what is nano electronics ?
detail it please.
Nanotechnology is the design, characterization, production and application of structures, devices and systems by controlling shape and size at the nanoscale. Eight to ten atoms span one nanometer (nm). The human hair is approximately 70,000 to 80,000 nm thick.
Nanotechnology should really be called “nanotechnologies”: There is no single field of nanotechnology. The term broadly refers to such fields as biology, physics or chemistry, any scientific field, or a combination thereof, that deals with the deliberate and controlled manufacturing of nanostructures.The United States' National Nanotechnology Initiative website defines it as follows: "Nanotechnology is the understanding and control of matter at dimensions of roughly 1 to 100 nanometers, where unique phenomena enable novel applications."
Nanoscience is the study of phenomena and manipulation of material at the nanoscale, in essence an extension of existing sciences into the nanoscale. Nanoscience is the world of atoms, molecules, macromolecules, quantum dots, and macromolecular assemblies, and is dominated by surface effects such as Van der Waals force attraction, hydrogen bonding, electronic charge, ionic bonding, covalent bonding, hydrophobicity, hydrophilicity, and quantum mechanical tunneling, to the virtual exclusion of macro-scale effects such as turbulence and inertia. For example, the vastly increased ratio of surface area to volume opens new possibilities in surface-based science, such as catalysis.
The ongoing quest for miniaturization has resulted in tools such as the atomic force microscope (AFM) and the scanning tunneling microscope (STM). Combined with refined processes such as electron beam lithography, these instruments allow us to deliberately manipulate and manufacture nanostructures. Engineered nanomaterials, either by way of a top-down approach (a bulk material is reduced in size to nanoscale pattern) or a bottom-up approach (larger structures are built or grown atom by atom or molecule by molecule), go beyond just a further step in miniaturization. They have broken a size barrier below which quantization of energy for the electrons in solids becomes relevant. The so-called “quantum size effect” describes the physics of electron properties in solids with great reductions in particle size. This effect does not come into play by going from macro to micro dimensions. However, it becomes dominant when the nanometer size range is reached. Materials reduced to the nanoscale can suddenly show very different properties compared to what they show on a macroscale. For instance, opaque substances become transparent (copper); inert materials become catalysts (platinum); stable materials turn combustible (aluminum); solids turn into liquids at room temperature (gold); insulators become conductors (silicon).
A second important aspect of the nanoscale is that the smaller a nanoparticle gets, the larger its relative surface area becomes. Its electronic structure changes dramatically, too. Both effects lead to greatly improved catalytic activity but can also lead to aggressive chemical reactivity.
The fascination with nanotechnology stems from these unique quantum and surface phenomena that matter exhibits at the nanoscale, making possible novel applications and interesting materials.
History of use
The first mention of some of the distinguishing concepts in nanotechnology (but predating use of that name) was in "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom," a talk given by physicist Richard Feynman at an American Physical Society meeting at Caltech on December 29, 1959. Feynman described a process by which the ability to manipulate individual atoms and molecules might be developed, using one set of precise tools to build and operate another proportionally smaller set, so on down to the needed scale. In the course of this, he noted, scaling issues would arise from the changing magnitude of various physical phenomena: gravity would become less important, surface tension and Van der Waals attraction would become more important, etc. This basic idea appears feasible, and exponential assembly enhances it with parallelism to produce a useful quantity of end products.
The term "nanotechnology" was defined by Tokyo Science University Professor Norio Taniguchi in a 1974 paper (N. Taniguchi, "On the Basic Concept of 'Nano-Technology'," Proc. Intl. Conf. Prod. Eng. Tokyo, Part II, Japan Society of Precision Engineering, 1974.) as follows: "'Nano-technology' mainly consists of the processing of, separation, consolidation, and deformation of materials by one atom or one molecule." In the 1980s the basic idea of this definition was explored in much more depth by Dr. Eric Drexler, who promoted the technological significance of nano-scale phenomena and devices through speeches and the books Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology and Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation, (ISBN 0-471-57518-6), and so the term acquired its current sense.
