I have been aware about the concept of “nanotechnology” but I’ve never been sure what it was all about and how it benefits us both economically and technologically. I remember Ms. Jordan bringing up something about nanotechnology, but I was never quite sure what it really is. To me, it sounded very interesting and so I decided to find out more about it and perhaps share it with others who are at the same boat as me. I do know that nano means a billionth of a certain unit. As I recall from my physics classes, nanosecond simply means a billionth of a second, and a nano meter means a billionth of a meter. Nanotechnology involves dealing with or creating technology at the nanoscale. This means that scientists can build tools almost at an atomic level. But why are scientists building such small tools? Some particles that are not conductors on a “macro-scale” can actually be conductors at their “micro-scale.” This implies that nanotechnology help electronic developers create lighter and faster devices. The particles that have been widely used in nanotechnology are the carbon nanotubes. When we studied Periodicity in Chemistry, we learned that carbons form strong covalent bonds and that the delocalized electrons allow them to conduct electricity. Nanotubes, we can say, are the “cousins” of the buckyball or the fullerenes. Imagine obtaining a layer of graphite and rolling it into a cylinder. You have created a nanotube!
Nanotubes have a width of about 1.3 nanometers (Derry, Clark, Ellis, Jeffrey, & Jordan, 2009), slightly larger than the buckyball which is about 1 nanometer. Other than the fact that they are made of strong covalent bonds, nanotubes can be used in computer chips to spread out the heat created by the silicon chips because of their high thermal conductivity. Nanotubes can also be used for medical purposes. Because of the strong covalent molecules, spinning threads from them is possible. Artificial muscles made from yarn can be woven with nanotubes. These artificial muscles were found to be stronger than normal human muscles in terms of its ability to lift heavy weights. Furthermore, nanotubes have the ability to store energy to power devices. For instance, they can “act as test tubes” for storing the hydrogen in hydrogen fueled cars. It just seems that the possibilities for these nanotubes are pretty much endless!
Remember when we used to have heavier phones and heavier computers? Notice how they’ve all become so much lighter. A great example of this is the Macbook air. Apple has been creating devices that just seem to get lighter and lighter and it is all because of these wonderful nanotubes. Electronic companies are utilizing these nanotubes ,more and more efficiently, as digital storages to build lighter, stronger, and faster devices. This makes devices ever more portable and accessible, which are why technology is such a huge part of our lives today.
In the medical world, scientists are still researching some of the things that nanotubes can contribute to our health and wellbeing. Earlier I’ve mention that nanotubes can be used to create artificial muscles. In the long run, nanotubes also play a role in increasing the human life expectancy. So not only devices get more powerful and strong, but also us humans.
It is important to know that even the most advanced technologies may have drawbacks. Regardless of how amazing this might be, the risks of nanotechnology are not yet fully understood. Some research has found that nanotechnology can be hazardous when exposed (Nano.org, 2012). Earlier I have mentioned that in nanotechnology, some macro particles may be behave or have different properties at the micro scale. This implies that even though nanotechnology has been widely used in devices, it is still working its way through the medical world. We can only hope that the risks are minimal so that it can prosper into our very world of developing high speed, powerful, and efficient technology.
Bonsor and Strickland (2007), How Nanotechnology Works. How Stuff Works. Retrieved from http://www.howstuffworks.com/nanotechnology.htm
Saxl (2012), Making the Most of Carbon Nanotubes. Institute of Nanotechnology. Retrieved from http://www.nano.org.uk/nano/nanotubes.php
Derry, L., Clark, F., Ellis, J., Jeffrey, F., & Jordan, C. (2009). Chemistry for use with the IB Diploma Programme Options: Standard and Higher Level. Melbourne, Victoria: Pearson Heinemann.
Nanotube [image]. (2007). Retrieved from http://images.yourdictionary.com/nanotube