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.

Nano-Imaging

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.

14 thoughts on “What do we need to know about nanotechnology?

  1. Basically a nanometer is a length unit 10 raised to the power -9 units smaller than a metre, and what is more interesting is the innovations that have been done at such a small size. The VLSICs have been confined to the size of a few hundred nanometres and that is what has made parallel computing so much fun. Its other applications are indeed going to change the face of the medical world of tommorow.

  2. What’s coming down the pipes is innovative and incredible to say the least. Medicine will be impacted – with positives and negatives. We still have to wait and see where nanotechnology really takes us – I intend to post an article on nanobots – unbelievable marvels!

  3. Christopher (admin team)

    What a great article Hayley! Very informative and interesting – I have learnt a lot reading it 🙂

    Don’t forget to check back soon for more comments, and don’t forget to tell your friends via social media 🙂

  4. Another future application of nanotechnology will be in machines called replicators. Long considered to be exclusively the product of science fiction, today some people believe replicators are a very real possibility. this machine can produce practically any physical object, from weapons to a steaming cup of coffee. They call it molecular manufacturing, and if it ever does become a reality, it could drastically change the world.

  5. There’s no question that these things have to be regulated. Organizations will have to come up with a way on how to classify these materials for better regulation. In an optimistic view, these materials are a good breakthrough and are believed to be used for the betterment of life. However, good things also come with evil means. Proper regulation is key.

    • Christopher (admin team)

      Nanotechnology does look like it has great potential!

      Thanks for the comment, welcome to the blog 🙂
      Christopher – Admin Team

    • Thank you for your comments, hoping to read a blog post from Nnanoparticles soon!?! 🙂 Nanotechnology is moving forward…..I suppose we will just need to keep our minds open to the possibilities!

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