Nanotechnology, the science of microscopic machinery, will have the capability to both enhance our lives and possibly destroy the world. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter or about half the diameter of the double helix in our DNA.
Nanodevices are small machines built on the molecular scale. The science can be used to build invisible robots and other devices that perform tasks previously beyond our imagination.
1. Invisible Robots Patrolling our Bloodstream
Nanorobots might replace most other types of medical treatments in the future. According to theories, patients will be able to receive an implant of a nanorobot into their bloodstreams to rid them of their health problems instead of taking an antibiotic pill or getting a shot.
The robot would be able to detect what your problem is, travel to the system that needs to be treated and treat the problem accordingly. Some researchers say that we are not too far from such technology and that it could become a reality sooner than later. Once properly developed, these nanobots could revolutionize the way in which diseases and other health problems are treated.
Of course, there is much work that still needs to be done. The nanobots need to be small enough to travel through our bodies without causing and problems. They also need to be smart enough to navigate the body’s very complex system of veins and arteries once they have entered the bloodstream.
Many believe that the nanobots will become a better and more direct way of treating diseases. Unlike today’s methods, where medicine is injected at the surface, with nanotechnology, the medicine would be able to be delivered more directly. So instead of the medicine becoming diluted by traveling through your entire system before getting to where it needs to be, nanorobots would be able to travel to the point of infection or where the disease is stemming from and deliver a small but potent dose of medicine directly to the source.
This method would also mean that there would be fewer side effects associated with most types of medication. Not only that, but the medicine that we have today would also be more effective if delivered through such a method using nanotechnology and more precise treatments.
2. Insanely Dense Information Storage
With nanotechnology, we can develop extremely dense storage devices that will dwarf the hard drives and USB flash drives we use today. Imagine storing the contents of the entire Library of Congress in a device the size of a sugar cube.
The future of data storage appears to be in nano-imprinting. This is a change that is very visible in society already. Most people who are at least 30 years old have seen how storage has progressed in such a small period of time, from floppy disks to the small USBs of today that can hold more information than a thousand floppy disks.
Nanotechnology can change the way in which data will be stored. Not only are we talking about incredibly small devices that hold and amazing amount of data, but there are also talks of the ability to implant these nanotechnologies into the body and even directly into the brain. According to some, the future will allow us to implant information into our brains, which could forever change the educational system of the future.
Could we one day be able to skip over 20 years of schooling and simply enter the data into our brains through nano-technology and incredibly small but potent storage devices that can be inserted into the body? Many experts believe that this is a very realistic idea that could become reality.
But before something like that occurs, expect to be able to be able to storage incredible amounts of data on micro-technologies very soon. There are already USBs being developed that will be able to hold an entire terabyte of information. This is one of the fastest growing technologies because of the need to store and increasingly larger amount of data and information every day.
3. World-Threatening “Gray Goo”
We don’t yet know enough about how nanotechnology works when it is no longer under our direct control. Some scientists fear that nanotechnology will turn into “gray goo” that consumes the entire world like an attacking swarm of locusts.
Sure, this might seem like something right out of a science fiction horror novel, but it is not an inconceivable scenario in any way.
The gray goo scenario is something that scientists and fiction writers have been discussing in recent years. It is a doomsday scenario that refers to nanotechnology turning on the human race and eliminating it. The theme of machine against man is one that can be seen all throughout history, but this gray goo scenario is the scariest of all.
According to most theories related to the gray goo scenario, many believe that man will create nanotechnologies that will be able to create more creations like themselves on their own.
These nanomachines, called assemblers by some, would have the power to create molecular beings. Each generation of these tiny machines would then self reproduce and quickly take over the planet just by way of sheer numbers.
The machines would then start to convert all organic matter into more assemblers, which would in the end, gives us a world that would be filled with nothing but nanomachines in the end.
So what’s the best way to avoid such a scenario? It all comes with using this type of technology responsibly and being able to harness its powers at all times. The frightening thing is that man has a history of taking technology too far and using it to destroy itself, so this unfortunately, might be a more realistic end scenario for the world than most people are willing to admit.
