Nanotechnology Essay, Research Paper
Let me say it right now. Everything you thought was the limit of human kind is wrong. The strongest weapon is not the nuclear bomb. The strongest material is not steel. Your brain is not the fastest computer on the earth. The sky is not the limit. Humanity has not reached it full potential. How can I make these statements? I am informed. There is a revolution coming, it may be bloody, but more than likely it will not be. There will be casualties, maybe not human ones. This is not a military revolution; this is a revolution in every aspect of life as we know it. It will make the Industrial revolution look like a stumbling block in our history. This revolution has already begun, and hopefully when you?re done with this paper you will be prepared for it. If you?re not then you can be surprised by it like everyone else. Nanotechnology has begun to emerge and it will forever change your life. The only question is how.
Starting basically, nanotechnology is an anticipated manufacturing technology giving thorough, inexpensive control of the structure of matter. The term has sometimes been used to refer to any technique able to work at a submicron scale. Nanotechnology will enable the construction of giga-opperational computers smaller than a cubic micron; cell repair machines; personal manufacturing and recycling plants; and much more. Nanotechnology has many life-altering possibilities. It can be linked to many fields of study and, in fact, is being developed in present day laboratories by the combined efforts of many fields. Many of the fields have to do with the application of microscopic ideas and techniques, such as microbiology. The three biggest areas of nanotechnology application are that of medicine, manufacturing, and general lifestyle. To understand more about how this technology can effect these areas you need to first understand the basics behind the technology.
The discovery of nanotechnology is actually quite new. The first small uses of were developed in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The first breakthrough experiment was when IBM (Yes the computer people) was able to draw a write the letters I, B, and M on a nickel crystal surface using individual Xenon atoms. The three letters were a combined 50 billionths of an inch wide. This simple, and seemingly pointless experiment, finally gave evidence that individual atoms could be manipulated by human hands. This spurred a great leap into the design of nanotechnology theory. Eric Drexler began the first comprehensive study of nanotechnology theory in 1986 when he wrote his book entitled ?Engines of Creation.? In his book Drexler outlined the basic principles behind current nanotechnology theory. Drexler states that life as we know it now shows us that nanotechnology is possible. The entire basis of nanotechnology is the creation of what Drexler calls an ?assembler.? An assembler is a nanoscopically small robot that manipulates individual atoms through contained chemical reactions to assemble the atoms into desired molecular patterns. Such an assembler could build a one hundred percent pure diamond literally out of thin air. Nature already has created it?s own assemblers. The assemblers of most organic life are called ribosomes. These tiny little cells, which are only a few cubic nanometers large, can build proteins out of the amino acids that they gather from there surroundings. These proteins are the basis for all life on Earth, because it is through these proteins that DNA is created. If nature can have its assemblers than naturally so can we.
The application of nanotechnology in medicine is called nanomedicine (for obvious reasons). Looking through the basics of nanotechnology there are huge implications in medicine for Drexler’s little assemblers. Taking a small army of assemblers, probably close to hundred thousand, and giving them access to the write proteins would allow the rapid creation of transplant organs for specific patients. No chance of the patient rejecting the organ or tissue would occur because the nanorobots could assemble the transplants to match the patients exact DNA coding. Perhaps the most simplistic nanorobot would be the artificial red blood cell which Drexler?s assemblers would have to build. Such a robot would be composed entirely of diamond and would act as only a simple pressure tank. You may ask why the robot should be composed of diamond. The answer is that diamond is a chemically neutral substance, and is thus unaffected by the bodies natural immune system. The robot would simply float through the blood stream. Upon entering an oxygen rich area (the lungs), the nanorobot would fill is inner tank with oxygen molecules. As it passed out of the lungs and entered other areas of the body it could be programmed to release the oxygen in a controlled manner and then pick up Carbon Dioxide molecules to empty out in its return trip to the oxygen rich area. The obvious questions come to mind when nanomedical robots are explained. How would they be controlled? How would they be controlled? The questions can go on forever. Such questions however would take up far to much space in this paper to answer. I will leave their explanation to those of higher authority and intelligence.
Thus far I have discussed assemblers as having to do mostly with the biological. Now let me take this to the non-biological. Drexler?s assemblers primary function is in the non-biological. Being as the assemblers themselves are nanoscopic robots they have to have thousand upon millions upon millions of themselves to be able to build anything at a very fast rate. If you wanted to build a one-carat diamond it would take a single assembler thirty-two million years to build. Now if that robot could build copies of itself the robot would have enough copies after fourteen hours to be able to build a one-carat diamond in just under one million years. If the copies mad copies of themselves, then after fourteen hours there would be enough robots to build the one-carat diamond in just under a second! This little example brings into an important concept in nanotechnology, self-replication. Self-replication allows the nanorobots to construct virtually any structure in record time. Now what if you have had a huge building in your way before you could build anything? The nanorobots could be programmed to self-replicate using the building as their primary source of material for replication. The robots would then start to build copies of themselves by pulling the atoms and molecules they need from the obtrusive building. After a few hours you would have a completely demolished building and an excess of new nanorobots to do your bidding. The greatest benefit of the entire process is that there is little to no waste involved. These examples may seem far-fetched at the moment, but according to Drexler such a reality is closer than most may think.
Nanomedicine may sound great, and nanorobotic building may sound practical, but where does nanotechnology hit home? The answers may already be creeping into your household. If you have ever eaten a genetically altered fruit of vegetable you have an idea of the possible home implications of nanotechnology. Why go to the grocery store when you can construct fresh fruit from a bottle of general amino acids and proteins. There goes your supermarket. It?s been reduced to a simple pop-like vending machine that sells you your acids and proteins. If you?re driving on your way to work you will never have to worry about an accident with you and another driver, because your car is composed entirely of nanorobots. The little robots will make sure that they don?t come in contact with robots of another car. How could you car be made out of little robots you ask? Here enters in another interesting principle of nanotechnology. You don?t necessarily need to create items by having the robots assemble surrounding atoms. You could build items using the robots them selves. By grasping each other with little nanoscopic ?hands? each robot could hold onto others and create a solid object. Now you can create almost endless objects that cane be assembled and dissembled from robots within seconds.
All of this technology is breathtaking and astounding. It fill eventually pass itno reality and become part of our everyday lives. The only uncertanty is when. Some projections estimate that nanotechnology, as I have describied it above, will come about within the next twenty years. Other less optomistic sources put it somewhere into the next fifty years. All that be done until then is to prepare for it?s coming. What I have described above is only a small potential of what nanotechnology can do. I have also neglected to delve into the potential for nanotechnology to be used for ill. Unfortunate as it may seem, many of humanities greates discoveries have come out of developments for wars. The possibility that the first nanotechnology break through may come from developments of a wartime research program is probably not likely in our time. It is certainly possible that such discoveries could be made in current peace time defensive research programs. How or when such discoveries come is, in the end, actually quite irrelevant. Nanotechnology will come, and it will revolutionize our lives. It will be the worlds next ?Industrial Revolution.? Will you be ready for it?
“Engines of Creation” by Eric Drexler