Nanotechnology is defined as an engineering science and technology conducted at the nanoscale (from 1 to 100 nanometers) that studies the application of minute things. Nanotechnology is also used in many other science fields, including chemistry, biology, physics, materials science, and engineering. Nanotechnology is a very broad notion, and it is applied in various fields of science, such as surface science, organic chemistry, molecular biology, semiconductor physics, microfabrication, and others. Nanotechnology is used not only in designing conventional devices but also in creating new materials on the nano scale.
Today scientists express different opinions concerning the future implication of nanotechnology. On the one hand, nanotechnology may help design a number of new materials and devices that can be used in medicine, electronics, biomaterials energy production, and consumer products. On the other hand, nanotechnology as any new technology is considered to be toxic, and the environmental impact of nanomaterials is widely discussed. So advocacy groups and governments still debate on whether special regulation of nanotechnology is required.
How it Started
The physicist Richard Feynman in his talk titled 'There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom' first introduced the fundamental ideas and concepts nanoscience and nanotechnology are based on at an American Physical Society meeting at the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) on December 29, 1959. This happened long before the term nanotechnology was used. In his talk, Feynman focused on a process would allow scientists to manipulate and control individual atoms and molecules. More than ten years later, Professor Norio Taniguchi who was working at ultraprecision machining, coined the term nanotechnology. But modern nanotechnology as a science began in 1981, when the scanning tunneling microscope that could 'spot' individual atoms was created.
Fundamental Concepts in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology
- To realize just how small nanotechnology is consider the following facts.
- One nanometer is a billionth of a meter, or 10-9 of a meter.
- A sheet of newspaper is about 100,000 nanometers thick.
- An inch consists of 25,400,000 nanometers
If we assume that marble were a nanometer, one meter would be the size of the Earth.
Nanoscience and nanotechnology enable scientists to see and control individual atoms and molecules. Everything on Earth consists of atoms, including our own bodies, the food we eat, the apparel we wear, the houses we live in. But it's impossible to see an atom with the naked eye, and even with the microscopes used in a high school science classes. Such super power microscopes that could see very small things at the nanoscale were invented only 30 years ago. As soon as scientists obtained the right tools, the scanning tunneling microscope (STM) and the atomic force microscope (AFM), the age of nanotechnology began.
Even though modern nanoscience and nanotechnology are quite young, people have been using nanoscale materials for centuries. Medieval artists used alternate-sized gold and silver particles to create colors in the stained glass windows that adorned churches hundreds of years ago. The artists were just unaware then that the technique they employed actually caused the changes in the composition of the materials they were using to create those amazing pieces of art.
These days scientists and engineers are deliberately searching for methods to make materials at the nanoscale to benefit from their enhanced properties like lighter weight, higher strength, increased control of light spectrum, and greater chemical reactivity compared to their larger-scale counterparts.
From clothes to computer hard drives, nanotechnology plays an important role in the manufacture of numerous products that we use in our everyday life.
Imagine you’re going on holiday. After getting off the plane and checking into your hotel, you put on your wrinkle-free shirt which you don't have to iron. Taking your scratch-resistant sunglasses, your sunscreen and your camera phone, you go to the hotel pool. There, listening to music on your MP3 player, you get ready to dive into refreshing water.
While you’re basking in the sun, nanotechnology must be the furthest thing from your mind. Nonetheless, you’ve dealt with it during the whole trip. From the drag reducing particles that cover your plane’s surface to the way the pool in your hotel was cleaned, nanotechnology was everywhere. It provided your sunscreen with an ability to reflect ultraviolet radiation, made your shirt look just-ironed and protected your sunglasses from scratches. Nanotechnology was used in your gadgets as well.
Even though, people aren't very aware of the nanotechnology they use, it has become an indispensable part of our everyday life. For example, nanosize components are used even in DVD and CD players.
However, there are airborne nanoscale materials — ultrafine particles that originate from traffic pollution and some other sources. When you breathe them in, they can deposit in your lungs and even cause asthma and lung disease.