Only time will tell.
4. Light-Driven Cancer Treatment
A doctor will inject metal nanoparticles into the patient’s bloodstream so they accumulate in a tumor. Then the oncologist shines a light at a specific frequency to activate the particles, heating them until they destroy the cancer cells while sparing healthy tissues.
This is a real technology that is being developed by a technology startup from Indiana. Firstly, the process is linked to data storage as well. It looks to create hard drives with greater storage density that will help make these light-driven cancer therapies a reality. According to the company, it is creating nano compounds that will be able to concentrate light with the use of what is called plasmonic effects. Plasmonic structures are used in data storage, and in this process they will be able to tightly confine beams of light into much small and more concentrated areas. If it is used in the world of medicine, doctors will be able to use concentrated gold particles that will be able to break up and get rid of tumors by simply shining a very intense and concentrated infrared light on the tumor.
Being able to use concentrated light through this nano-technology will not only be an effective way to get rid of cancerous tumors, it will also end the need of chemotherapy and other therapy that damages the entire body while trying to fight the cancer. Most nano-technology has the goal of being able to isolate a problem completely and solve it directly.
According to the scientists who are researching this, nanoparticles of metal can be introduced directly to the bloodstream and accumulate in the tumors so that the oscillations and heat that is applied then to the tumors will be able to damage and destroy them. It is a work in progress, but it is definitely one of the most exciting medical ideas of the future and could put an end to one of the deadliest diseases of all time.
5. Stop Bed Bugs Before They Bite People
Bed bug fears are rampant across the nation, with tourists growing afraid of staying in hotels and homeowners at their wits end about the infestation. Researchers are developing a process to embed nanofibers into bedding to trap bed bugs before they attack.
This research is being done at Stony Brook University and it’s close to becoming a reality. The scientists there are developing a resource for stopping bed bugs. Of course, it needs to not only keep the bed bugs away, it also needs to be safe for us as well.
That is why the researchers are working to make sure that whatever technology they create will be safe and non-chemical in nature.
It will essentially be a web that will be made up of incredibly small fibers – nano fibers, if you will – that will trap not only bed bugs, but other insects as well.
The webs will be 50 times thinner than a piece of human hair, according to the researchers, which is what makes it nanotechnology. The Fibertrap company is currently patenting the technology and wants to release it commercially very soon.
According to the scientists working on the product, it is essentially the production of entanglements, or webs that are millions of times denser than regular fabrics. The fibers are so dense, that they should essentially be able to trap small organisms such as bed bugs and stop them from feeding and reproducing.
The best thing about this technology is that it should be incredibly safe. Most of the solutions that are being used today to ward off bed bugs and similar insects are chemical solutions that could be hazardous to the people who are using them.
You certainly do not want to be sleeping on something that has been treated with harsh chemicals. This nanotechnology might be able to free your home of insects without any chemical treatments needed.
6. Filter harmful Substances from Drinking Water
Access to safe drinking water is a problem in developing countries as well as in industrial nations dealing with pollution’s aftermath. A nanotechnological water filtration system will scrub bacteria and toxic substances from water until it is drinkable.
The problem of dirty drinking water is by no stretch of the imagination a small one. It is a problem that affects almost 800 million people around the world. Millions of people die each year from drinking water that contains bacteria, viruses and poisons within it.
However, advances in nanotechnology are making it possible to filtrate water effectively. The Indian Institute of Technology Madras has invented a filtration system using nanotechnology that is not only incredibly effective, but very cheap as well. In fact, the entire system costs only 16 dollars. Not only does this filtration system kill microbes that are found within dirty water, it also removes chemicals such as lead and arsenic as well.
The filter has separate components for the chemicals and microbes, which allows you to use them separately when needed. The microbe filter uses silver nanoparticles that are embedded in an aluminum cage. This cage is what blocks out the water contaminants on a very small scale by releasing ions that kill the microbes.