More broadly, nanotechnology includes the many techniques used to create structures at a size scale below 100 nm, including those used for fabrication of nanowires, those used in semiconductor fabrication such as deep ultraviolet lithography, electron beam lithography, focused ion beam machining, nanoimprint lithography, atomic layer deposition, and molecular vapor deposition, and further including molecular self-assembly techniques such as those employing di-block copolymers. It should be noted, however, that all of these techniques preceded the nanotech era, and are extensions in the development of scientific advancements rather than techniques which were devised with the sole purpose of creating nanotechnology or which were results of nanotechnology research.
Nanotechnology and nanoscience got started in the early 1980s with two major developments; the birth of cluster science and the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope (STM). This development led to the discovery of fullerenes in 1986 and carbon nanotubes a few years later. In another development, the synthesis and properties of semiconductor nanocrystals was studied. This led to a fast increasing number of metal oxide nanoparticles of quantum dots.
Technologies currently branded with the term 'nano' are little related to and fall far short of the most ambitious and transformative technological goals of the sort in molecular manufacturing proposals, but the term still connotes such ideas. Thus there may be a danger that a "nano bubble" will form from the use of the term by scientists and entrepreneurs to garner funding, regardless of (and perhaps despite a lack of) interest in the transformative possibilities of more ambitious and far-sighted work. The diversion of support based on the promises of proposals like molecular manufacturing to more mundane projects also risks creating a perhaps unjustifiedly cynical impression of the most ambitious goals: an investor intrigued by molecular manufacturing who invests in 'nano' only to find typical materials science advances result might conclude that the whole idea is hype, unable to appreciate the bait-and-switch made possible by the vagueness of the term. On the other hand, some have argued that the publicity and competence in related areas generated by supporting such 'soft nano' projects is valuable, even if indirect, progress towards nanotechnology's most ambitious goals.
Definition of nanostructures
In describing nanostructures we need to differentiate between the number of dimensions of the nanoscale. Nanotextured surfaces are one dimension on the nanoscale, i.e., only the thickness of the surface of an object is between 0.1 and 100 nm. Nanotubes are two dimensions on the nanoscale, i.e., the diameter of the tube is between 0.1 and 100nm; its length could be much greater. Finally, spherical nanoparticles are three dimensions on the nanoscale, i.e., the particle is between 0.1 and 100 nm in each spatial dimension. The terms nanoparticles and ultrafine particles (UFP) often are used synonymously although UFP can reach into the micron range.
Applications and potential benefits
With nanotechnology, a large set of materials with distinct properties (optical, electrical, or magnetic) can be fabricated. Nanotechnologically improved products rely on a change in the physical properties when the feature sizes are shrunk. Nanoparticles for example take advantage of their dramatically increased surface area to volume ratio. Their optical properties, e.g. fluorescence, become a function of the particle diameter. When brought into a bulk material, nanoparticles can strongly influence the mechanical properties, such as the stiffness or elasticity. Example, traditional polymers can be reinforced by nanoparticles resulting in novel materials e.g. as lightweight replacements for metals. Therefore, an increasing societal benefit of such nanoparticles can be expected.
Such nanotechnologically enhanced materials will enable a weight reduction accompanied by an increase in stability and an improved functionality.
The biological and medical research communities have exploited the unique properties of nanomaterials for various applications (e.g., contrast agents for cell imaging and therapeutics for treating cancer). Terms such as biomedical nanotechnology, bionanotechnology, and nanomedicine are used to describe this hybrid field.
Functionalities can be added to nanomaterials by interfacing them with biological molecules or structures. The size of nanomaterials is similar to that of most biological molecules and structures; therefore, nanomaterials can be useful for both in vivo and in vitro biomedical research and applications.
