Nanotechnology, the smallest

2000/11/01 Roa Zubia, Guillermo - Elhuyar Zientzia Iturria: Elhuyar aldizkaria

When you write about the future of science, you talk about advances that will mean a total revolution. We ask basic science for new concepts that cannot be heard and if they are difficult to understand, better. In the field of technology, the size of machines is often the measure of this revolution, rather than the new concepts. Sometimes the mind and other times the need stimulate the decline.

In nature there are many examples of nanomechanisms. Perhaps the highlight is the natural catalysts of chemical reactions, including enzymes. They are giants in the world of molecules, but have a maximum length of 200 nanometers. They are molecules of great specificity, that is, each has a unique and specific role. They are designed to respond to the chemical and geometric need for a reaction. This way no errors occur. These "machines" are atomic planned. It is no wonder that life is based on this type of concrete nanomechanisms.

Another beautiful example is that of photosynthesis. It is a molecular mechanism for capturing light rays. The protagonist is a nanoscopic parabolic antenna called chlorophyll. The antenna is a porphyrin molecule, with the central magnesium atom receiving electrons excited by light. This structure is associated with internal chloroplast cell membranes by a long molecular branch. The machine designed by nature is fully efficient. It can become an example for the human being. Why not?

Below microtechnology

In order to make an ever smaller tool, a good study of the materials is necessary. In recent years the limitation of the small has aroused the attention of physicists. Things are made of molecules. Molecules by atoms. Atoms with electrons, neutrons and protons. These quarkez. It is difficult to say whether the analysis of the structure of matter will ever end. But for technology, for the moment, the limit is atoms and molecules. For this there is a clear reason. Atoms and molecules are the smallest subunits for making stable matter. In 1990 Jerome I. Physicist Friedman received the Nobel Prize for demonstrating the nature of quarks. In your opinion, the limit of technology will be the atom for a long time, to go to the next steps, because the energy is very different. Handling smaller particles requires a lot of energy.

Nanos means Greek –imi–o. In science the nano prefix is used to express the part of a billion something. For example, if a liter is divided into a billion fractions, each part is a nanoliter. And if instead of a liter we do the same with a meter, we will get nanometers. The nanometer is a measure of great importance for physicists and chemists, since the size of many molecules is approximately one nanometer. Nanotechnology involves the design of machines of the size of atoms and molecules. Therefore, for the manufacture of nanomissions it is necessary to visualize and move the atoms and molecules individually.

Insufficient exact mechanics

That is the main difficulty of nanotechnology. The physical laws governing atoms and molecules are those of quantum mechanics. The instrument needed to locate a single atom in an appropriate place must be based on quantum laws. This machine was designed in 1981 by physicists Gerd Binning and Heinrich Rohrer of the IBM laboratory. (see Elhuyar Zientzia eta Teknika, June 2000, page 13).

This is the Scanning Tunnel Microscope (STM). For this invention he received the Nobel Prize in 1986. From the same physical base, scientists invented other tools. From then on, the physicists saw the atoms and learned to move slowly. In fact, a tool called "nanomaneiadora" is currently being developed at the University of North Carolina, which can move atoms in real time. Another interesting technique for the formation of nanostructures is the molecular beam epitaxia (Molecular Beam Epitaxy, MBE). This technique generates layers of a single atom or molecule of thickness on a surface. In this way nanotransistors can be obtained by placing layers of semiconductor materials. Molecules may also be obtained. There is the possibility of introducing millions of transistors into a chip today, but we do not know how much nanotechnology will multiply.

New nanotwist of our environment

The first computer revolution will come from nanotransistors. In fact, at Intel this technique is being used in new microprocessors (which should be called nanoprocessors). Progress consists of both accumulation capacity and speed. Computers will be smaller, cheaper and more powerful. Together with them will be developed all those who incorporate electronic systems and emit electromagnetic signals.

In medicine the advantages of nanotechnology will also be noted in many applications. Surfaces of interaction with the body, such as transplants, can be designed at the atomic level. Diagnostic tools have also begun to market. In April of this year a camera of the size of a pill was presented. Ingestion of this chamber allows a medical review of the digestive tract. This camera is probably a pioneer in the tools doctors will use soon.

Also in industrial processes nanotechnology could bring great novelties. For example, chemical reactions through catalysis can be more accurate, as the catalyst can be designed at the atomic level. In this way, the performance of the reactions will increase and the waste will disappear greatly. It would be an important step for the smokeless industry.

The state of the materials can be controlled at the molecular level. For example, potential cracks or corrosion problems in concrete can be detected to predict building weaknesses. On the other hand, techniques will be available to reinforce these materials. In general, a solution will be sought to the challenge of things being unbreakable.

This challenge is also essential in the field of vehicles. In addition, several companies are studying molecular motor design theoretically. The traditional concerns of the automotive industry can be addressed from a new perspective. Among others, lighter vehicles will be designed to move on land, air or water and require less fuel. There is also talk of devices capable of resolving.

All this will not only be seen in industrial applications. It is also a topic that shakes appliances. What we use now on a daily basis will be lighter, better and more sustainable in the near future. But nanotechnology is expected to invent and develop new concepts. Who knows what will be invented... It can be said, however, that it is the main source of inspiration, as has always happened, the design of nature. For example, obtaining artificial photosynthesis can be a major revolution in the energy field.

It is difficult to predict where nanotechnology can take us. Change life. We have seen the limit of the small, but we have yet to start exploiting it. Perhaps, from the moment nanotechnology is considered normal, the fact that tools are smaller is not our concern.

Gai honi buruzko eduki gehiago

Elhuyarrek garatutako teknologia