Nanoparticles are used to filter out the arsenic and other chemical components as well. Not only is it incredibly high tech but cheap, it is also an environmentally conscientious solution that can be used in absolutely any part of the world, regardless of resources.
Furthermore, the filter does not even need electricity to work, making it an incredibly green solution for cleaning dirty water and providing safe drinking water to million around the world.
7. Deliver Glaucoma Medication Straight to the Eyeball
When untreated, glaucoma can damage your optic nerve and cause you to go blind. Scientists are working on contact lenses deliver nano-scale diamond particles bonded with glaucoma medicine to mix with the patient’s tears.
Glaucoma is an eye disorder that millions have. It is caused by the buildup of fluid in the eye and the gradual breakdown of tissue that is supposed to regulate the draining of the fluid from the eye. However, researchers at UCLA have developed a system that will be able to deliver medicine to the eye through nanotechnology.
The system would include the medicine being included in a contact lens through what they call nanodiamonds. These nanodiamonds will not only be used to treat eye diseases like glaucoma, but they will also be used to make the contact lenses better than before.
This technology will make the lenses sturdier and longer lasting. It is also expected to decrease the number of people who suffer from glaucoma and other eye-related problems significantly. Thanks to this technology, having to clumsily insert eye drops into your eyes will be a thing of the past.
According to research, when you are using eye drops, less than five percent of the medicine is actually reaching the part of your eye that it needs to reach. With this technology, your eye will be able to receive the exact amount of medicine that it needs and in the exact location that the medicine needs to be distributed to.
It’s a revolutionary solution that could change the face of eye care entirely. Glaucoma is a problem that effects so many, and with this new nanotechnology it is completely plausible that it could one day become a disease of the past.
8. Infrared Detector to Reduce Car Crashes While Driving in the Fog or in the Dark
Extremely tiny sensors built with nanotechnology are expected to provide superior infrared light-based crash avoidance systems for cars, enabling people to drive much more safely when it is foggy or dark.
There are so many people each year that lose their lives in car accidents. And road conditions are often a huge problem. A foggy road is one of the toughest to navigate. This infrared system would take most of the concern out of the hands of the driver and make the vehicles themselves smarter and more intuitive.
The technology would enable the vehicles to communicate with one another in order to avoid each other even when the drivers cannot see on the road. This would give your car eyes of its own and sensors that will be able to tell it when there are other vehicles in the vicinity. It would make some of the most terrible driving conditions much easier to navigate.
Not only would this immediately make driving safer, it would also lead to better road performance in general. When the cars are able to work on their own in order to protect you better, there is less room for human error. This would not only decrease deaths that are causes by poor driving, a system like this could potentially clean up traffic in general and help us to avoid accidents and many other human errors that lead to traffic jams and long waits on the highway.
This technology would allow the vehicles to recognize the threat of a collision and then to warn the driver in advance, which will increase the chances that the driver will be able to avoid the crash and steer clear of trouble.
9. Improve Solar Power Panel Efficiency
Nanotechnology will enable us to develop solar panels with exquisitely smooth surfaces that would be otherwise impossible to create. Smoother surfaces will keep water, dirt and dust from accumulating and reducing efficiency.
Everyone who is familiar with solar energy knows that it is the wave of the future. It is the greenest and most energy efficient way to power our lives that exists. And while there have been great steps made in advancing the technology of solar panels, some people still believe that they are a bit too inconvenient to maintain.
This nanotechnology could be the solution that people who have been interested in implementing solar energy have been waiting for all along. With solar energy, it is all about keeping the surface of the panel clean so that it is able to soak up and use as much solar energy as possible.
This new nanotechnology helps to do just that. Another problem with solar panels is that it is pretty expansive to install such a system. In order to get all of your electricity from solar panels, you will need large surfaces and that can really cost a lot to install, which is what puts off many from taking the leap and going solar. This nanotechnology could change that. It will enable solar panels to become more efficient themselves.
