Nanotechnology revenues are estimated to reach $1 Trillion worldwide by 2015. Nanotechnology is often considered as a new revolution, as was the industrial revolution, because nanotechnology manipulates matter at the atomic scale to create new applications in materials, medicine, robotics, electronics and energy.
But what really is Nanotechnology? Nanotechnology is a field of applied science and technology which gives us the ability to build up things starting from the scale of an individual atom. This means the ability to manipulate materials so tiny that nothing can be built any smaller. Twenty year ago you could not have imagined the entire Encyclopedia being stored in a single memory stick, and today, can you imagine the same stored in a chip the size of a dust particle? When you divide one metre by one billion you get one nano. If you split bacteria into 200 equal parts, then one part equals one nanometre. This is the atom scale of the nanotechnology. When things are built at such a scale you get precision, strength, unique colours and a feel of creation rather than built. The idea of nanotechnology was started in 1959 by a physicist Richard Feynman at American Physical Society meeting at Caltech.
There is still a long way to go to handle materials on a nano scale. Many scientists believe that within the next twenty year we will achieve a lot in this field. During that time we will have to establish techniques to move single atoms using nano robots machines operating at nanoscale and build large-scale structures. Like the invention of the wheel, there will be nano gears, bearings, motors, nano compiler, and nano multipliers and so on and so forth. About twenty years ago, IBM were able to position 35 xenon atoms on the surface of a nickel crystal using atomic force microscopy instrument which spelled out the word IBM. Since then, modern use has been in the manufacture of polymers based on molecular structure and design of surface science computer chip layouts. Commercially, nanotechnology is being applied in bulk nano-particles in manufacture of stain resistant clothing, protective coatings, suntan lotions, disinfectants, fuel catalysts and cosmetics.
As we stand now, nanotechnology is the new frontier and its potential impact is compelling. Huge amounts of funding are being spent by governments towards nanotechnology research and development. Like before, the main beneficially of such funding is Defence. New nanotech weapons and lightweight bullet-proof nanotech clothing are soon coming up. Once through with military superiority, then the nanotechnology will be released proper to the private sector. Here, there will be better uses that will include provision of clean water, greater agricultural production, cheap energy, clean environment, better diagnostics, drugs and organs replacements, greater information processing and storage, and reduced labour. When that time comes, you will be able to replace your car with an inexpensive nanotech car. A nanotech car will look like a creation of God or that has come from outer space.
With all the sweet promises that Nanotechnology has, including the potential to have positive effects on the environment, environmental and health risks will be the biggest challenges. These nana particles have very great surface area to volume ratio, and therefore toxic due to their high chemical reactivity and biological activity — they can easily penetrate human skins and get entry to organs and tissues such as the kidneys, brain, spleen, heart, liver, and nervous system. And that coupled with the fact that these nanomaterials has a huge potential to cause DNA mutation, then, it is just a matter of time before opposing groups find the right opportunity to strike in saying no to the entire nanotechnology. And to the shrewd businessman and woman, you can only gamble in being ahead of everyone else in nanotechnology opportunities that are promising heaven.