The field of engineering has undergone many developments over the years and many more developments are still on-going. One of these recent engineering developments is nanotechnology. This technology involves building systems from a molecular level upwards.
The molecular level or the Nano scale is so small that someone cannot see the Nano-particles with bare eyes. In order to understand the size of these particles let us compare their size with more common measurements. A meter is about an arm’s length and this is easy to visualize. Actually an average person’s height is about 1.6 meters. A millimetre is the size of one unit from a meter divided into a thousand equal units. A nanometre, which is the diameter of the building blocks in nanotechnology, is the size of one unit of a meter divided into a billion equal units.
Eric Drexler is credited for his work and popularizing this technology. He did his studies starting in the 1980s. In addition to studies, he also experimented on nanotechnology. At this time, Eric’s idea was to build very small machines such as motors and computers. The size of these machines would be small that a cell in a living creature. Despite nanotechnology having been just an idea in the 1980s some industries are already using the technology today and other industries are exploring the chances of using the technology.
Nanowires and carbon nanotubes are great examples of products manufactured through this technology. Nanowires, as the name suggests, have a diameter of approximately one nanometre. This is a wire that is smaller than a strand of hair. It is hoped that once the technology of manufacturing these wires is perfected, the wires will be used in the manufacture of small electronic components such as transistors and chips. On the other hand, carbon nanotubes are made out of carbon sheets that seem like a pattern of hexagons, that is, they are not all solid. These sheets are rolled into making the tubes. The properties of a carbon nanotube depend on how the sheet is rolled. Therefore, tubes made out of the same sheet can have very different properties such as strength and flexibility. Irrespective of the specific properties of a nanotube, it is always stronger and lighter than the used sheet.
Nanotechnology provides an opportunity to improve the available products in different fields. Products such as cars and airplanes made out of carbon nanotubes will be lighter and stronger. On the other hand, electronic products such as computers and mobile phones can be made smaller than they currently are.