Smaller solar panels will be able to create the same amount of energy that large ones are able to create today. This could be the breakthrough that solar energy has been waiting for all along. People are constantly looking for ways to stop using fossil fuels and be more energy efficient, and thanks to nanotechnology, solo panels seem to finally be getting the attention they deserve as genuine and reliable sources of energy.
10. Prevent Socks from Stinking
IBM researchers have developed a biocompatible material with nanotechnology to fight fungus. When incorporated into socks, it will sense and destroy the fungus that makes our feet stink.
Have you been looking for the ultimate cure for athlete’s foot? Then this might be exactly what you have been waiting for all along. This solution comes from a collaboration between medical researchers and IBM specialist in the field of material science. So what could this all lead to? It could lead to the creation of socks and other types of footwear that are created from special polymers that have anti-bacterial contents within them.
So you can be wearing socks that not only keep your feet smelling nice no matter what, they could also be protecting your feet from various diseases at the same time. Everyone who has ever had a foot related problems knows what a pain they can be. Toe infections are probably the worst, especially when they are deep within the nail itself. And of course, athlete’s foot is a big and itchy pain for just about anyone who has ever had this issue.
Wouldn’t it be great if you can stop all of these foot diseases dead in their tracks just by wearing a certain type of sock?
This might become a reality soon thanks to nanotechnology. And what is most important, not only will your feet be healthy, they will also be clean and won’t smell. So you will never have to be worried about the smell of your feet when entering a friend’s house and being asked to take your shoes off. That is just an added bonus, but for some people, the part about getting rid of foot and shoe smell for good might just be the most interesting prospect of them all.
11. Terror Attacks
Terrorists may engineer nanotechnological devices to invade a person’s body and then destroy it from the inside out. It could be possible to target victims by their race, gender or genetic profile.
As we all are well aware of now, nanotechnology has many capabilities and this power that can be wielded with nanotechnology can also very easily fall into the wrong hands. It is an unfortunate reality, but it is a reality none the less. Even though nanotechnology can certainly be used for a lot of good in the world, it can also be used for evil just as easily.
Terrorism is already a serious problem in the world, and with nanotechnology, it can get even more serious. This technology can be used to make the attacks more precise and also deadlier than ever before. Assassinations can be done undetected and murders would be able to be orchestrated from a distance.
This technology, just like any technology, can be extremely dangerous when in the wrongs. That is why scientists who are working on this type of technology are very careful with how they use it. However, it is an unfortunate reality that there are scientists with dangerous intentions that are working on creating this type of nanotechnology as well.
There is not much that can be said about this threat of terrorism through nanotechnology other than the fact that people how that there will be similar nanotechnology available to combat these treats and neutralize them if they ever do become a reality.
The technology that was used to create the atomic bomb might have been used to kill many people, but at the same time, the discoveries that lead to the bomb also led to many more positive scientific endeavors.11
12. Anti-static Clothing for Electronics Workers
When working in a circuit board assembly clean room, workers must be extremely careful about avoiding static discharge from their hands to avoid damaging components. Carbon nanotubes woven into clothing will provide excellent anti-static protection.
Working on circuit boards is dangerous for this reason. Many people do not realize what a risky career path it is, but there are many deaths that have been caused by static discharge, and of course, many more injuries. Nanotechnology is doing an overall good job in trying to make the world safer.
There are many uses of nanotechnology that are aimed at getting rid of everyday problems, and this is a very good example of that. Anti-static protection something that hasn’t been perfected and that is what these scientists are trying to do with nanotechnology – reduce the chances of injury completely.
The technology is used to help protect the workers and the equipment as well. This nanotechnology in fibers and clothing is being developed for just about every industry that you can think of. Biologists, chemists, nuclear scientists, all of these people will have some sort of nanotechnology related equipment and wardrobe to protect themselves and others.
Nanotechnology is used in many aspects of life that seem to be unimportant, but are in fact very important to many people. That is why these technologies are often so overlooked in the grand scheme of things. These carbon nanotubes are a fine example of this in action.
It is not something that you would think of every day, but it is an important invention that will change the lives of many people significantly, even if it never gets much press coverage. Static protection is something that is necessary but hasn’t been fully yet. Nanotechnology might finally perfect this type of protection.