Yet not all nanotech is a human achievement. Cells are natural nanoscale structures in which numerous biological reactions at the molecular level occur.
Kevlar, for instance, has many uses — from flak-jackets to frying pans. And its molecular structure was inspired by a similar structure of silk — a naturally occurring nanotechnology.
Using nature's abilities in nanotech is becoming a big business. Scientists have started researches on nanoscale structures used by geckos and mussels to create adhesives that can bind to dry and wet surfaces.
Also, almost fully transparent nanostructures, which were found in the wings of cicada insects, were used to improve non-reflective materials. Mimicking the arrangement of molecules of the cyphochilus beetle would lead to creating a substitute of potentially toxic pigments, which are used to create white paint and paper.
Nanostructures that cover the surface of lotus leaves are able to repel water and dirt. This effect can be used to create self-cleaning windows. Beetles in the Namib desert use particular nanostructures that allow them to capture some moisture from the morning fog. Such structures can be used in buildings to trap moisture for inside use.
Whether you are in the office, at home or on holiday, you can't escape nanotechnology based on the manipulation of the very small. Even though, many nanotechnologies we are using every day have been inspired by nature, there is still a lot of untapped potential left. And probably, some day we will be able to apply all the methods nature has employed.
Nowadays, nanotechnology is frequently used in many cosmetic products, such as moisturisers, hair care products, make up and sunscreen. According to the report revealed by ObservatoryNano that looked into the use of nanotechnology in the cosmetic industry there are two primary uses for nanotechnology in cosmetics. First, nanoparticles are used as UV filters. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are the main ingredients as organic alternatives have not been developed yes. Then nanotechnology is used for delivery particular components. Solid lipid nanoparticles and nanostructured lipid carriers, which are used in cosmetic industry for delivery, can replace liposomes and niosomes. With the help of encapsulation techniques, newer structures can provide better hydration of skin, stability of the agent, bioavailability and controlled occlusion. Also, nanocrystals, nanoemulsions and dendrimers are being investigated for further application in the cosmetic industry.
The safety assessment of nanomaterials in cosmetic products is currently being discussed. As long as standard safety tests for cosmetics haven't been modified in order to ensure safety of using nanomaterials, such cosmetics must be properly labeled.
Some examples of personal care products, which apply nanotechnology, are mentioned in the list below:
Penetration enhancer - increases penetration of key ingredients into the skin, using so-called nanoemulsions or nanospheres:
L'Oreal has managed to deliver active ingredients into the deeper layers of skin with the use of polymer nanocapsules. An anti-wrinkle cream Plentitude Revitalift, which used nanoparticles, was released in 1998.
Freeze 24/7, a new skincare line against wrinkles is planning to use nanotechnology in future products.
La Prairie's product, the Dollars 500 Skin Caviar Intensive Ampoule Treatment, has been designed to minimize the look of uneven skin pigmentation, wrinkles and lines in six weeks using nanotechnology.
The nanoemulsions in the product deliver the functional ingredients to the site of action quicker and more effective.
In 2005 Procter & Gamble's Olay brand was developed with nanoemulsion technology.
There are some other companies using nanotechnology in their skin products as of 2005: Neutrogena, from Johnson & Johnson; Mary Kay and Clinique from Lauder; Avon; and the Estee Lauder brand.
Hair products –carry active ingredients deeper into hair shafts with the help of nanoemulsions.
PureOlogy have been working with nanoemulsions since 2000, when the founder of the company started developing a product line for color treated hair.
Sunscreens – 'micronizing' of zinc and titanium in sunscreens made them transparent, less smelly, less greasy and boosted their ability to be absorbed into the skin.
DDF planned more anti-aging products using nanotechnology as of 2004.
Colorescience sells a powder named Sunforgettable, which contains titanium dioxide nanoparticles.
In the U.S. in 2003 Paris-based Caudalie released its sunscreen Vinosun Anti-Aging Suncare, an anti-aging treatment, which applies 'nanomized' UV filters and antioxidants.
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