Conceptual origins of nanotechnology are attributed to Richard Feynman. In a 1959 talk at Caltech, "theres plenty of room at the bottom" he suggested that on atomic scale we have so much room to make tiny things that this could revolutionize the world.
When dealing with molecules, when we look at a picture we are not really looking at how they really look. The molecule is invisible, it is more a cloud of electrons and possibilities, at least until the early 80s. The Scanning tunneling microscope was invented by Gerd Binning and Heinrich, at IBM.This microscope allow us to view atomic resolution images of surfaces.
|Gerd Binning and Heinrich|
Scanning tunneling microscope feels the invisible. On the microscope we have the finger, a fine needle terminated by a single atom. Using the finger we use STM rastering to form an image of silicon atoms on a surface. The rastering is then converted into an image in grayscale. The grayscale picture can be interpreted as a contour map which can then be averaged out to make smooth and finally colored.
|Scanning Tunneling Microscope|
We can change properties on the nano scale, such as the lotus leaf effect. The effect of hydrophobicity due to structure on nanoscale of lotus leaf. This changes wetting of water on surface, becomes non wetting since particles are spherical. The water runs off leaf, left uncontaminated. This has inspired many companies to create self cleaning fabrics. For example self cleaning glass.
|Lotus Leaf Effect|
Nano particles can be used in many different applications and technologies. The most exciting for improving human life is nano medicine. Pharmaceuticals use of nano technology to target specific tumors offers great benefits for people in the future. Person with cancer under going chemo therapy has the possibility of reducing toxicity. For example in Abraxane, particles are nanoscale and coated with albumin, this allows the toxicity to be much lower and soluble.
Quantum dots or nanoparticles, if you make them nanoscale you can tune the color by the size of the particle. If they are nontoxic they can be excellent replacement for cosmetic products, as well as be used to tag particular types of disease. Different colors represent different parts of the cells targeted and if below about 4 nm they can pass blood brain barrier and enter the cells.
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