Thus far, the integration of nanomaterials with biology has led to the development of diagnostic devices, contrast agents, analytical tools, therapy, and drug-delivery vehicles.
Nanotechnology-on-a-chip is one more dimension of lab-on-a-chip technology. Biological tests measuring the presence or activity of selected substances become quicker, more sensitive and more flexible when certain nanoscale particles are put to work as tags or labels. Magnetic nanoparticles, bound to a suitable antibody, are used to label specific molecules, structures or microorganisms. Gold nanoparticles tagged with short segments of DNA can be used for detection of genetic sequence in a sample. Multicolor optical coding for biological assays has been achieved by embedding different-sized quantum dots into polymeric microbeads. Nanopore technology for analysis of nucleic acids converts strings of nucleotides directly into electronic signatures.
The overall drug consumption and side-effects can be lowered significantly by depositing the active agent in the morbid region only and in no higher dose than needed. This highly selective approach reduces costs and human suffering. An example can be found in dendrimers and nanoporous materials. They could hold small drug molecules transporting them to the desired location. Another vision is based on small electromechanical systems: NEMS are being investigated for the active release of drugs. Some potentially important applications include cancer treatment with iron nanoparticles or gold shells.
A targeted or personalized medicine reduces the drug consumption and treatment expenses resulting in an overall societal benefit by reducing the costs to the public health system.
Nanotechnology can help to reproduce or to repair damaged tissue. This so called “tissue engineering” makes use of artificially stimulated cell proliferation by using suitable nanomaterial-based scaffolds and growth factors. Tissue engineering might replace today’s conventional treatments, e.g. transplantation of organs or artificial implants. On the other hand, tissue engineering is closely related to the ethical debate on human stem cells and its ethical implications.
Chemistry and environment
Chemical catalysis and filtration techniques are two prominent examples where nanotechnology already plays a role. The synthesis provides novel materials with tailored features and chemical properties e.g. nanoparticles with a distinct chemical surrounding (ligands) or specific optical properties. In this sense, chemistry is indeed a basic nanoscience. In a short-term perspective, chemistry will provide novel “nanomaterials” and in the long run, superior processes such as “self-assembly” will enable energy and time preserving strategies.
In a sense, all chemical synthesis can be understood in terms of nanotechnology, because of its ability to manufacture certain molecules. Thus, chemistry forms a base for nanotechnology providing tailor-made molecules, polymers etc. and furthermore clusters and nanoparticles.
Chemical catalysis benefits especially from nanoparticles, due to the extremely large surface to volume ratio. The application potential of nanoparticles in catalysis ranges from fuel cell to catalytic converters and photocatalytic devices. Catalysis is also important for the production of chemicals.
A strong influence of nanochemistry on waste-water treatment, air purification and energy storage devices is to be expected. Mechanical or chemical methods can be used for effective filtration techniques. One class of filtration techniques is based on the use of membranes with suitable hole sizes, whereby the liquid is pressed through the membrane. Nanoporous membranes are suitable for a mechanical filtration with extremely small pores smaller than 10 nm (“nanofiltration”). Nanofiltration is mainly used for the removal of ions or the separation of different fluids. On a larger scale, the membrane filtration technique is named ultrafiltration, which works down to between 10 and 100 nm. One important field of application for ultrafiltration is medical purposes as can be found in renal dialysis.
Magnetic nanoparticles offer an effective and reliable method to remove heavy metal contaminants from waste water by making use of magnetic separation techniques. Using nanoscale particles increases the efficiency to absorb the contaminants and is comparatively inexpensive compared to traditional precipitation and filtration methods.
The most advanced nanotechnology projects related to energy are: storage, conversion, manufacturing improvements by reducing materials and process rates, energy saving e.g. by better thermal insulation, and enhance renewable energies sources.
