Nanotechnology is basically the manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale. The earliest, widespread description of nanotechnology referred to the particular technological goal of precisely manipulating atoms and molecules for fabrication of macroscale products, also now referred to as molecular nanotechnology. Continue reading for five mind-boggling things you may not have known about nanotech.
5. Invisibility Cloak
MIT researchers announced that a nanotechnology-based invisibility cloak would be possible, constructed using core-shell nanoparticles surrounding a semiconductor matrix host. The nanoparticles would basically cancel out electron scattering – the process that makes light waves visible – and instead of being scattered, the electrons would travel through the host as if it were not even there. After all, matter isn’t purely solid but full of invisible space.
4. Bulletproof Business Suit
Toronto-based Garrison Bespoke’s bulletproof suit is lined with several sheets of carbon nanotube fabric and manufactured by the same anonymous company that makes personal armor for the US Army Special Forces. Gizmag reports, “These sheets are thinner and more flexible than Kevlar, while only having half the weight, and are so resistant to damage they have to be cut using a bandsaw. The resistance of the suit to stabbing is due to the tendency of the carbon nanotubes to tighten their weave in response to a point force, effectively blunting the tip of the knife, and preventing it from penetrating the fabric.”
3. Damascus Steel
A research team in Germany published a report in 2006 revealing nanowires and carbon nanotubes in a blade forged from Damascus steel. This finding was covered by National Geographic and the New York Times. Although certain types of modern steel outperform these swords, chemical reactions in the production process made the blades extraordinary for their time, as damascus steel was superplastic and very hard at the same time.
Buckypaper is a thin sheet made from an aggregate of carbon nanotubes. The nanotubes are approximately 50,000 times thinner than a human hair. Originally, it was fabricated as a way to handle carbon nanotubes, but it is also being studied and developed into applications by several research groups, showing promise as vehicle armor, personal armor, and next-generation electronics and displays.
1. Grey Goo
Grey goo is a hypothetical end-of-the-world scenario involving molecular nanotechnology in which out-of-control self-replicating robots consume all matter on Earth while building more of themselves, a scenario that has been called ecophagy (“eating the environment”). The original idea assumed machines were designed to have this capability, while popularizations have assumed that machines might somehow gain this capability by accident. Self-replicating machines of the macroscopic variety were originally described by mathematician John von Neumann, and are sometimes referred to as von Neumann machines.