Just What the Heck is Nanotechnology?
Nanotechnology is, according to one government site, “science, engineering, and technology conducted at the nanoscale, which is about 1 to 100 nanometers”. (A nanometer is really, really small – it takes more than 25 million of them to make an inch.)
Richard Feynman, an American physicist, is credited with having introduced the concept of nanotechnology in 1959, although the term “nanotechnology” wasn’t coined until 1981. Feynman’s idea was that things could be made much smaller. For instance, in 1959 computers were massive; some of them weighed literally tons and took up entire rooms. Feynman theorized that they could be made much smaller using nanotechnology. He was bang on about that. Computers keep getting smaller, faster, and better with nanotechnology.
Apart from not having to build an extra wing to your house for your home computer, there are many other applications of nanotechnology in use and in development.
Environmental engineers are using it to clean up organic chemicals that are polluting groundwater. Researchers have determined that iron nanoparticles can clean up organic solvents that contaminate groundwater. Filters that are 15-20 nanometers wide can remove nano-sized particles (such as virus and bacteria) from drinking water.
Improvements in imaging and diagnostic tools using nanotechnology has given us earlier diagnoses. Researchers are also developing the use of nanoparticles that are engineered to be attracted to diseased cells to deliver drugs, heat, light, and other therapeutic substances. Nanotechnology is being studied for use in atherosclerosis (the buildup of plaque in the arteries) and for rebuilding broken or damaged tissue.
Windmill blades are now being made of epoxy that contains carbon nanotubes. This makes the blades stronger and lower weight, increasing the amount of electricity generated by the windmill. Researchers are now working on embedding silicon nanowires in silicon to make low-cost, high-efficiency solar cells.
Nanotechnology is being studied for its application in solar panels and in combustion engines to increase their efficiency. More efficient energy use is in sight with the development of better insulating materials using nanotechnology. Research is underway to improve battery life using nanotechnology to reduce the name of batteries used and discarded each year.
Tennis, anyone? Nanotubes are being added to tennis racquet frames to increase the power and control when you hit the ball. They are also being used to minimize air loss from tennis balls so they keep their bounce longer. Nanoparticles are also used in many items of sports equipment such as golf balls and clubs, hockey sticks, skis and snowboards, wet suits, and some bicycle parts.
Filters that are 15-20 nanometers wide can remove nano-sized particles (such as virus and bacteria) from drinking water. Some nanoparticles are used to make clothing water-resistant, stain-resistant, and wrinkle-resistant. Nanoproducts are being used in some skin care products to deliver vitamins deeper into the skin. The protective and glare-reducing coatings on eyeglasses are made using nanoparticles.
For those of us who experience menstrual discomfort, one of the most exciting uses of nanotechnology is NannoPads. NannoPads use micron size nanoparticles that absorb and use the body’s own Far Infrared energy to increase circulation in the tiny blood vessels to help bring about relief from menstrual discomfort. And according to reviews from actual users, they do just that! NannoPads are all-natural and hypoallergenic, made of USDA, OCS-certified organic cotton. NannoPads are breathable and ultra-absorbent to lock in heavy flows and help with odor control.
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