Reduction of energy consumption
A reduction of energy consumption can be reached by better insulation systems, by the use of more efficient lighting or combustion systems, and by use of lighter and stronger materials in the transportation sector. Currently used light bulbs only convert approximately 5% of the electrical energy into light. Nanotechnological approaches like LEDs (Light-emitting diodes) or QCAs (Quantum Caged Atoms) could lead to a strong reduction of energy consumption for illumination.
Increasing the efficiency of energy production
Today's best solar cells have layers of two different semiconductors stacked together to absorb light at different energies but they still only manage to use 30 percent of the Sun's energy. Commercially available solar cells have much lower efficiencies (less than 20%). Nanotechnology can help to increase the efficiency of light conversion by specifically designed nanostructures. The degree of efficiency of combustion engines is not higher than 15-20% at the moment. Nanotechnology can improve combustion by designing specific catalysts with maximized surface area.
The use of more environmentally friendly energy systems
An example for an environmentally friendly form of energy is the use of fuel cells powered by hydrogen, which is ideally produced by renewable energies. Probably the most prominent nanostructured material in fuel cells is the catalyst consisting of carbon supported noble metal particles with diameters of 1- 5 nm. Suitable materials for hydrogen storage contain a large number of small nanosized pores. Therefore many nanostructured materials like nanotubes, zeolites or alanates are under investigation.
Nanotechnology can contribute to the further reduction of combustion engine pollutants by nanoporous filters, which can clean the exhaust mechanically, by catalytic converters based on nanoscale noble metal particles or by catalytic coatings on cylinder walls and catalytic nanoparticles as additive for fuels.
Recycling of batteries
Because of the relatively low energy density of batteries the operating time is limited and a replacement or recharging is needed. The huge number of spent batteries and accumulators represent a disposal problem. The use of batteries with higher energy content or the use of rechargeable batteries or supercapacitors with higher rate of recharging using nanomaterials could be helpful for the battery disposal problem.
Information and Communication
Current high-technology production processes are based on traditional top down strategies, where nanotechnology has already been introduced silently. The critical length scale of integrated circuits is already at the nanoscale (50 nm and below) regarding the gate length of transistors in CPUs or DRAM devices.
Novel semiconductor devices
An example of such novel devices is based on spintronics.The dependence of the resistance of a material (due to the spin of the electrons) on an external field is called magnetoresistance. This effect can be significantly amplified (GMR – Giant Magneto-Resistance) for nanosized objects, for example when two ferromagnetic layers are separated by a nonmagnetic layer, which is several nanometers thick (e.g. Co-Cu-Co). The GMR effect has led to a strong increase in the data storage density of hard disks and made the gigabyte range possible. The so called tunneling magnetoresistance (TMR) is very similar to GMR and based on the spin dependant tunneling of electrons through adjacent ferromagnetic layers. Both the GMR- and the TMR-effect can be used to create a non-volatile main memory for computers, such as the so called magnetic random access memory or MRAM.
Novel optoelectronic devices
In the modern communication technology traditional analog electrical devices are increasingly replaced by optical or optoelectronic devices due to their enormous bandwidth and capacity, respectively. Two promising examples are photonic crystals and quantum dots.
Photonic crystals are materials with a periodic variation in the refractive index with a lattice constant that is half the wavelength of the light used. They offer a selectable band gap for the propagation of a certain wavelength, thus they resemble a semiconductor, but for light or photons instead of electrons.
Quantum dots are nanoscaled objects, which can be used, among many other things, for the construction of lasers. The advantage of a quantum dot laser over the traditional semiconductor laser is that their emitted wavelength depends on the diameter of the dot. Quantum dot lasers are cheaper and offer a higher beam quality than conventional laser diodes.
The production of displays with low energy consumption could be accomplished using carbon nanotubes. CNTs can be electrically conductive and due to their small diameter of several nanometers, they can be used as field emitters with extremely high efficiency for field emission displays (FED). The principle of operation resembles that of the cathode ray tube, but on a much smaller length scale.
