that can cause oxidative damage to cells. Semiconductor properties of-metal-oxide nanomaterials could potentially translate into health hazards for humans, animals and the environment. Scientists at Trent University have created the Lake Ecosystem Nanosilver (LENS) project, which will investigate and understand the effect of of nanosilver particles on the aquatic environment. Nanosilver particles are among the the most widely-used nanomaterials in consumer products, and as they are disposed, there is a risk that nanosilvers will travel through municipal water systems into lakes and rivers.
Nanomaterials are new to the fields of science and production, and will therefore present both disadvantages and advantages to technology. Nanotechnology still needs to be perfected and while the aforementioned issues addresses possible risks, it still creates new ways to control the properties of materials. It is also interesting to note that the FDA presents guidelines and not actual legislation, suggesting only speculative caution on nanotechnology. This is similar for the research at UCLA and Trent University which have only revealed possible negative effects. There will likely be hazards for any type of new technology, however the benefits and advantages of nanomaterials outweigh a greater need for more research on its part.
Among the basic principles of nanotechnology is positional control. At the macroscopic scale, it is obviously simple to physically hold parts and assemble them. However, it has been the exact opposite on the nanoscopic scale up until recent years. It is about advantageously rearranging atoms and molecules in various ways. Nanotechnology can continue the revolution in consumer production, transportation, computers, military applications and medical uses. In the medical world, nanotechnology has had a great focus on tissue regeneration, bone repair, immunity and life-threatening ailments. It is also seen as a great benefit to the energy sector. Nanomaterials will play a role in solar energy by cutting costs of solar cells and the equipment needed to deploy them, creating a more economical renewable power source. Solar has steadily been emerging into the economy, and could eventually become mainstream.
Implementing this kind of technology has shown characteristics and developments that were thought to be impossible fifty years ago. Since then, there has been great advances in medicine, environmental systems, transportation and goods. This will undoubtedly continue to happen fifty years from now. With each new aspect of science discovered, there is continued research into the safety of its adaptation into mainstream usage. Nanotechnology may still pose disadvantages, but they will be minimal in the upcoming future. Technology offering these significant potential advances for manufacturing, energy, computing and medicine is something worth perfecting.