Nanotech- A Big Future for Small Things
Nanotechnology is one of the two fastest growing technologies in the world, the other being genetic science. These two sciences have something in common- Working with tiny particles of matter. The core scientific process in this nano-metric environment is particle size analysis, which is used to define the size and properties of nano particles. A particle size analyzer can be used to analyse any material. Even the technology of particle size analysis is developing at an incredible speed, as nanotechnology expands into areas of science even science fiction writers never considered until quite recently.
Nanotech- The future of materials science?
Nanotechnology is a game changer for materials science. This field redefines the boundaries of engineering. Nano machines and nano particle physics are opening up whole new ranges of options for humanity.
Even the economics of nanotech are something totally new. Nano technology is resource-efficient, using microscopic particles in place of big, cumbersome materials. Nanoparticles can also do things that “normal” materials simply can’t do. That means that the functionality of nanotech products is in a whole new league compared to traditional materials.
Perhaps the best way to describe this process is to make a comparison between current carbon technology and carbon as a nano material:
Traditional carbon science is actually a combination of polymer science and carbon chemistry. It produces plastics, resins, glues, acrylics, etc. These materials have a large range of single functions, and they’re produced in enormous quantities. They come in “good” and “bad” forms, some environmentally damaging. Quality of these products varies enormously. Good plastics, for example, are durable, but the low grade plastics and other polymers aren’t.
Comparing nanotech carbon to traditional carbon is like comparing a Ferrari to a skateboard. Carbon as a nanotech product is infinitely more useful and cost efficient. Even the technology for analysis of nano materials, usually basic laser diffraction, is cheaper and more reliable. There’s nothing it can’t do. Nanoparticles and their products can be configured literally down to the last atom. Their functions can be tailored and they can be reproduced more efficiently and much more cheaply. A ton of carbon, translated into nano products, can produce an almost infinite array of different advanced products.
Dollar values and nanotechnology
This ability of nanotechnology to produce very high value products is where commerce is getting interested. Carbon is plentiful, but its usage as fuel and for other low tech products generates very low returns relative to the cost of production. Nanotechnology is the exact opposite in terms of cost benefits for materials. A gram of nano products could be worth thousands of dollars. A gram of conventional carbon products, even the highly developed industrial products, is worth a few dollars at most.
Added to this equation is the fact that demand for nano materials is exploding just as the new nano materials start to show what they can do. New nano research is currently producing:
- Single molecule engines
- Nano transistors
- Nano particle “tractor beams”- The so-called “hollow” lasers able to move individual nano particles around.
- Nano tube wiring- Replacing conventional electric wiring
- Nanoparticle purification systems for drug delivery
You can expect to see these products coming onstream as fast as they can be marketed. If you thought the last 20 years was technologically interesting, wait for the next couple of decades.
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