Nanotechnology can be defined as the study of the manipulation and application of matter on a molecular scale. According to Wikipedia, it generally deals with developing materials or other structures possessing a size of at least one hundred nanometers. The concepts of nanotechnology were considered fiction until December 29, 1959 during a talk entitled “There’s plenty of Room at the Bottom” by physicist Richard Feynman at an American Physical Society meeting at the California Institute of Technology. In this talk, Feynman described a process by which individual atoms and molecules can be controlled and manipulated.
The term, “Nanotechnology” was coined over a decade later by Professor Norio Taniguchi. It wasn’t until 1981, with the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope and the atomic force microscope that could “see” individual atoms, that contemporary nanotechnology began (National Nanotechnology Initiative n.d). It is difficult to envision how small nanotechnology is. An illustrative example given by the National Nanotechnology Initiative is; a sheet of newspaper is one hundred thousand nanometers thick. This kind of size is extremely small and cannot even be seen by the typical microscopes used in high school science classes.
Although the study is a new one, nanoscale materials have been in use for centuries. The colors of the stained glasses of medieval churches built hundreds of years ago were created by alternate sized gold and silver particles. The artists then did not know the process they employed to create those works of art. Today’s scientists on the other hand are discovering a variety of ways to exploit the science and its enhanced properties like higher strength, lighter weight and so on.
The impending opportunities promised by nanotechnology in the defense sector can be said to be staggering. The applications can range from stealth clothing to miniaturized vehicles. According to a speech given by Dr. Ayman El-Fatatry, a handful of companies have been announcing the development of a wide range of nano-based materials which include the Nylon 6 or montmorillonite nanocomposite with reported advanced armor, light weight and flexibility properties. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA have used nanotechnology to develop battle suits that are resistant against ballistic onslaught. The Toyota vehicle company has embarked on making super hard and light car parts. They employed nanocomposites that make their vehicle bumpers sixty percent harder and twice as resistant to denting and scratching (Dr. Ayman El-Fatatry n.d). In decades to come, the possibility of self-healing materials may be realized.
The use of nanotechnology in the medical field reveals some exciting possibilities. While some of these applications are still fictional, some are at various stages of testing, or even already in use today. In medicine, the science employs nanoparticles to administer drugs, light or other medications to specific...