Monday, August 5, 2019

What Are The Uses Of Nanotechnology Environmental Sciences Essay

What Are The Uses Of Nanotechnology Environmental Sciences Essay Nanoscience and nanotechnology congers up visions of making, imaging, manipulating and utilizing things really small and the defining feature of nanochemistry is the utilization of synthetic chemistry to make nanoscale building blocks of different size and shape, composition and surface structure, charge and functionality[1]. The initial concepts of nanotechnology were decribed by Richard Feynman in 1959 when he gave a talk describing a process involving individual atoms and molecules that could be manipulated. Professor Taniguchi later helped define nanotechnology as a process involving separation, consolidation and deformation of materials on particles the size of an atom or a molecule[2]. The national nanotechnology initiative describes nanotechnology as the understanding and control of matter at dimensions between approximately 1 and 100 nanometres where unique phenomena enable novel applications[3]. The nanotechnology field is interdisciplinary and spans across physics, biology, chemistry, medicine, materials science and computing[4] and requires engineering at a nanoscale. A nanometre is equal to a billionth of a metre (10-9) and nanotechnology can be defined based on its scale being less than 100nm[5]. The science of nanoscale materials is said to fall between the extremes of 1nm and 1 Â µm lengths[1]. Nanotechnology incorporates science and technology to allow manipulation of atoms and molecules to create new systems, materials and devices with at least one feature of less than 100 nm in size. This provides the capacity to work at the molecular level, atom by atom, to create large structures with fundamentally new molecular organisation[6] which significantly contributes to enhanced material properties in physical, chemical and biological aspects as a result of their nanoscale caliber[6]. At the nanoscale materials have different properties; silver and gold nanoparticles hav e catalytic properties whilst pieces visual to the human eye are inert and unreactive. This is due to smaller particles having a much larger surface are to volume ratio and at sizes below 100 nm quantum effects become apparent. Fabrication on a nanoscale requires the use of molecules as building blocks. There are two approaches taken towards nanotechnology. The top-down approach uses conventional methods of micro fabrication extending them into the molecular size regime and includes electron beam and X-ray lithography. The bottom up approach incorporates the principles of self-assembly extending them from the molecular into the micrometer size regime which in a way mimics the way nature constructs biological systems and requires suitable building blocks. In 1959 hypothetical concepts and experimental results for nano-size materials and devices appeared, however the recent scientific developments have encouraged a revival of activity and created developments in the nanoscience field[1]. Nanotechnology has followed on from micro-engineering where tolerances of 10-6m have become common in the motor vehicle and aerospace industries allowing the manufacture of high quality and safer transportation. In the computing industry the miniaturization revolution has become most apparent. The worlds first stored-program electronic digital computer nicknamed the baby was built in Manchester in 1948 and had the processing power equivalent to that of a mobile phone yet the machine itself filled an entire room. Today the components of a computer have been de-scaled down to the size of a mobile phone and contain nano features, whilst they can process information much faster. Nanoscience is already a leading solution provider to many societal, health and environmental problems and due to its high potential for future developments it is attracting large amounts of funding. Nanotechnology has played a vital part in major revolutionary advances in medicine. Nanoparticles can be used to help faster detection of diseases. They are introduced into the body and bind to targeting antibodies which in turn will bind to the diseased cells and creates a fluorescent glow which can be detected by an imaging system which pinpoints the location of the disease from early onset. There are nano coatings that can repel dirt and prevent the spread of mrsa which has recently become a problem in hospitals. Nanotechnology is creating a path for faster diagnosis of disease and more accurate drug targeting using smaller quantities of drugs, hence reducing toxicity to the body. Looking from an environmental aspect nanotechnology is helping to develop cheaper and more efficient solar energy cells to be used in homes as a cleaner energy source. Nanotechnology is responsible for the production of environmentally friendly nanocoatings which are highly effective and not toxic to the environment, which can be used to replace toxic cadmium and chromium coatings that are currently used. There are nanocoatings which can protect materials making them more durable and resistant to scratches and graffiti. Nanoparticles can be used to invisibly tag things which make it easier for identification purposes and for crime prevention. Nanotechnology has allowed for tougher car tyres, improved sun creams, cheaper solar cells, stronger aeroplane wings, more sensitive and specific sensors, more efficient catalysts, hydrogen storage, tougher fabrics, new materials for sports equipment such as golf clubs and to reinforce the frames and strings on tennis racquets, intelligent glass for windows and glasses, flat screen TV screens among many other things. Carbon nanotubes are highly electrically and thermally conductive and have a tensile strength one hundred times stronger than steel whilst being a lot lighter. The highly desirable properties of carbon nanotubes allow tremendous future possibilities for aviation, military and medical applications. Carbon nanotubes and other materials such as plastics and textiles can be combined to produce lightweight bullet proof vests. Silver nanoparticles are present in socks