A Layperson's View of Future Technology and Society

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The Future of Nanotechnology

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What is Nanotechnology?

Array of vertically aligned carbon nanotubes

Nanotechnology is a broad term that covers many areas of science, research and technology. In its most basic form, it can be described as working with things that are small. Things so tiny that they can't be seen with standard microscopes. The same stuff that has always been there, but we just couldn't see it. The building blocks of nature, atoms and molecules. Nano-technology involves understanding matter at the "nano" scale.

Array of vertically aligned carbon nanotubes credit: NASA

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diagram showing size differerence starting at DNA

Size Matters

This illustration from nano.gov gives visual examples of the size and the scale of nanotechnology, showing us just how small nanotechnology actually is.

A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter. In comparison, a human hair is about 100,000 nanometers in diameter.

All dimensions are approximate. Nanoparticle is courtesy of the National Center for Electron Microscopy, Lawrence Berkeley Lab, US Department of Energy.

Another illustration of size comparison can be found here:
"The scale of things"

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3d computer buckball

Buckyballs and Nanotubes

A fullerene is any molecule composed entirely of carbon, in the form of a hollow sphere, ellipsoid, or tube. Spherical fullerenes are also called buckyballs, and cylindrical ones are called carbon nanotubes or buckytubes.

Because of their unique properties, nanotubes and buckyballs open a path to many futuristic applications. Because of their size, they pose a risk to human health.

Buckyballs and Nanotubes


Image of Rotating crystal structure of C60 (Buckminister Fullerene). courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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How is nanotechnology being used today?

Nanotechnology is being used to make surfaces self-cleaning and stay clean for a long time. Nanotech can be found in cosmetics, sunscreens, clothing and many other consumer products today.

Nanotechnology products

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Types of Nanomaterials

  • Carbon Nanotubes
    Fullerenes and Buckyballs
    Fine and Ultrafine Particulates in Air
    Quantum Dots and Nanocrystals
    Titanium Dioxide nanoparticles
    Silver nanoparticles
    Silver nanowire
    Other nano-sized particles
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Nanotechnology risksReady or not, here it comes. In the next 20 years, nano-technology will touch the life of nearly every person on the planet. The potential benefits are mind boggling and brain enhancing. But like many of the great advancements in earth's history, it is not without risk. Here are some of the risks posed to society by nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology risks

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Nanobots do not exist yet, but when they do, futurists predict possible uses for nanorobots will include molecular manufacturing (nanofactories) and medical nanobots that steer autonomously through your blood stream making repairs and guarding against infection.


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Nanotechnology and Medicine

Nanomedicine is promising great things, including great advancements in the treatment of cancer. Imagine swarms of nanobots swimming through your veins, repairing cells or attacking viruses. On second thought, get that image out of your mind, it's a bit creepy. Just close your eyes and wait for the healing to begin.


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Featured Video

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Nanotechnology Articles, Blogs and Web Sites

All Links open in a new window. Bold = Recommended. Links do not imply endorsement.

Nanotechnology Technology Articles
Title Source Date
Nanoionics: A versatile system for constructing ion-conducting channels on monolayers Phys.Org 04/15
Nanotechnology changes behavior of materials used in solar cells Nanowerk 01/15
What Makes This Shirt Stain-Proof? Nanotechnology! Reviewed.com 12/14
Researchers use nanotechnology to engineer ACL replacements Fox News 12/14
Nanogel Heals Burn Wounds Faster Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology 05/14
Scientists develop world's first light-activated antimicrobial surface that also works in the dark University College London 03/14
Optical nano-tweezers allow for manipulating nanoscale objects KurzweilAI.net 02/14
Nanoparticles, made to order — inside and out MIT News 10/13
Researchers develop unique method for creating uniform nanoparticles Phys.Org 05/13
A material that most liquids won't wet University of Michigan 01/13
Flexible, Low-voltage Circuits Using Nanocrystals University of Pennsylvania 11/12
Nanotechnology - 10 Critical Topic Areas Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 06/12
A breakthrough on paper that's stronger than steel University of Technology, Sydney 04/11
New nanomaterials unlock new electronic and energy technologies KurzweilAI.net 02/11
The Future of Nanoscience Kavli Foundation 01/11
Silver-nanowire filters provides more clean water Stanford University 08/10
NIST team advances in translating language of nanopores Phys.Org 06/10
Nanoshell structures Phys.Org 06/10
Gold Nanoparticles Use Light to Kill Tumor Cells Phys.Org 05/10
A Window That Washes Itself Science Daily 12/09
Researchers effectively treat tumors with use of nanotubes Phys.Org 08/09
Nanomaker's Toolkit Society for Science & the Public 06/09
Nanoscopic probes can track down and attack cancer cells Phys.Org 03/09
Light-speed nanotech Phys.Org 01/09
Nanotechnology 'culture war' possible Phys.Org 12/08
Nanoparticle tooth protection Science Daily 12/08
Big step in tiny technology Phys.Org 08/08
Cheap, clean drinking water purified through nanotechnology NanoWerk 08/08
Microrobots dance on something smaller than a pin's head Phys.Org 06/08
Nanoscale freighter hauls its first load NewScientist 04/08
New Properties Discovered for Nanotube Sheets Phys.Org 04/08
Nanotech Puts Cancer In The Cross Hairs Forbes 02/08
'Holy Grail' Of Nanoscience Science Daily 02/08
Remotely Controlled Nanomachines Science Daily 07/07
Nanogenerator Softpedia 07/07
Nanotechnology Takes Off Public television video 03/07
Molecular manufacturing Center for Responsible Nanotechnology 06/06


