Tiny Technology, Big Impact

Walk into your kitchen and pick up an orange or something of relative size. Now that you’ve rolled your eyes and simply imagined actually getting up, compare that orange in your stubborn head to the size of the earth. That, my friends, is the size of a nanobot.

Nanotechnology is the epitome of a nerd’s dream — a combination of physics, chemistry, technology and biology all in one big, nerdy gift box.

So, for you non-nerds, why should you care? Well, think about this… when you shrink something down, you can control it better. Being the control freaks that we all subconsciously are, we like this. This is good. However, this is also revolutionary. So, it’s a win-win for the cool kids who don’t care as well as the nerds who do.

First, I want to talk to you nerds in the medical field. Medicine is the star of the show in this production known as “Nanotechnology”, specifically in treatments for cancer. So, you’re basically famous to nanotechnologists. Congratulations. Here’s what’s happening around you…

These tiny nanoparticles are being used to attack a big problem — tumors. Over at Rice University, scientists have taken some nanoparticles and made them golden like the shining star you are, to reflect heat. These nanoparticles are designed to make their way into your bloodstream and, with a quick zap of a laser, use infrared light to heat up and kill cancer cells. It’s basically a Star Wars movie happening in your body.

However, scientists were afraid that the nanoparticles would get a little too hyped and destroy normal tissue… which we sort of need for survival. So, Dmitri Lapotko, a physicist, along with other associates, made these pretty, golden nanoparticles even more gorgeous by beautifying them with protein antibodies. That way, they will chill out and only focus on attacking cancerous cells every time the infrared laser is pulsed. Bye, cancer… you are not welcome here.

Now that we’ve found out how to possibly cure cancer, let’s talk about sweaters. Yep, those ugly things your grandma forces you to wear. Well, now she won’t need to force you because they have become so useful that you will want to. Korean scientists are using nanofibers to weave sweaters together in order to convert friction into electricity. So, if you move around a little while wearing the sweater, you can charge your phone. Lazy people have never felt more excited.

Not only are humans benefitting, but the place we live in is too… the earth. Nanomaterials are able to purify the soil, water, and air in which we pollute every day. Think of it as an invisible nanny who cleans up your mess while you continue with your normal routine. Nanotechnology could lessen our need to be so dependent on fossil fuels. This means that we could create lighter vehicles, solar panels that soak up the sun more easily, smaller and more durable batteries, and more. However, not every environmentalist is pro-nano. Some conservation activists claim that environmental nanotechnology is likely to use more energy than actually save it. In other words, it would take more energy to produce these nanomaterials… so much that it would outweigh the actual benefits from them. On the other hand, some researchers over at MIT told these groups to hold on for a hot minute because they found a way to use carbon nanotubes to lower energy usage by 50%. However, it is clear that we don’t have a lot of time considering that we have an aging earth and there is a continuous use of it. Thus, this is one sector that scientists and researchers are persistently looking in to. So, for the environmental sector, there are so many gaps left to be filled, that the current status on file is “TBD”.

As with people, and the place they live in, there is also the society they build… which means that it’s now the economics-nerds’ time to shine. So, there is this fun toy called a “Fabricator”. It may sound like a robot that constantly deceives you, but it’s actually just a nanomachine that takes molecules and builds shapes out of them. It’s like Legos except actually useful to society. This fabricator is used in 3D printing and could literally build another copy of itself. So, we can create virtually any goods we need and desire with nanomaterials. The machine can even replicate itself completely on its own. That’s good…. or is it (*dramatic music plays*)? Sure, factories and technology would accumulate massive amounts of efficiency, but what about jobs? Humans would essentially have no purpose while these nanobots perform everything for us. No innovative technology has impacted us at such a drastic level before, so we can only estimate how it would impact the economy. Have fun dissecting that one, econ-nerds.

Now for the techie-stuff, aka the good stuff (#biased). So, we have these things in our computers called CPUs. These are like the “brains” of the computer; they process things. In fact, they are called the “Central Processing Units”. So, the more powerful these things are, the faster your computer is. With nanotechnology, we can build mini CPUs (called “nanoprocessors”) so small that one laptop can hold billions of them. This kind of capacity is more powerful than we could even (warning: pun ahead) …process.

As astounding as these innovations are, nanotechnology is also in our lives on a smaller scale. In our fridges, there are nanoparticles coating the surface to prevent bacteria. It’s in our sunscreen, our tennis rackets, and more. But, sunscreen and tennis rackets don’t compare to the grand scale of which nanotechnology can evolve. Make way for these little guys because they are making big moves.