|Carbon nanotubes, by Mstroeck. CC-BY-SA-3.0. SOURCE.|
A nanometer (nm) is a billionth of a meter (10 to the power of -9) or about the length of six carbon atoms; for further comparison, the size of a red blood cell is around 7,000 nm. The word "nano" comes from the Greek word for dwarf. Richard Feynman (who won the Nobel Prize for Physics) was the first to lecture on nanotechnology in 1959, though the phrase itself was coined in 1974 by Norio Taniquichi.
Matter at the nanoscale displays unique physical, chemical, and biological traits, and nanotechnology can create materials that are stronger, more conductive, more chemically reactive, reflect more light, and have different magnetic properties. These changes are called quantum effects, and happen only at the nanoscale.
Nanotechnology has applications in a wide range of fields, such as medicine, computing, information and communications technology, the aerospace industry, materials synthesis, and imaging and printing. It has been used in sunscreens, cosmetics, clothes, eyeglasses, Tupperware products, computers, baseball bats and tennis rackets, automobiles, and batteries, to name a few. Future uses may include the engineering of building materials, drugs, artificial tissues, food, solar panels, improvement of water and air quality, and there are even experiments being done to see if an invisibility cloak could be made with nanoparticles.
|Multi-nanotube, by TED-43. CC-BY-SA-3.0. SOURCE.|
Naomi Halas is the Stanley C. Moore Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering, a Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry, Physics and Astronomy, and the Director of the Laboratory for Nanophotonics (which she founded) at Rice University. She has over 15 issued and pending patents and is the co-founder of Nanospectra Biosciences, Inc., a company developing photothermal cancer therapy. She is a Fellow of the Optical Society, the American Physical Society, the International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE), the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Her research group focuses on metallic nanoparticles and nanostructures and their optical characteristics, including light absorption and scattering and plasmon-plasmon interactions (a plasmon is the oscillation of free electrons). Projects involve diagnostic and therapeutic nanoparticles and their potential uses in cancer therapy and imaging, and light-triggered gene therapy (nanoparticles are deposited in cells, and light causes them to release DNA).
Do you worry about the potential issues that nanotechnology could bring with it? Or do you think humanity's engineering at the nanoscale is more on the positive side? Or (as with so many fields these days) both?
-----The Golden Eagle