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Nanotechnology Definition

While looking at the vastness and magnificence of the universe, we tend to get lost in the macro scale. But the other extreme—the microscale—holds a universe of its own. Nanotechnology refers to the study, engineering, and manipulation of matter at atomic and molecular level. Technically, all form of studies and technological advances conducted on the matter that is smaller than 100 nm fall under nanotechnology. 

In the past decade, the importance, challenges, and application of nanotechnology have gained magnitude among different verticals—medicine, biotechnology, environmental sustainability, industrial, energy, and art. Though the discovery in the lines of the nanotube is still in progress, there is plenty of scope for it in the near future.

Importance of Nanotechnology

In the field of medicine, the use of nanotechnology has been able to increase the efficiency of delivering drugs to the unhealthy cells of an organ using nanoparticles. By the means of this, the overall side effects of a drug can be mitigated drastically and also, ensures that only the right dosage is administered. In the field of biotechnology, regenerative tissues using nanotechnology has shown a great potential to change the way various issues are being treated, fix diseases and morbid tissues in the body. In the long-term plan, nanobiotechnology or also referred to as nanobiology looks at re-growing lost limbs and could seemingly be an alternative for prosthetics.

On the industrial front, nanotechnology can be seen to create materials that may be 100 times stronger than steel and yet, one third the weight of it. With this development, the creation of automobiles that are faster, safer, and more fuel efficient.

To sum it up, nanotechnology can be a path-breaker in multiple industries and clearly give the world a look into the future.

Behind every vast marvel in the world, it's always a small, minuscule object that does all the work. It is imperative to consider the physics at the molecular level that governs the working of all the greater things. Nanotechnology refers to the study, engineering, and manipulation of matter at atomic and molecular levels. Any particle, smaller than 100 nm, comes under the umbrella of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology has been gaining magnitude and importance since the past decade and it has become a substantial part of all sciences.

In the field of medicine, the use of nanotechnology has been able to increase the efficiency of delivering drugs to the unhealthy and dying cells of organs with the use of nanoparticles. By means of this, the overall side effects of a drug are mitigated drastically and also, ensure that only the right dosage is administered. In the field of biotechnology, regenerative tissues that use nanotechnology has shown a great potential to change the way various issues are treated and also fix diseases and other morbid or decaying tissues in the body. In the long-term plan, nano-biotechnology or also referred to as nanobiology aims at re-growing lost limbs and could rise as an alternative to prosthetics. And on the industrial front, nanotechnology has been seen to create materials that may be a hundred times stronger than steel and yet, weighing only a third of it. This became a huge boon to the automobile and aircraft industries where weight saving and strength increase efficiency, reduce costs, and fuel consumption.

Molecular Nanotechnology

Molecular nanotechnology or molecular manufacturing best describes engineered nanosystems or nanoscale machines that operate on a molecular level. Molecular nanotechnology is often associated with a machine known as the molecular assembler which produces desired structures and devices atom-wise by following the principles of mechanosynthesis. Biometric principles are the fundamental building blocks of nanotechnology. However, many researchers have proposed theories that advanced nanotechnology could be ultimately based on the principles of mechanical engineering and the mechanical functionality of components such as motors, engines, screws, shafts, and so on which would, in turn, enable programmable, positional assembly to atomic specification. 

It is an arduous task to assemble devices at the atomic level due to varying sizes and stickiness of the atoms. There is a revered theory which states that all the nanosystems of the future will be hybrids of either silicon technology or biological molecular machines. It is also understood hat mechanosynthesis is virtually impossible due to the barriers involving individual molecules. Though biology shows that molecular machine systems are plausible, non-biological molecular machines are only very rarely seen. Some renowned researchers have constructed at least three distinct molecular devices which have their motion controlled from a mere computer with the help of a changing voltage like a nanotube nanomotor, a molecular actuator, and a nanoelectromechanical relaxation oscillator.

The smallest of molecules can be converted to any structure with the help of modern synthetic chemistry. Pharmaceuticals, commercial polymers and a wide range of other chemicals are manufactured today with the help of synthetic chemistry.

Tools and Techniques Involved in Nanotechnology

There have been quite some significant modern developments in the tools involving nanotechnology. The Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) and the Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM) are two of the first scanning probes that kick-started nanotechnology. However, there have been multiple other scanning microscopes like the confocal microscope and the scanning acoustic microscope (SAM). There have also been newer scanning probe microscopes with much more resolution as they are not bounded by the wavelength of sound or light.

These highly-sophisticated scanning probes are perfectly capable of positional assembly with the help of their tips. Moreover, feature-oriented scanning methodology and nanomanipulation are two other complicated yet effective procedures that the probes can handle. But due to the lower scanning speeds of the microscopes, the processes are quite slow in nature.

There have been plenty of techniques involved in nanotechnology, some new, some old, and some experimental. Some of them include the likes of nanolithography, optical lithography, X-ray lithography, electron beam lithography, and so on. Lithography, in essence, is a top to bottom fabrication technique where a bulk material is reduced in size to that of a nanoscale pattern. Other techniques involve those used for the fabrication of nanotubes, nanowires, and also semiconductor fabrication such as UV lithography, Electron Beam Lithography (EBL), nano-imprint lithography, Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD), Focused Ion Beam Machining, Molecular Vapor Deposition (MVD) and so on. These techniques preceded the nanotechnology era and are the extensions in the development of scientific advancements rather the techniques that were produced with the sole purpose of creating nanotechnology.

Fundamental approaches to Nanotechnology

There are two fundamental approaches to nanotechnology namely the top-down approach and the bottom-up approach. The top-down approach anticipates nanodevices that must be built from scratch in stages just like how manufactured items are made. With the use of atomic force microscopes and scanning tunneling microscopes, surfaces can be scanned and atoms can be moved around physically. And with the help of different tips designed for these microscopes, carving out structures on surfaces and self-assembling structures can be easily carried out. Expense and time are two constraints to this approach. On the contrary, the bottom-up approach builds larger structures atom by atom or molecular. Chemical synthesis, self-assembly, and positional assembly are three main procedures involved in the bottom-up techniques. A slight variation of the bottom-up approach is the molecular beam epitaxy approach (MBE). It was initially built as a research tool, and later on, samples made by the MBE were vital in the discovery of the fractional quantum Hall effect which ultimately got the Nobel prize. Through the use of MBE, scientists can lay down precise layers of atoms and build complex structures.    

Thus, all in all, nanotechnology has humungous scope in almost all fields due to its intricate nature that affects the very skeleton of most things. With the rise of nanotechnology, the future of molecular and atomic science has great scope for expansion and development.

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