Nanotechnology – the technology of the future
Nanotechnology, nanophysics, nanoelectronics, nanochemistry, nanometer technology .. Words that we constantly hear from both science and the media, but what is nanotechnology really?
Does nanotechnology really have the opportunity to fulfill the fantasies and hopes that its reputation promises? In this article, the idea is that we will take a closer look at what nanotechnology is, its origin, what its applications are, what its future looks like and whether it poses any dangers and risks.
What is nanotechnology?
The word nano comes from Greek (nanon) and means dwarf. Around 1960, the word was adopted by science, where it began to be used as a prefix within the meter system. 1 nm (nanometer) is one-millionth of a millimeter, or 10–9 meters.
An average atom is approx. 0.1 nm. To get a perspective on how small scales are, there is a well-known parable: if a particle of size 1 nm is compared to a football, the ratio will be the same as if the football were compared to our planet, the earth.
Nanotechnology is about studying and manipulating matter at the atomic level.
This observation of nanotechnology means that it is not entirely possible to distinguish nanotechnology as its own branch of science, rather it should be defined as an interdisciplinary intersection between chemistry, physics, and biology.
The history of nanotechnology
Scanning tunneling microscope
If we look at the modern form of nanotechnology, the basic starting point for its progress is usually considered to be the invention of the scanning tunnel microscope (STM). In 1981, two researchers (Gerd Binning and Heinrich Rohrer) invented and developed the IBM laboratory STM, which bypassing a very fine tip over an object’s surface could read from its outer atomic layer and thus create a high-resolution image at the atomic level.
The functionality behind STM is based on a quantum mechanical effect called the tunnel effect, which, without becoming too terminological, means that when it comes to quantum mechanics, particles have, in addition to their normal motion, a wave function that extends beyond the particle itself, even beyond any ” obstacle”.
This wave creates a weak electrical current between the STM and the surface being read. Being able to see at the atomic level through STM was extremely revolutionary in itself, but the consequence of STM would prove, if possible, even more revolutionary. By lowering the tip that read from the object’s surface, the researchers were also given the opportunity to move and manipulate individual atoms.