Week 9_Nanotech: A Rising Industry by Beverly Okereke

In class, Professor Vesna discussed the rising industry of nanotechnology.  It’s an exciting new idea that I personally would love to explore further. Just the idea of billions of microstructures making a difference in our world is just fascinating.

But what exactly is nanotechnology? According to the definition provided by the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology, “Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale.”

Nanotech Cartoon

Nanotech Cartoon

And how does nanotechnology work? Nanotech arranges carbon molecules into nanotubes which make it possible to make a number of things, including the space elevator mentioned in this video: How Nanotech Works

Nanotech at Work

As a life science student, I feel like nanotech could do amazing things for the treatment of human disorders and diseases:

Imagine a medical device that travels through the human body to seek out and destroy small clusters of cancerous cells before they can spread. Or a box no larger than a sugar cube that contains the entire contents of the Library of Congress. Or materials much lighter than steel that possess ten times as much strength. — U.S. National Science Foundation

1. Nanotech and Cancer 

2. Nanotech and Cancer 2

Even in the well known box office hit, I Robot, the 2004 Will Smith movie about anti-robot detective who leads an investigation of the death of a prominent robotics expert, there is a mention of nanobots that lingers throughout the entire movie. In the movie, nanobots, or “nanites” as they are called in the movie, help to cure and treat a number of human diseases as they enter the body’s bloodstream and attack the problem that they are programmed to treat.

I, Robot

I, Robot

 

Nanotech is known for its ability to be used for a variety of things. For example, last year it was found that certain organic molecules have a conductive property that, according to Sahil Nagpal in an article posted on TopNews.in, “provides a new strategy for designing electronic materials, including inexpensive and multifunctional organic conductors that have long been considered the key to smaller cheaper, and faster technologies.” Conductive Property of Organic Molecules

Click on this picture to watch a video about the potential future of nanotech and its relation to the future of medical breakthroughs:

Nanotech and the Body

Nanotech and the Body

Even with all of the benefits of nanotechnology, there are also many risks. Risks

Now nanotech works

Example of Nanotech Risks - Mesothelioma

As an example of the video, there are many risks that are linked to the future of nanotech. Delving even further into the idea 0f nanotechnology being risky, I found this article that was posted in the middle of last year: Nano Risks
It basically explains how the well known carbon-60 molecules called “buckyballs” (named after Buck inster Fuller and known for their use in the production of nanotubes) have been found to cause potential environmental and health hazards, especially in the form of cell and tissue damage. Buckyballs and Risk to Living Tissue
And in regards to the future of nanotech, there was an interesting article on How Stuff Works.com that made me think about the risks of nanotech in a more insightful way. The article mentions how we need to learn more about nanotech. There is the idea floating around saying that nao-sized particles may be toxic, and thta, since they are so small, they may be able to cross the blood-brain barrier in the body, causing internal bodily harm.  Here is an excerpt from the aforementioned article about “Apocalyptic Goo” and how nanotech may possibly lead to the end of the organic world as we know it.
Apocalyptic GooEric Drexler, the man who introduced the word nanotechnology, presented a frightening apocalyptic vision — self-replicating nanorobots malfunctioning, duplicating themselves a trillion times over, rapidly consuming the entire world as they pull carbon from the environment to build more of themselves. It’s called the “grey goo” scenario, where a synthetic nano-size device replaces all organic material. Another scenario involves nanodevices made of organic material wiping out the Earth — the “green goo” scenario.

Also, in the weapons industry, nanotech may bring rise to new and more powerful weaponry, while in the medical industry, nanotech may possibly lead to a transhuman race that, according to the article, may lead to many ethical questions. Here is the article: Nanotech Challenges There are also a number of nanotech links at the top of the article.

I personally found this video interesting. It basically sums up nanotechnology: NANOTECHNOLOGY

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