Entirely new approaches for computing exploit the laws of quantum mechanics for novel quantum computers, which enable the use of fast quantum algorithms.
Nanotechnology is already impacting the field of consumer goods, providing products with novel functions ranging from easy-to-clean to scratch-resistant. Modern textiles are wrinkle-resistant and stain-repellent; in the mid-term clothes will become “smart”, through embedded “wearable electronics”. Already in use are different nanoparticle improved products. Especially in the field of cosmetics such novel products have a promising potential.
Nanotechnology can be applied in the production, processing, safety and packaging of food. A nanocomposite coating process could improve food packaging by placing anti-microbial agents directly on the surface of the coated film. Nanocomposites could increase or decrease gas permeability of different fillers as is needed for different products. They can also improve the mechanical and heat-resistance properties and lower the oxygen transmission rate. Research is being performed to apply nanotechnology to the detection of chemical and biological substances for sensing biochemical changes in foods.
The most prominent application of nanotechnology in the household is self-cleaning or “easy-to-clean” surfaces on ceramics or glasses. Common household equipment like flat irons has improved smoothness and heat-resistance due to nanoceramic particles.
The first sunglasses using protective and antireflective ultrathin polymer coatings are on the market. For optics, nanotechnology also offers scratch resistant coatings based on nanocomposites.
The use of engineered nanofibers already makes clothes water- and stain-repellent or wrinkle-free. Textiles with a nanotechnological finish can be washed less frequently and at lower temperatures. Nanotechnology has been used to integrate tiny carbon particles membrane and guarantee full-surface protection from electrostatic charges for the wearer.
Tennis rackets with carbon nanotubes have an increased torsion and flex resistance. The rackets are more rigid than current carbon rackets and pack more power. Long-lasting tennis-balls are made by coating the inner core with clay polymer nanocomposites. These tennis-balls have twice the lifetime of conventional balls.
One field of application is in sunscreens. The traditional chemical UV protection approach suffers from its poor long-term stability. A sunscreen based on mineral nanoparticles such as titanium dioxide offer several advantages. Titanium dioxide nanoparticles have a comparable UV protection property as the bulk material, but lose the cosmetically undesirable whitening as the particle size is decreased.
Potential risks of nanotechnology can broadly be grouped into three areas: (1) the risk to health and environment from nanoparticles and nanomaterials; (2) the risk posed by molecular manufacturing (or advanced nanotechnology); (3) societal risks.
Risks from nanoparticles
The mere presence of nanomaterials (materials that contain nanoparticles) is not in itself a threat. It is only certain aspects that can make them risky, in particular their mobility and their increased reactivity. Only if certain properties of certain nanoparticles were harmful to living beings or the environment would we be faced with a genuine hazard.
In addressing the health and environmental impact of nanomaterials we need to differentiate two types of nanostructures: (1) Nanocomposites, nanostructured surfaces and nanocomponents (electronic, optical, sensors etc.), where nanoscale particles are incorporated into a substance, material or device (“fixed” nano-particles); and (2) “free” nanoparticles, where at some stage in production or use individual nanoparticles of a substance are present. These free nanoparticles could be nanoscale species of elements, or simple compounds, but also complex compounds where for instance a nanoparticle of a particular element is coated with another substance (“coated” nanoparticle or “core-shell” nanoparticle).
There seems to be consensus that, although one should be aware of materials containing fixed nanoparticles, the immediate concern is with free nanoparticles.
Because nanoparticles are very different from their everyday counterparts, their adverse effects cannot be derived from the known toxicity of the macro-sized material. This poses significant issues for addressing the health and environmental impact of free nanoparticles.
To complicate things further, in talking about nanoparticles it is important that a powder or liquid containing nanoparticles is almost never monodisperse, but will contain a range of particle sizes. This complicates the experimental analysis as larger nanoparticles might have different properties than smaller ones. Also, nanoparticles show a tendency to aggregate and such aggregates often behave differently from individual nanoparticles.
