Since the Computer Age, researchers have striven to make all components smaller. For example, the transistor started as large vacuum tubes originally used for phone line amplification in 1947. Since then, miniaturization steps have made transistors as small as 45 nm. Furthermore, materials that have certain properties in bulk have vastly different properties in the nano-scale. With constant new miniature electronics and novel nano-materials, scientists are experimenting with radical new designs for nano-scale automation. Nano-robots have been imagined doing almost all the tedious tasks of the future; from a nano-suit that constantly grows with the user to nano-synthesis of complex objects. Although there are some obviously ridiculous ideas in science fiction regarding nano-robots, there has been much advancement of the nano-robotics field in the areas of biochips, DNA robots, nano-motors, and a conceptual nanocar. Nano-robotics holds huge promise in future applications but with the current technological limits, usable nano-robots administered by doctors for care or a nano-factory designed by engineers are still science fiction.
Nano-robotics attempts to create machines that perform repetitive tasks at the nano-scale. The advantage of nano-robots over their bulk counterparts is their scale; 10-9 meters, which allows for a large amount of bots to take up only a small amount of volume. Also known as nanobots, nanoids, nanites, or nanomites, these robots are generally tasked in working in large groups to perform a specific function. The nano-robots mentioned may not be robots as thought of in the macro-scale, but can be a man-made collection of materials that perform a tedious function that cannot be done by humans. Therefore nano-robots can be as simple as small metal films that detect certain chemicals, or as complex as a nano-rotary motor. The small-scale nature of the proposed nano-robots makes it difficult for any one nanobot to perform a macro function. To increase the area of effect, ‘swarms’ of nanobots are used. A large swarm of nanobots can perform a function more effectively and specifically than macro-scale devices. There are also unique quantum effects that occur at the nano-scale of materials. There is also that fact that with nano-materials, the surface area is much larger compared to the volume allowing for surface enhancement effects. These advantages make nano-robots a competitive alternative to macro-scale robots. Nano-robots are an appealing alternative to macro-scale techniques because the raw materials needed to manufacture them is much smaller and will achieve the same effect. Also, future procedures will be minimally invasive and devices can be extremely miniaturized.
3. THE FUTURE OF NANOTECHNOLOGY
Nanotechnology has not advanced to the level of science fiction, but this has not stopped people from envisioning millions of uses for nanobots in everyday applications. The most common ideas are expressed in...