Nanotechnology Web Sites and Blogs
Title Description
DEEPEN Understanding of the ethical challenges posed by emerging nanotechnologies in real world circumstances
Exploring the Nanoworld University of Wisconsin
Foresight Institute Educate society about the benefits and risks of nanotechnology
GoodNanoGuide To enhance the ability of experts to exchange ideas on how best to handle nanomaterials in an occupational setting
ICON International Council on Nanotechnology
Institute for Molecular Manufacturing Molecular Manufacturing
Institute for Nanoscale Technology University of Technology, Sydney
James M. Tour Group Rice University
MetaModern Eric Drexler Blog
NanoArchitecture Informing architects and designers about nanotechnology
NanoArt Art and Nanotechnology
NanoBliss Gallery of carbon nanotubes and silicon
NANObuildings Technical information about advanced technology facilities
NanoCEO Nanotechnology Citizen Engagement Organization
NanoGloss All about nanotechnology, nanomedicine, nanotubes and more
Nano.gov National Nanotechnology Initiative
NanoHub Resource for nanoscience and technology
NanoHype Research and policy of nanotechnology Blog
NanoMagazine IoN Publishing (Scotland)
NanoNews Nanotech news
NanoNovus Jack Uldrich blog
Nano-Quiz Nanowerk
Nano Research Nano Journal
Nano Science and Technology Institute Advances and integrates nano and other advanced technologies
Nanosingularity Wordpress blog
NanoTech.biz A guide for investors, enterpreneurs, students, researchers, and the general public
Nanotechnology Scitable
Nanotechnology and Nanoscience Nano news and information
Nanotechnology.com The International Network of Small Technology
Nanotechnology.net Nanotechnology News Headlines
Nanotechnology Image Gallery Chris Ewels
Nanotechnology Made Clear Understanding Nano
Nanotechnology Now Nanotechnology basics, news, and general information
NanoTechWeb Nanotechnology journal
NanoTechWire Nanotech portal
National Nanotechnology Initiative nano.gov
Nature Nanotechnology Nanotechnology jobs
Public Perceptions about Nanotechnology Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, (Germany)
Small Science, Big Deal Science Museum (UK)
Soft Machines Thoughts on the future of nanotechnology from Richard Jones
The Microfabrication Blog News about nanotechnology and related issues
The Nano Age To explain the basics of nanotechnology to a general audience while alluding to its potential for either good or bad
The Nanoethics Group Cal Poly State University
The Scale of the Universe Zoom from the edge of the universe to the quantum foam of spacetime
Understanding Nano Explanations of nanotechnology applications
WhatisNano.org For students and teachers
What is Nanotechnology? IOP Science


Nanotechnology Multimedia
Title Description
Gold nanomotors inside a living human cell Pennsylvania State University youtube video
How Nanotechnology Works By How Stuff Works
How Small is a Nanometer? Choose your favorite! 3 different ways to look at nanosize
Nanotechnology Nanotechnology and solar panel efficiency video
Nanotechnology - Age of Convergence Interesting youtube video


Article Sources
What is Nanotechnology? Article paraphrased from nano.gov


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