There are four entry routes for nanoparticles into the body: they can be inhaled, swallowed, absorbed through skin or be deliberately injected during medical procedures (or released from implants). Once within the body they are highly mobile and in some instances can even cross the blood-brain barrier.
How these nanoparticles behave inside the organism is one of the big issues that needs to be resolved. Basically, the behavior of nanoparticles is a function of their size, shape and surface reactivity with the surrounding tissue. They could cause “overload” on phagocytes, cells that ingest and destroy foreign matter, thereby triggering stress reactions that lead to inflammation and weaken the body’s defense against other pathogens. Apart from what happens if non- or slowly degradable nanoparticles accumulate in organs, another concern is their potential interaction with biological processes inside the body: because of their large surface, nanoparticles on exposure to tissue and fluids will immediately absorb onto their surface some of the macromolecules they encounter. Can this, for instance, affect the regulatory mechanisms of enzymes and other proteins?
Certain nanoparticles can also have negative effects on the body. For example, in a lake, trout have been known to die of overexposure to the slightest amount of Carbon 60 (a molecule consiting of 60 carbon atoms, known technically as buckminsterfullerenes or colloquially as "bucky balls"). The bucky ball itself is a popular molecule in the production of carbon based nanostructures such as carbon tubes.
Not enough data exists to know for sure if nanoparticles could have undesirable effects on the environment. Two areas are relevant here: (1) In free form nanoparticles can be released in the air or water during production (or production accidents) or as waste byproduct of production, and ultimately accumulate in the soil, water or plant life. (2) In fixed form, where they are part of a manufactured substance or product, they will ultimately have to be recycled or disposed of as waste. We don’t know yet if certain nanoparticles will constitute a completely new class of non-biodegradable pollutant. In case they do, we also don’t know yet how such pollutants could be removed from air or water because most traditional filters are not suitable for such tasks (their pores are too big to catch nanoparticles).
Health and environmental issues combine in the workplace of companies engaged in producing or using nanomaterials and in the laboratories engaged in nanoscience and nanotechnology research. It is safe to say that current workplace exposure standards for dusts cannot be applied directly to nanoparticle dusts.
To properly assess the health hazards of engineered nanoparticles the whole life cycle of these particles needs to be evaluated, including their fabrication, storage and distribution, application and potential abuse, and disposal. The impact on humans or the environment may vary at different stages of the life cycle.
Risks from molecular manufacturing
An often cited worst-case scenario is "grey goo", a hypothetical substance into which the surface of the earth might be transformed by self-replicating nanobots running amok. This concept has been analyzed by Freitas in "Some Limits to Global Ecophagy by Biovorous Nanoreplicators, with Public Policy Recommendations"  With the advent of nan-biotech, a different scenario called green goo has been forwarded. Here, the malignant substance is not nanobots but rather self-replicating organisms engineered through nanotechnology.
Societal risks from the use of nanotechnology have also been raised. On the instrumental level, these include the possibility of military applications of nanotechnology (such as implants and other means for soldier enhancement, such as those being developed at the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies at MIT ) as well as enhanced surveillance capabilities through nano-sensors.
On the structural level, critics of nanotechnology point to a new world of ownership and corporate control opened up by nanotechnolgoy. The claim is that, just as biotechnology's ability to manipulate genes went hand in hand with the patenting of life, so too nanotechnology's ability to manipulate molecules has led to the patenting of matter. The last few years has seen a gold rush to claim patents at the nanoscale. Over 800 nano-related patents were granted in 2003, and the numbers are increasing year to year. Corporations are already taking out broad ranging monopoly patents on nanoscale discoveries and inventions. For example, two corporations, NEC and IBM, hold the basic patents on carbon nanotubes, one of the current cornerstones of nanotechnology. Carbon nanotubes have a wide range of uses, and look set to become crucial to several industries from electronics and computers, to strengthened materials to drug delivery and diagnostics. Carbon nanotubes are poised to become a major traded commodity with the potential to replace major conventional raw materials. However, as their use expands, anyone seeking to manufacture or sell carbon nanotubes, no matter what the application, must first buy a license from NEC or IBM.
