Have you ever imagined that there could one day be computers that expend hardly any energy and run thousands of times faster than those of today? Or miniature robots circulating in your blood stream detecting and destroying cancerous cells? Or that you could build your house with materials stronger than steel, yet 10 times lighter and cheaper? Or fabrics that never get dirty or discolor? Or vehicles that run without fuel.
Yes, it's true, it sounds like magic or science fiction, but all these 'fantasies' could shortly become a reality, radically transforming our lives. Nanotechnology will be here soon... get to know it so it doesn't take you by surprise. atomic level, to those same elements at a larger scale. Thanks to this, nanoscientists' can create innovative materials and devices at a low cost and with unique properties and different to those which we are already familiar with. This revolutionary technology will extend to all areas and will be influential in almost all areas of human activity.
Nano, is a Greek prefix that indicates a measurement and not a specific object or product.When we reach these scales, it starts to get complicated for our brains and we have trouble visualizing them, but we'll go ahead and try.A nanometer is one thousand millionth of a meter, or in other words, a meter divided one thousand million times!!! For example, a human hair is about 10,000 nanometers thick, a virus, between 20 and 300 nanometers while the cells in ours body are between 1,000 and 20,000 nanometers.
It's hard to imagine a single one of these 'nanos', isn't it? Don't worry; I still haven't managed it either! At the beginning of the 20th century, atoms were still something theoretical. There was very reliable evidence proving their existence, but how could anyone be sure if nobody had ever seen them? Today, not only can we see them, but we can move, swap and build things with them. "One of the things that distinguishes us from prior generations is that we have seen the atom", says Karl K. Darrow in his book The Rebirth of Physics. In the last two decades, electronic and atomic instruments have been developed that act as eyes, hands and arms for the researcher in order to work with such small scales.
Richard Feynman, a Nobel prize winner in physics in 1965, was the first to refer to the possibilities of nanoscience and nanotechnology in a famous talk he gave at the California Institute of Technology in titled There's Plenty Room at the Bottom in which he expounded on the possibility (presently, still theoretical), of manipulating individual atoms and molecules and manufacturing products on the basis of a planned reorganization of them, taking advantage of "the empty space that exists between atoms".
According to Jose Vega, Director of the CENAT (National Center of High Technology) Nanotechnology Laboratory and one of Costa Rica's experts on the subjects, in less than five years we will already see various nano-applications in our houses and industries."In order to move on to the mass production of nano-components and nano-systems, some obstacles in quality control still need to be overcome and also it will take a few years in which the patents will have a great influence over the prices of the products, although this should be compensated for by the low manufacturing costs" he adds.
Presently, around 120 laboratories in the world are directing large amounts of money into research nanotechnology. Around 500 businesses have the phrase 'nano' in their name, although there are still few products on the market.All developed countries and a few developing countries are already allocating significant resources towards the investigation of nanotech nology. According to a report by Lux Research, the global leaders in nanotechnology are the United States, Japan, South Korea and Germany, followed by Taiwan, Israel, and Singapore. The United Kingdom, France, China, Canada, Australia, Russia and India lag further behind, but are projected to soon catch up with the leaders in this high speed race.
"Costa Rica is the leader in Central America, and in the country both Lanotec (National Lab of Nanotechnology) and some universities are carrying out cutting edge research in the search for new applications and of alternative mechanisms of fabrication for those already patented." However, the resources on which these national institutions depend are also on a nano-metric scale and this has been a great restriction and something that has held back the possibility of more significant achievements. "We have the intellectual capital necessary to make great strides and if we could count on better financing we could advance at a faster pace and achieve more variety and efficiency in the research", adds Vega.
Today, nanotechnology is no longer a promise; it is already a reality. It will be a few years more before we see it enter into our lives, but there is no doubt that it will happen. It is difficult to predict where all this will end, as with each new success comes new possibilities and new ideas. For now,'nano' is an unfamiliar phrase for the great majority (although now not for you), but I guarantee that you will be hearing about it more and more frequently. Welcome to the future! Nanotechnology is on its way, and now you are officially updated and ready to receive it.