Navigating the Dangers of Nanotechnology

While the world of IT may be easier to grasp (at least you can see it!), nanotechnology can seem baffling. Nanotechnology involves the study and science of matter too tiny to be seen with the eye, even using a light microscope. The nanoscale is tiny; to give an idea, an atom’s size is just around 0.1 nm (nanometer).

A World of Change

Nanotechnology could potentially change the world in many ways. Although it is still a very new science, the implications could be massive. By altering things at a very small scale, scientists could essentially change the entire structure of an object. Nanotechnology can change the way atoms combine, completely altering substance. One practical application of this technology could be utilised with batteries. If taken at the nanometric scale, battery granules could improve the way the battery functions. Nanoparticles offer a greater surface area which allow the battery to recharge faster and maintain it’s energy and charge for much longer. Nanotechnology, once harnessed, could change products and everyday things in dramatic ways.

Scientists have recently researched nanomaterials which start small, but could potentially grow or assemble themselves into larger objects. This behaviour is much like that of cells, which automatically repair and replicate to create something larger, like tissue or an organ. Developing self-propagating nanomaterials could affect the world of assembly, drastically changing manufacturing of a huge number of products and items. Nanotechnology could affect medicine, computers, and other machine industries to name just a few.

Tread Lightly

As it is still a young area of research, the outcome of nanotechnology developments is difficult to measure. There is some danger, however, when playing with structures on such a tiny, atomic level. At that scale, changes in structure or design have a much larger impact, altering the entire object or particle. The behaviour of this item is then changed, and its interaction with the environment or even the human body, for example, is hard to predict. Scientists may need to proceed with caution to protect the living world from any potential negative results; from restructured objects or forms that may not react well. The behaviour of chemicals such as asbestos, for example, give us insight into the way particles alter when interacting with the human body. Chemically, it was thought to be harmless, and later was found that when inhaled the structures change and become cancerous within the human body. Developments in nanotechnology, causing changes on the tiniest scale, could still turn objects into potentially dangerous substances. So while this technology is highly worthwhile, and may have wonderful advantages to society, it’s potential problems are as yet very unknown, so scientists must proceed with caution.