Nanobots – The future in Nanotechnology

This is Technology Bloggers 150th article 🙂
Well done and thank you to all our brilliant writers (Hayley included), as well as readers and commenters who have helped us get here!

A fraction of the ever-expanding field of nano-technology, nano-robots, a.k.a. nanobots, hold some of the most promising possibilities in the fields of technology, engineering and medicine. They also pose some of the most complex hurdles, such as automation, replication, control and finding viable energy sources to enable movement.

The Nano-Scale

Nanotechnology involves the study and micromanipulation of anatomic particles up to 1 nanometer, with scientists working to develop nanobots in fields less than 100 nanometers in size. Transmission electron (TEM), scanning electron (SEM), scanning tunneling (STM) and Atomic Force (ATM) microscopes are large, powerful machines that make all aspects of nanotechnology, including nano-robotics, possible.

Nano-microscopes allow researchers to isolate and observe single molecules, including chemical reactions that occur upon moving, eliminating and rearranging molecular structures. This base knowledge is essential to understanding, creating and ultimately finding solutions so that nanobot technology will reach its full potential.

Bottoms Up

Up until recent years, the development of nanotechnologies maintained “top-down” construction. The advent of “bottom up” creations on the nano-scale provide scientists the ability to create smaller objects; in addition, components can be “grown” to allow greater adaptation to specific environments or inclusion of specific properties.

Scientists are literally able to “grow” carbon nanotubes and “string” together nanowires, creating desired properties such as hastening conduction or reducing heat output – properties that make for tiny, efficient particles. In theory, by building a nanobot from the bottom up, scientists begin to find solutions that allow for greater control mechanisms and possibly self-replication of the nanobot.

A carbon nanotube

Carbon nanotubes – building nanotechnology from the bottom up.

The greatest benefit of working bottom-up is that, rather than altering materials to work in a desired fashion, scientists build nanostructures and nanobots with proper compounds from the outset.

The Present

Although practical applications in medicine and technology have yet to be fully realized, nanobots are no longer figments of science-fiction imagination.

Lack of autonomy, largely associated with insufficient or unrealistic sources of energy, leaves a large barrier to the potential uses of nanobots. Batteries and solar sources are impractical due to size and, although a scientist can guide the nanobot with the use of magnets, they are not ideal. For example, a physician using a nanobot to treat a patient would need to maneuver the nanobot from outside the skin while also observing inner structures of the body.

Within the past year, scientists announced the creation of a nano “electric motor.” Utilizing principles of adsorption, a molecule attaches itself to the outside of a piece of copper; an STM probe focuses electrons onto the molecule, providing a source of energy and means to control direction. The large, cumbersome STM still makes this impractical in many ways; however, scientists are able to study this single motor and hypothesize ways to alter this and thus to apply it to nanobots.

In addition, micromanipulation made possible by electron microscopes allows for “DNA-walkers.” Essentially reprogramming a portion of a DNA strand, “molecular robots” or “spiders” walk autonomously; ultimately, scientists hope to further develop this technology, creating nanobots that fix genetic diseases.

The Future

Many scientists believe self-replication, most likely by programming the nanobot to micromanipulate surrounding atoms to create duplicates of its self, is essential to the realization of the many medical and technological applications.

In addition, a truly autonomous nanobot would be able to recognize, react and/or adjust to varying environmental conditions, including the presence of other nanobots; scientist could also program them for molecular assembly.

Many believe nanobots will allow for precise diagnostic capability and treatment of diseases such as cancer, as well as genetic disorders. Advances in communications, green energy, computer electronics and semi-conductors appear limitless.


Although still in its infancy, scientists across many fields hold much promise for nanobot technology. An autonomous nanobot, able to adapt its environment and self-replicate, could be the key to early detection and the cure of many diseases; in addition, nanobots will play an important role in sustainable or renewable energy sources, engineering and advancing computer technology. What do you think?

For further information check out the article on nanobots over at MicroscopeMaster. Links in my bio.

What do we need to know about nanotechnology?

As you may already know, nanosciences innovative advances encompass technology, medicine and manufacturing and so affect our world to more and more of an extent. Some in the scientific community are hesitant to endorse the developments and wonder about the consequences of these advances.

However, fascination surrounding this field, and lets not forget excitement over the potential for profit, is at the forefront and pushing nanoscience forward.


When we think of a nanometer, we need to wrap our minds around the fact that this is a measurement of a substance 100,000 times smaller than a single human hair. Before any form of mass production using these substances is in place, researchers need to accurately image them to learn of their topography and composition. Observation of nanomaterials is achieved by impressively powerful microscopes. The atomic force microscope (AFM) provides for extremely high (nanometer) resolution.

Nanotechnology being used in medicine

Nanotechnology being used to modify red blood cells

Today we hear of many developments and new manners of operation devised for the AFM paving the way for serious strides in nanotechnology. Therefore, with advances in nano-imaging comes progressive research and subsequent manufacturing which has benefits as well as potential risks.

First of all, industry, research bodies and governments are not aware of the amount of nanomaterials being produced. Without knowing these amounts, how is it possible to know the amount of potential exposure and therefore risks?

Does the law protect us now?

Governments do have regulations and guidelines but new materials like these have proven difficult to classify and sometimes are grouped together with already existing materials and so not independently classified at all. Other countries are already climbing aboard the nanotechnology bandwagon in a big way and governments need to properly regulate the importation of products containing these materials. How much to regulate leads to much discussion. The “bottom line” question needs to be answered…. “Is nanotechnology going to do more harm than good?”

All in all, the most basic risk assessments cannot be made because of a lack of information. Without appropriate analysis, we cannot have adequate laws.

What are our concerns?

Communities are becoming more ‘green’ in their approach to environmental issues. Concerns are valid over the potential these substances have to contaminate our water supplies or potentially harm plants and animal populations. After all, environmental sustainability is the only option and so, industry must always remain accountable.

The potential risks to human health and the environment differ greatly from risks associated with conventional materials which exhibit different characteristics.

Scientists are at work to increase their understanding of how nanomaterials interact with biological systems such as cell membranes so as to minimize any adverse effects. However, nanomaterials are still marketed commercially by the ton. They are in our cosmetics, sunscreens and lotions, car wax, paints and clothing. As research progresses and findings can be marketed in products, the list grows. The threat of potential toxicity of nanomaterials entering our tissues and cells exists and there could be real health implications.

Industry cannot allow for health, environmental or ethical concerns to decrease or halt the progress of nanotechnology. There is an agenda here – in the end it is much to do with a fat wallet.

Developments in this field are exciting but at what cost?
The point here is, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask the questions that matter.

For further reading, check out my article on nanotechnology on my site Microscope Master. Links in my bio.