Nanobots (Nanotechnology Robots)
|Basic nanomachines are already in use. Nanobots
will be the next generation of nanomachines. Advanced nanobots will be
able to sense and adapt to environmental stimuli such as heat, light,
sounds, surface textures, and chemicals; perform complex calculations;
move, communicate, and work together; conduct molecular assembly; and, to
some extent, repair or even replicate themselves. Nanobot.info is an
informational site that provides information on both recent developments
and future applications at the intersection of nanotechnology and
robotics. Nanotechnology is the science and application of creating
objects on a level smaller than 100 nanometers. The extreme concept
of nanotechnology is the "bottom up" creation of virtually any material or
object by assembling one atom at a time. Although nanotech processes
occur at the scale of nanometers, the materials and objects that result
from these processes can be much larger. Large-scale results
happen when nanotechnology involves massive parallelism in which many
simultaneous and synergistic nanoscale processes combine to produce a
Nanotechnology spans and merges disciplines dealing with matter at the micro level (physics, chemistry, and biology) with those dealing with matter at the macro level (engineering, materials science and computer science).
Nanotechnology coatings are already being used to make clothing with stain-resistant fibers. Nanotech powders are already being used to formulate high-performance sun-screen lotions. Nanoparticles are already helping to deliver drugs to targeted tissues within the body. Additional applications are underway in the areas of: medical diagnosis and treatments; biotechnology; advanced development of pharmaceuticals; cosmetics; aerospace and automotive industries; security, defense, and environmental protection; electronics, computers and communication; energy production, storage, and lighting; and manufacturing and product design.
Nanomanufacturing is the creation of materials and products through: (1) Direct Molecular Assembly (DMA) -- discrete, directed assembly of individual atoms and molecules into macroscale materials and products; (2) Indirect Crystalline Assembly (ICA) -- creation of conditions that foster the growth of nanoscale crystals that are then combined into macroscale materials and products; or (3) Massive Parallelism Assembly (MPA) -- the creation of many nanomachines or nanobots whose operating parameters cause them to work synergistically to assemble atoms and molecules into macroscale materials and products.
What defines life? Is it the ability to …reproduce? … adapt to the environment? …think and learn? Or is life determined by structure and origin rather than function and ability? Nanotechnology may be able to create nanobots that emulate certain functions of biological entities, but the structures and origin of nanobots will likely remain quite different than those of biological entities.
Nanotechnology has the potential to completely revolutionize the electronics industry. Nanomachines may some day create computer circuits from the “bottom up” -- one atom at a time. This would allow the manufacturing of nanochips on a much smaller scale than chips created with current “top down” etching techniques. Nanocrystalline processes can also be used to grow electronics components. For example: (1) carbon nanotubes grown in targeted micro-environments can have super-conductive properties; and (2) nanowires as small as strings of atoms can be grown like crystals and then assembled into circuits. Circuits created atom-by-atom or grown using nanocrystalline techniques will be much smaller, lighter, efficient, cooler, stronger, and faster than circuits made with conventional manufacturing processes.
Nanotechnology has numerous energy-related applications. Nanophotonics is the application of nanotechnology to the transformation of electricity to light or light to electricity. In this area, nanocrystals or nanophosphores can make this transformation with greater efficiency than traditional incandescent lighting or solar panels. Using nanoceramic material as the covering for batteries absorbs electromagnetic waves and prolongs battery life. Nanopolymers provide high-performance insulation for energy transmission lines and decrease energy loss across long distances.
In the telecommunications industry, nanotechnology will play an important role in the coming years particularly with respect to fiber optics. Nanocrystalline materials can be made with finer resolution than standard fibers for enhanced optic cables, switches, lenses and junctions. In telecommunications more generally, the fields of nanotechnology and holotechnology will overlap in the design of the projection screens and user interfaces of the next generations of holographic cell phones, “Holographones,” and televisions, “HoloTVs.”
Nanotechnology is already being used for several sports and recreation related applications. For example, nanotech tennis rackets and golf clubs are lighter, stronger, and can be engineered to provide more motion control. Nanotech coatings on swim suits repel water, reduce friction with the water, and allow swimmers to go faster.
Many human illnesses and injuries have their origins in nanoscale processes. Accordingly, application of nanotechnology to the practice of medicine and biomedical research opens up new opportunities to treat illnesses, repair injuries, and enhance human functioning beyond what is possible with macroscale techniques. At the nanoscale level, the distinctions between mechanical and biological processes blur. Nanoparticles can attach to certain cells or tissues and provide medical images of their location and structure. Hollow nanocapsules with pharmaceutical contents can attach to cancer cells and release their payloads into them – maximizing targeted delivery and minimizing systemic side effects. Nanomedibots may repair vital tissue damanged by injury or disease, or destroy cancerous tissue that has gone awry, without invasive surgery.
Nanopharmacology is the application of nanotechnology to the discovery of new molecular entities with pharmacological properties. Nanotechnology is also useful for individualized matching of pharmaceuticals to particular people to maximize effectiveness and minimize side effects. It is also used for delivery of pharmaceuticals to targeted locations or specific types of tissue in the body.
There are promising applications of nanotechnology in the field of orthopedics. Grafts of natural bone can carry disease or trigger immune rejection by the host. If one sterilizes the bone to reduce the chances of disease, then this can weaken the bone. Artificial bone cement without nanotechnology can work for small applications, but tends to not have sufficient strength for load-bearing bone replacement. However, artificial bone paste made with nanoceramic particles shows considerable promise for bone repair and replacement, even in load-bearing applications.
In addition to delivering pharmaceuticals as discussed above, nanotech medical robots ("nanomedibots") may be able to: monitor body function; repair damaged tissue at the molecular level; deconstruct pathologic or abnormal material or cells such as cancer or plaque; and enhance human health and functioning. Although nanomedibots have not been developed, there are ongoing advances in nanofluidics and carbon nanotube flow sensors that may become their building blocks. As nanotechnology and biotechnology advance, nanomedibots and engineered beneficial microorganisms may be integrated.
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Useful Resource: "The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology is a non-profit think tank concerned with the major societal implications of advanced nanotechnology. CRN promotes public awareness and education, and the crafting of effective policy to maximize benefits and reduce dangers. According to the reaction we get when we attend and speak at forums worldwide, interest in both opportunities and threats posed by exponential general-purpose molecular manufacturing is rising. We hope to contribute by engaging individuals and groups to focus on the real risks and benefits of the technology. Our goal is the creation of wise, comprehensive, and balanced plans for global management of this transformative technology." Center for Responsible Nanotechnology