Nanotechnology (nanotech) generally refers to the study of the control of matter at the atomic, molecular, or subatomic level with the intent of producing new technologies. Particles at these levels, such as atoms, can be rearranged by scientists for any number of possible nanotechnology uses. This can include increasing the overall quality of products by making them lighter, more efficient, or more powerful. Nanotechnology uses can be found in science, medicine, military technology, and the commercial sector. Much of nanotechnology still is in the research and development phase, and there is considerable debate concerning both its viability and safety.
In general, the first generation of nanotechnology is thought to have begun in 2000, when nanotech was employed to increase the effect of everyday products such as sunscreens and golf balls. The second generation usually is defined as beginning in 2005. In this generation, nanotechnology uses were expanded, becoming employed in the production of transistors, drugs, chemicals, and biological sensors.
There are many possible medical applications of nanotechnology. Drug delivery systems are a potential use of nanotech that would focus on how the drug given to a sick person is distributed in the body. This application would identify the affected areas in the body and then distribute the drug to where it is most needed. These advances are thought to be able to improve the pharmacological and therapeutic effects of the drug.
The development of nanotools could help in situations like operations or surgeries. It would allow physicians to perform operations at the molecular level. The nanotools would be controlled by physicians via remote control, enabling them to perform diagnoses and treatments that would be impossible to realize using the traditional techniques.
Commercial nanotechnology uses include the bulk form presence of nanoparticles in products such as cosmetics, protective coatings, stain resistant clothing, computers, and sports equipment. These products usually all contain nanomaterials, which are constituted by atoms or small particles that have been rearranged by scientists in order to better perform their task. Some future commercial applications of nanotech intend to increase the memory of electronic devices, improve fuel additives, and create more flexible electronics.
Military scientists and defense researchers generally look to apply nanotechnology to create more deadly weapons. This can include the creation of nanoparticles, which can be used to damage human lungs or penetrate through human skin. These nanoparticles may be combined with particles such as metals or hydrocarbons that can be dangerous to a human being. Since the human body has developed a tolerance to most natural particles, the development of nanoparticles could be an effective tool in warfare, because the human body is not yet acclimated to these new substances.