Nanotechnology risks and regulators
Regulatory bodies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. or the Health & Consumer Protection Directorate of the European Commission have started dealing with the potential risks posed by nanoparticles. So far, neither engineered nanoparticles nor the products and materials that contain them are subject to any special regulation regarding production, handling or labeling. The Material Safety Data Sheet that must be issued for certain materials often do not differentiate between bulk and nanoscale size of the material in question.
Studies of the health impact of airborne particles are the closest thing we have to a tool for assessing potential health risks from free nanoparticles. These studies have generally shown that the smaller the particles get, the more toxic they become. This is due in part to the fact that, given the same mass per volume, the dose in terms of particle numbers increases as particle size decreases.
Looking at all available data, it must be concluded that current risk assessment methodologies are not suited to the hazards associated with nanoparticles; in particular, existing toxicological and eco-toxicological methods are not up to the task; exposure evaluation (dose) needs to be expressed as quantity of nanoparticles and/or surface area rather than simply mass; equipment for routine detecting and measuring nanoparticles in air, water or soil is inadequate; and very little is known about the physiological responses to nanoparticles.
Regulatory bodies in the U.S. as well as in the EU have concluded that nanoparticles form the potential for an entirely new risk and that it is necessary to carry out an extensive analysis of the risk. The outcome of these studies can then form the basis for government and international regulations.
When the term "nanotechnology" was independently coined and popularized by Eric Drexler, who at the time was unaware of Taniguchi's usage, it referred to a future manufacturing technology based on molecular machine systems. The premise was that molecular-scale biological analogies of traditional machine components demonstrated that molecular machines were possible, and that a manufacturing technology based on the mechanical functionality of these components (such as gears, bearings, motors, and structural members) would enable programmable, positional assembly to atomic specification (see the original reference PNAS-1981). The physics and engineering performance of exemplar designs were analyzed in the textbook Nanosystems.
Because the term "nanotechnology" was subsequently applied to other uses, new terms evolved to refer to this distinct usage: "molecular nanotechnology," "molecular manufacturing," and most recently, "productive nanosystems."
One alternative view is that designs such as those proposed by Drexler and Merkle do not accurately account for the electrostatic interactions and will not operate according to the results of the analysis in Nanosystems. The contention is that man-made nanodevices will probably bear a much stronger resemblance to other (less mechanical) nanodevices found in nature: cells, viruses, and prions. This idea is explored by Richard A. L. Jones in his book Soft Machines: Nanotechnology and Life (ISBN 0-19-852855-8).
Another view, put forth by Carlo Montemagno, is that future nanosystems will be hybrids of silicon technology and biological molecular machines, and his group's research is directed toward this end.
The seminal experiment proving that positional molecular assembly is possible was performed by Ho and Lee at Cornell University in 1999. They used a scanning tunneling microscope to move an individual carbon monoxide molecule (CO) to an individual iron atom (Fe) sitting on a flat silver crystal, and chemically bind the CO to the Fe by applying a voltage.
Though biology clearly demonstrates that molecular machine systems are possible, non-biological molecular machines are today only in their infancy. Leaders in research on non-biological molecular machines are Dr. Alex Zettl and his colleagues at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories and UC Berkeley. They have constructed at least three distinct molecular devices whose motion is controlled from the desktop with changing voltage: a rotating molecular motor, a molecular actuator, and a nanoelectromechanical relaxation oscillator.
Manufacturing in the context of productive nanosystems is not related to, and should be clearly distinguished from, the conventional technologies used to manufacture nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes and nanoparticles.