and help combat bad odour by killing bacteria and this idea has been mimicked in dressing for wounds to keep them sterile. Nanotechnologies have enabled self-cleaning and dirt repellent clothes, which contributes to reducing the energy used to wash them. Nanotechnology developments in the pipeline include carbon nanotubes that can generate heat and may be ideal for electric blankets or as wall paper to heat cold walls and insulate homes. Research currently in process includes polymer based nanofibres that can be filled with nanoparticles, enzymes, catalysts, or an antibacterial. The nanofibres can be sprayed onto cut and wounds to activate the healing process or used to form temporary membranes or filters in the body. Nanoelectric devices have been embedded into textiles and can monitor internal temperature, chemical sensing and provide support for people that partake in extreme sports or for firefighters and other professions wherer this could be a vital piece of equipment. To support these nanoelectric devices research is being conducted on the viability of man made nanfibres which are used to present new properties such as shock absorbance, strength, heat stability and fire retardancy. Encapsulation is a process which increases th e performance or shelf like of a less stable substance and has been used in the nanoencapsulation of cancer drugs to increase their efficiency. It can help to deliver improved taste and protects food substances from harsh processing environments and in household cleaning products they can provide longer lasting scented household fragrances and also to help reduce energy and water use by slowly releasing enzymes in washing detergents. Nanoscale manufacture is already well established with food companies. Several foods and drinks comprise of natural nanoscale ingredients which can be manipulated which often happens in the manufacture of dairy produce[3]. Nanotechnology has been used to incorporate new tastes, flavours, physical effects and health benefits to foods as well improving food manufacture standards by being used to create antibacterial surfaces, packaging that is protected against contamination and special filters that can remove impurities and toxic chemicals[3]. Research in the motor industry is offering applications of nanotechnology to provide improved fuel cells for cleaner energy, more efficient catalysts, corrosion and scratch protection as well as stronger yet lighter engines and other motor parts. Nanoparticles are currently present as additives in fuels which enable lower fuel consumption and decrease any toxic emissions and research is being conducted to develop way in which nanotechnology coul d eradicate hazardous reactants and toxic emissions altogether. Cars are benefiting from nano-sensors which are reducing collisions and can detect part failures within the vehicles. The benefits surrounding the use of nanotechnology in our every day lives is endless, it is obvious that nanotechnology could shape the world of the future and contribute to developing a sustainable environment; maybe one day nanoscience could contribute to ending world hunger. Cancer could be eradicated as surgical procedures are carried out at the molecular level and eventually with nanosurgery everything could hopefully be repairable. However without the cycle of life and death the population on the world would increase to an unmanageable amount that would affect the sustainable environment we are supposedly aiming to achieve. Future developments of nanotechnology are totally unpredictable and the nanoscience phenomenon is still in its early stages. While the many benefits of nanotechnology are apparent, scientists are nervous about what the future may hold and concerns surrounding the ability to make materials come to life via means of reconstruction on the molecular level are most daunting. A particular concern is the development of nanorobotics that could potentially lead to nanorobots taking on human duties which would endanger and unbalance the world economy. However nanoscience is in the responsibility of the scientists and out of our hands for the time being, there are people who fear the future of nanotechnologies and there are those who are looking forward to their developments. Like with any new technology on the market, nanotechnologies also pose potential risks which need to be fully understood in order to optimize the advantages of using nanotechnology regularly. Once embedded in polymers nanoparticles are very safe, yet there is some uncertainty surrounding free nanoparticles and the health threats posed if inhaled. The government and the nanotechnology industry are extremely aware of the possible risks, it is not doubted that nanotechnology can bring profound benefits to society but these various applications of nanotechnology need to be supervised and maintained to safe and risk free level. Public concern surrounding nanotechnology is limited as a large population of the public have not yet heard of nanotechnology[7] and those who have dont fully understand what it actually entails[8-10]. A study in France confirmed that 81.5% of the participants had little or no knowledge about nanotechnology (table 1) [7]. Social scientists have researched what influences public perception of new up coming technologies like nanotechnology[11]. A recent study in March 2011, Comparing nanoparticle risk perceptions to other known EHS risks has concluded that the public are relatively unconcerned about nanotechnology risks and the risks of nanotechnology perceived by the public are relatively low compared to other health and environmental risks ( fig 1.)