13. Keep Track of People
Law enforcement officials can sprinkle nanodevices the size of dust particles equipped with wireless RFID technology across the floor in areas where they want to locate and track people. Anyone stepping into nanodust will be easy to track.
Just like many of these nanotechnology innovations, this too sounds like it could be out of a movie. It sounds like technology that is used in spy movies by guys like James Bond, and it also sounds like science fiction to many.
People are very worried about tracking devices and having their privacy invaded by the government and others. With nanotechnology this invasion of privacy might become an even bigger concern. If a device that is the size of dust can be used to track you, then it can certainly be applied to you without you ever finding out that there is nothing that is tracking you.
It is a frightening reality. But as frightening as it is, this technology can also have its upsides. It can be used to easily find people who might have been kidnapped or people you have disappeared. It could be a great way to locate missing pets as well. It would enable everyone to be tracked with someone small and non-invasive.
There are obvious upsides to this, but of course, the negative sides are just as real. With people already worried about the government reading their emails and watching what they do online and in public, it is only expected to get worse as technology continues to make it easier for Big Brother to continue watching you and knowing your every move. And these technologies are not even things of the distant future – they are being developed right now.
14. Making Your Shaving Experience More Comfortable
Nanotechnology is being used to make shaving blades more durable and more comfortable. There are companies such as Schick that are already using this type of technology in their products. And no, it is not a razor that has 20 different blades built into it, it’s a completely different type of technology altogether.
The people who work with blades and shaving have realized that adding more and more blades to the product is no longer the way to go. It is not practical obviously. So that is why researchers started looking at different ways to give you a smooth shave. And of course, the way to get a better shave was through nanotechnology. Schick already has a razor that is called the FX Diamond, and it uses nanotechnology.
This use of nanotechnology not only gives you an incredibly close shave, but it also allows you to use the blade over and over again without having to buy a new one. The nanotechnology does wonders for the blades durability.
And this technology is not only being used with regular razors, there are also electric razor manufacturers that are incorporating this type of technology into their products as well. The technology makes the blades sharper, more comfortable and more durable. If you are someone who hates shaving, then you should definitely be happy about this.
Nanotechnology might be used for serious advances in human technology, but that does not mean that it can’t also be used for simple things that can improve your everyday like. Using nanotechnology to get a better shave is a perfect example of that. Sure, it’s not chaining the world, but it could make your mornings a lot more pleasant.
By Shav PSCC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
15. Help to Make Oil and Gas Exploration Easier
Nanosensors are being developed so that they can be used to aid oil and gas exploration. These sensors would be injected into the ground and help companies find oil and gas more efficiently.
This is obviously one of the biggest industries in the world. So it is definitely no wonder that billions of dollars are being invested into ways to make the process of finding gas and oil a lot easier.
It seems to be that nanosensors could be the key. Even though it is a very sophisticated operation these days, finding gas or oil underground is still a very hit and miss type of operation. This nanotechnology might make it a more precise operation.
Of course, this would save the big oil companies a lot of money, and that is why they are willing to invest so much money into making this technology work for them. These nanosensors would be put into the ground and they would be able to detect oil and gas in the earth more precisely than most other types of methods that are currently being used.
So the giant rigs of today could one day become a thing of the past. The entire process could turn into a much more precise one, and it could also become a safer and cleaner industry as well thanks to this great technology.
It’s hard to imagine the oil industry being any more powerful than it already is, but nanotechnology could just do that. However, at the same time, nanotechnology is being used to make other energy industries more productive as well. It might be helping oil and gas companies, but it is also helping to create better solar power solutions and aid other cleaner and greener energy sources.
Michael Conley is a 27-year-old digital security specialist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and one of the finest writers here at 9to5alternatives.com. He’s been into computer programming since his late teen years, and is extremely happy that he’s succeeded in creating a career out of it. When he’s not coding or working on an article, Michael spends his free time playing with his cat or shooting pool with his former highschool classmates.