Some nanodevices self-assemble. That is, they are built by mixing two or more complementary and mutually attractive pieces together so they make a more complex and useful whole. Other nanodevices must be built piece by piece in stages, much as manufactured items are currently made. Scanning probe microscopy is an important technique both for characterization and synthesis of nanomaterials. Atomic force microscopes and scanning tunneling microscopes can be used to look at surfaces and to move atoms around. By designing different tips for these microscopes, they can be used for carving out structures on surfaces and to help guide self-assembling structures. Atoms can be moved around on a surface with scanning probe microscopy techniques, but it is cumbersome, expensive and very time-consuming, and for these reasons it is quite simply not feasible to construct nanoscaled devices atom by atom. You don't want to assemble a billion transistors into a microchip by taking an hour to place each transistor, but these techniques may eventually be used to make primitive nanomachines, which in turn can be used to make more sophisticated nanomachines.
Natural or man-made particles or artifacts often have qualities and capabilities quite different from their macroscopic counterparts. Gold, for example, which is chemically inert at normal scales, can serve as a potent chemical catalyst at nanoscales.
"Nanosize" powder particles (a few nanometres in diameter, also called nano-particles) are potentially important in ceramics, powder metallurgy, the achievement of uniform nanoporosity, and similar applications. The strong tendency of small particles to form clumps ("agglomerates") is a serious technological problem that impedes such applications. However, a few dispersants such as ammonium citrate (aqueous) and imidazoline or oleyl alcohol (nonaqueous) are promising additives for deagglomeration. (Those materials are discussed in "Organic Additives And Ceramic Processing," by Daniel J. Shanefield, Kluwer Academic Publ., Boston.)
One of the problems facing nanotechnology concerns how to assemble atoms and molecules into smart materials and working devices. Supramolecular chemistry, a very important tool here, is the chemistry beyond the molecule, and molecules are being designed to self-assemble into larger structures. In this case, biology is a place to find inspiration: cells and their pieces are made from self-assembling biopolymers such as proteins and protein complexes. One of the things being explored is synthesis of organic molecules by adding them to the ends of complementary DNA strands such as ----A and ----B, with molecules A and B attached to the end; when these are put together, the complementary DNA strands hydrogen bonds into a double helix, ====AB, and the DNA molecule can be removed to isolate the product AB.
Advanced nanotechnology, sometimes called molecular manufacturing, is a term given to the concept of engineered nanosystems (nanoscale machines) operating on the molecular scale. By the countless examples found in biology it is currently known that billions of years of evolutionary feedback can produce sophisticated, stochastically optimized biological machines, and it is hoped that developments in nanotechnology will make possible their construction by some shorter means, perhaps using biomimetic principles. However, K Eric Drexler and other researchers have proposed that advanced nanotechnology, although perhaps initially implemented by biomimetic means, ultimately could be based on mechanical engineering principles (see also mechanosynthesis)
In August 2005, a task force consisting of 50+ international experts from various fields was organized by the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology to study the societal implications of molecular nanotechnology
Determining a set of pathways for the development of molecular nanotechnology is now an objective of a broadly based technology roadmap project led by Battelle (the manager of several U.S. National Laboratories) and the Foresight Institute. That roadmap should be completed by early 2007.
A definitive feature of nanotechnology is that it constitutes an interdisciplinary ensemble of several fields of the natural sciences that are, in and of themselves, actually highly specialized. Thus, physics play an important role—alone in the construction of the microscope used to investigate such phenomena but above all in the laws of quantum mechanics. Chemistry also play an important role in the identification of the materials, steps and synthesis of molecules for nanotechnical devices. It is not surprising, then, since Physics and Chemistry share the same principles and overlap so much, that Physical Chemistry (or Chemical physics) is probably the most fundamental discipline in the nanotechology research. This is an important concept to mention, because a lot of research depends on the background that future students will have. Of course, the best educational pathway to this type of research (perhaps the only one to master this source) is a multidisciplinary one, one with basic science and engineering knowledge.
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