Nanotechnology promises to be the technology of tomorrow. With the demand for technology to become smaller and smaller there is an increasing need for advances in nanotechnology. It is already in use, for example in sunscreen, and is being developed for use in mobile phones, cars and computers. But what is nanotechnology and how is it going to be used in the future?
What is nanotechnology?
It can be defined as engineering on a tiny scale. This scale, as the name suggests, is of the nanometer, which is a billionth of a metre. To put that into perspective, a hair has a diameter of about 800,000 to 100,000 nanometers and your finger nail grows one nanometer in a second. That’s so small that you can’t see it with the naked eye. Scientists have combated this problem by developing a clever way to see these tiny objects using the atomic force microscope. The atomic force microscope (AFM) feels the surface of the material using a small lever, known as a cantilever. The movement this lever is measured using a laser and the information gathered can be made into a picture like this:
There is a great potential for nanotechnology to aid in the continuation of the computer revolution. However there is a problem when it comes to the conductive wires which could be used as those currently available are too big. It is thought that that this may be combatted by using DNA. DNA is perfect for this application due to the flexibility of its design, and a large amount of information is known about its synthesis which has allowed the process to now be easily duplicated. Research has also shown that charge transport occurs in DNA for over 34nm without damaging the DNA.
DNA-wires may enable electrical devices to become smaller, so one day DNA may be used in personal electronic devices such as phones and computers. More importantly, DNA-wires may improve medical testing, enabling smaller biosensors. This may result in bed side testing and hand-held devices, speeding up diagnosis to allow for quicker treatment.