[9]. In this study the public have ranked street drugs as the highest posed risk followed by smoking, AIDS, nuclear waste and obesity. Nanoparticles have been ranked on the low end of the scale, 20th out of 24, along with X-rays, air trave l and mobile phone use[9]. Fig.1. Rankings by high health risk perceptions[9]. A survey of the public perceptions about the use of nanotechnology in foods and food packaging concluded that the public are ambiguous and pessimistic surrounding applications in the food industry[7]. However the study only surveyed 752 individuals, so this is not a true and fair representation of the views of the public world or UK wide. The study titled The public understanding of the food domain was carried out in France and revealed that the general consensus of the participants was that they were doubtful about nanotechnology in food and food packaging and hence viewed that the benefits equalled the risks[7]. However as the percentage of unfamiliarity surrounding nanotechnology of the participants was extremely high[7] it could be argued that with more understanding of the topic participants and also the rest of the public would be more swayed to support nanotechnology if they were more informed of the benefits and risks. The unknown causes people to be doubtful and cynical and view something they have no knowledge about in a negative light. Evidence suggests that the public however perceive nanotechnology to pose more of a risk than experts do but generally the public believe that the benefits associated with nanoscience outweigh the impact of risk[10, 12]. Table 1. Frequencies and percentages: nanotechnology food packaging (nano-outside), nanofood (nano-inside) and nanotech familiarity (N=752) [7]. After the public backlash against genetically modified foods the public perceptions of new and emerging technologies are highly valued and extremely important and need to considered fully[13]. Given the important and lucrative benefits of nanotechnology for the future the public need to be made fully aware of the advantages before they make negative judgements themselves based on their lack of knowledge surrounding the topic. Uninformed people will automatically have a negative biased opinion of new technology if they are not slowly introduced to the idea and made aware of the advantages before they hear about the minor risks and pass judgement themselves. People in industry fear that without more research and public awareness there may be an outcry against their use of nanomaterials[14]. It was reported that increased education on new technologies led to increased public anxiety of the subject[15]. Will giving the public more information, provide them with more ammunition for a repeat of the public out cries against genetically modified foods and gene technology. Communication between the public and decision makers in nanoscience and the government needs to be established sooner rather than later to gain the public approval and to ensure there isnt a repeat performance of the GM food backlash[13]. Already public protestors present at Nanotechnology debates held in France in 2010 chanted Nano, its not green, its totalitarian[16]. Public perception depends upon the type of utilization surrounding the new technology [17] and most of the time applications involving food and medicine are considered to cause the most controversy in the public eye[18, 19]. A Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution in the UK found no evidence that nanomaterials have harmed people or the environment, but recommended further research and evidence to confirm this[14]. The public need to hear positive evidence surrounding the safety of nanotechnology maybe before they are introduced to current and future developments. Public concern includes whether manufacturers and industry will benefit more in terms of revenue from nanotechnology than the consumers[20]. The concern over nanotechnology in food is more of a worry to the public than its use in packaging which is deemed to be quite useful in fact [20]. Titanium-dioxide, one of the most commonly used nanoparticles used in consumer products such as sun creams [21] has recently been slated after finding that Titanium dioxide nanoparticles caused chromosomal damage, as well as inflammation, all of which increase the risk of cancer when tests were carried out on mice[22]. However a year later the same source of information, UCLAs NanoSystems Institute revealed how nanoparticles have been used in the delivery of cancer drug therapy in mice[23] which could have huge potential in the development of human anti-cancer drugs. As of yet the various warnings against nanotechnology can not be justified as there is a lack of concrete evidence to support such claims against nanotechnology. According to new laws from the European Parliament cosmetics containing nanomaterials will have to be duly labelled and the new regulation states Nanomaterials: labelling, definition and safety assessment needed[24]. After Germanys Federal Environment Agency revealed a report about nanotechnology[25] which consequently lead to media headlines reading The German Environment agency warns against nanotechnology and Nanotechnology can make you sick[26] the environment agency retaliated by declaring that we havent done any of our own research and as a result feel the report has been misinterpreted [27]. This is an example of fabrication of warnings against nanotechnology and without adequate evidence the public misconception with regards to new nanotechnology will continue. A report published in 2010, Report on the European Commissions Public Online Consultation towards a Strategic Nanotechnology Action Plan concluded a number of points related to public concerns with regards to nanotechnology amongst other cohorts[28]. The majority public opinion on nanotechnologies was reasonably optimistic and not a single person voted opposed towards nanotechnologies (fig). The public perceived food and healthcare to be most at risk with respect to nanotechnology (fig). Toxic nanomaterials and the nanomaterial workers health were both highlighted as being the most important major issues the public had concern over (fig). The general consensus across all areas questioned was that more action needed to be done with regards to the EU Policies in the new action plan. The areas highlighted the most included addressing safety concerns, developing better tools and adapting existing nanomaterial legislation (fig). Fig.[28] Fig. [28] Fig. Public concerns about the current state of development of nanotechnologies[29]. Fig. [28]

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