Nanotechnology: A Boon or A Bane?


Whereas the 20th century was the era of macro-science, characterized by gigantic Boeings, soaring shuttles, huge dams, monstrous refineries and power plants, the 21st century is dominated by nano-science, featured by microscopic weapons, molecular surgical devices, ultra thin packaging, minute light emitting diodes and molecular switches and circuits. As science processed in the last few decades, the importance of emerging area of nanotechnology is becoming quite apparent to the Indian scientific community too. Nanotechnology is the design, characterization, production and application of structures, devices and systems by controlling shape and size at the nanoscale.  Nanotechnology offers the potential for new and faster kinds of computers, more efficient power sources and life-saving medical treatments. Potential disadvantages include economic disruption and possible threats to security, privacy, health and the environment.


Nanotechnology has wider application in day to day life. It is rapidly becoming an interdisciplinary field. Biologists, chemists, physicists and engineers are all involved in the study of substances at the nanoscale. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter, roughly the width of three or four atoms. The average human hair is about 25,000 nanometres wide. Scientists are experimenting with substances at the nanoscale to learn about their properties and how we might be able to take advantage of them in various applications. Engineers are trying to use nano-size wires to create smaller, more powerful microprocessors. Doctors are searching for ways to use nanoparticles in medical applications.


During diagnosis, 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. Researchers are developing customized nanoparticles the size of molecules that can deliver drugs directly to diseased cells in your body. Nanotechnology is having an impact on several aspects of food science, from how food is grown to how it is packaged. Companies are developing nonmaterial that will make a difference not only in the taste of food, but also in food safety, and the health benefits that food delivers. Nanotechnology holds some answers for how we might increase the capabilities of electronics devices while we reduce their weight and power consumption. Nanotechnology can address the shortage of fossil fuels such as diesel and gasoline by making the production of fuels from low grade raw materials economical, increasing the mileage of engines, and making the production of fuels from normal raw materials more efficient. Nanotechnology may hold the key to making space-flight more practical. Advancements in non-material make lightweight spacecraft and a cable for the space elevator possible. In the modern communication technology, traditional analogy electrical devices are increasingly replaced by optical  devices due to their enormous wand width and capacity. While this is exciting, it’s only the tip of the iceberg as far as how nanotechnology may impact us in the future.

2412_Nanotechnology Oversized Opportunities To Small-Scale Engineering

Presently, nanotechnology is very expensive and developing it can cost you a lot of money. It is also pretty difficult to manufacture, which is probably why products made with nanotechnology are more expensive. Atomic weapons can now be more accessible and made to be more powerful and more destructive. These can also become more accessible with nanotechnology. Since these particles are very small, problems can actually arise from the inhalation of these minute particles, much like the problems a person gets from inhaling minute asbestos particles. You will also find that the development of nanotechnology can also bring about the crash of certain markets due to the lowering of the value of oil and diamonds due to the possibility of developing alternative sources of energy that are more efficient and won’t require the use of fossil fuels. This can also mean that since people can now develop products at the molecular level, diamonds will also lose its value since it can now be mass produced.  Nanotechnology can cause a brutal risk in the field of terrorism. The terrorism and anti groups can make use of nanotechnology as a new form of torturing the communities as nanotechnology also has the capability of destructing the human body at the molecular level. While research and development in nanotechnology is quite limited in most developing countries, there will be increasing opportunities to import nano products and processes. It can be argued of course that nanotechnology could make the situation of developing countries worse by reducing demand for their exports, notably raw materials.


In midst of all these, it is very difficult to decide on the merits and demerits of the Nanotechnology. On one side, the Nanotechnology provides an amazing base for the world to advance in many of the key areas and on the other side, it itself poses as a potential risk by elaborating the possibilities of destruction of the whole world.  If molecular manufacturing becomes a reality, how will that impact the world’s economy?  Assuming we can build anything we need with the click of a button, what happens to all the manufacturing jobs?  Whether we’ll actually need to answer all of these questions is a matter of debate. However, nanotechnology will definitely continue to impact us as we learn more about the enormous potential of the nanoscale.

 -Tanvi Shah



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Smita Singh

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