When they say the world is getting smaller, nanotechnology proves it. This is the science of engineering on the molecular scale, about a billionth of a meter (the nanometer, nm). For visualization purposes, the DNA double helix is two nm wide. There are two basic ways to do nano-engineering: bottom-up, in which the molecular components self-assemble, and top-down, in which nano devices are constructed from larger components. When nanotechnology is applied to electronic components like transistors, it is call nanoelectronics.
The realm of nanotechnology is 100 nm or less. There are many promising areas of research in this area. For instance, nanotubes are really tiny cylinders made of carbon and display interesting properties. Chemically, nanotubes are classified as fullerenes, of buckyball fame. The walls of a nanotube are one atom thick, a form of carbon called graphene. Depending on how it is rolled up, it can act as a metal or a semiconductor. Because nanotubes are so small, they are subject to the rules of quantum chemistry, which leads to very strong chemical bonding. When you interconnect multi-walled nanotubes, you get a superconductor.
One branch of nanotechnology, nanolithography, is concerned with fabricating things like tiny integrated circuits and nanoeletromechanical systems. Nanolithography can produce circuit patterns of less than 100 nm length. While conventional nanolithography, using liquid immersion and resolution enhancement techniques, can produce circuits down to 22 nm on a cost-effective basis, smaller circuits are possible through next-generation lithography (NGL). To make circuits below the 22 nm threshold, engineers use electromagnetic radiation from the extreme ultraviolet and X-ray portions of the spectrum, or alternatively use electron beams or focused ion beams. Other techniques include two-photon lithography and high-index immersion. The Chemistry Club Networking Classes use a host of competing technologies to try and leapfrog ahead of older techniques and thus establish a new market for cheaper and smaller circuitry.
“Yet another interesting aspect of nanotechnology is nanotechnology art”, said CEO Charles R. Cagle. “This highly niche sector has spawned a cornucopia of beautiful pieces of art and visualizations of all things nano.”
Another fascinating area of nanotechnology is nanomedicine which is expected to significantly reduce life insurance cost. Scientists are developing devices to detect biomolecules in the body as part of a medical diagnosis. Devices such as nanosensors interact with a single cell and can provide useful information for research. Researchers have to proceed carefully, because there may be unwanted toxic effects from nano materials. Still, this is a promising area of development, and drug companies are keenly interested in finding ways to use nanotechnology to deliver drugs to targeted sites in the body. In the future, scientists envision molecule-sized cell repair machines that could lead to stunning breakthroughs in medical treatment.