Free research paper sample on Nanotechnology:
Nanotechnology is a little known science, that deals with building things out of atoms and molecules. This is similar to how nature works, building things at the molecular level to create organisms, fuel, and other things. The idea first came about in 1959, when Richard Feynman, a physicist, stated in a lecture that: “The principles of physics, as far as I can see, do not speak against the possibility of manoeuvring things atom by atom.” Feynman went on to win the 1965 Nobel Prize in physics.
The word nanotechnology was most likely coined by Eric Drexler, in the early 1980’s, in his book, Engines of Creation, in which he outlines the ideas and concepts of nanotechnology. The word means, literally, very small technology. While this may refer to the physical size of what is being done, the implications of this science are incredible. It is nearly impossible to compare the magnitude of this to any other technology, because it would mean that we would have complete control over matter. We would have the ability to create anything that we could precisely define.
Although at the moment we are far away from achieving the total utopia that nanotechnology would bring, we are close to seeing the first practical applications of this emerging field. One of the leading figures in this field, Ralph Merkle, a researcher at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Centre, feels that within the next 20 years, with the right funding and influence, nanotechnology could be making it’s first public appearances. Merkle believes that nanotechnology can be “the cornerstone of future technology”(in Nanotech: Engines of Hyperbole? by Charles Platt).
Some of Merkle’s statements on today’s capability to manipulate atoms are rather humourous, and are worth mentioning here. In a hypertext document on the Internet, Merkle stated that today’s manufacturing abilities are like trying to put LEGO blocks together wearing boxing gloves. Things can be done, but without a great deal of precision. Merkle feels that nanotechnology will allow us to drop the gloves.
The two concepts necessary for nanotechnology are self-replication and positional control. These could both come from something called a universal assembler.
Ralph Merkle and Eric Drexler are busy designing one such device. This universal assembler would be a sub-microscopic arm with various control devices. Following a sequence of programmed instructions, it would move molecules and atoms around to build three-dimensionally precise structures.
The control devices would include a nanotechnological computer. This computer would have the computational power of computers a few years back, and would be smaller than anything we can see with a microscope. In all, this assembler would weigh about 1.66e-15 grams, which would make it smaller than a common bacterium.
This assembler could be made once, then replicate itself. That replica, as well as the original, could continue replicating themselves, allowing for an exponential growth in the number of assemblers. After multiplying to the desired amount, the replicators would then be ready to produce any number of things, from other types of replicators, to medical devices to a variety of other electronic devices.
Nanotechnology, like every other field, has both a good and bad side, one may note that there are fewer the latter than the former, making it a formidable technology.
One side of nanotechnology, one very important side, is that anything that can be precisely defined can be built. This means that anything we can describe, using chemical formulas, we can have made for us. If someone is hungry, they have but to go to their replication unit, (something that would probably resemble today’s microwave in design) and order whatever it is they want. The advantages are transparent, but what of the detriments? There are none, besides time. To make the food, one would just have to supply the replicator with refuse. The machine would use the refuse to create new materials, the ultimate in recycling.
Another point is that humans have a great capacity for curiosity. We want to find out what’s on other planets. We want to see what it’s like to live there. Nanotechnology would allow us to send a fleet of preprogrammed nanomachines ahead of us, to other planets, to build cities and other structures to support life, using only what is available on those planets. When the job is done, people would just have to take enough for the trip to that other planet, and everything will be ready and waiting for them when they arrive.
With nanotechnology, there is the possibility of what is called a ‘morph’ material, a substance made up of tiny little machines, that can take on any shape. Imagine a world where all your furniture redesigns itself. A table becomes a chair when unexpected company shows up, stairs that turn into ramps for the disabled, but then again, the disabled could have artificial ‘nanolimbs’, that morph into useful tools when necessary.
It is felt by many experts, in the field of nanotechnology, that in order to see any significant improvement in the field of integrated circuit and computer circuit manufacture, nanotechnology will have to intervene. Presently, computer chips are produced using lithographic methods. This is done by printing a circuit. Presently we can print things that are microscopic in size, but there is still room for improvement in our techniques. Nanotechnology could help create tomorrow’s computers.
A computer the size of small organisms would have the computational power of today’s personal computers. This would make it possible to fit a full computer into something the shape and size of a piece of paper, including display, voice recognition, and new features that are not available, due to lack of speed and power of today’s computers.
Such nanotechnologically improved computers could be included in all manner of materials and substances, allowing for ‘smart’ devices. Clothes that could change colours, toys that change shape, self-adapting surgical implants, and many other things, that would drastically improve and diversify our abilities and freedom.
Despite this plethora of magnificent advantages, like everything, nanotechnology has its downsides. With the ability to build, comes the ability to destroy. A rogue assembler could easily reduce the planet to copies of itself. However, this can easily be avoided when it is not wanted. But there would still be the possibility of tyrants and madmen willing to produce such destructive machines to destroy human kind. Regular use of properly made nanomachines would rarely, if ever, lead to wide-scale catastrophe.
The possibility of using nanotechnology for warfare still exists, however, and we cannot deny that there are those in the world who would use the great power of nanotechnology for purposes both wrongful and harmful. Such things as seen in the movie Terminator 2: Judgement Day, (where an autonomous ‘terminator’ android, with the capacity to ‘morph’, terrorizes a group of people) could happen if nanotechnology fell into the wrong hands. Much worse things could happen, but with proper precautions this type of situation could be avoided.
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