More than 1,200 people from around the world recently gathered in Tel Aviv, Israel to share in the excitement of what scientists say will be the greatest technological revolution of all—nanotechnology.
Imagine a world where cancer patients will no longer suffer through the debilitating effects of chemotherapy. Instead, they will swallow a pill composed of nanites that enter the body, seek out and destroy only the cancer cells, leaving the healthy cells untouched. Or, the cultivation of special plants that will be spliced with genes from a host person, thereby producing a stem cell bank for regenerating organs and other diseased tissue. Food-borne bacteria outbreak? Nano-sensors will immediately reveal the presence of bacterial infection in food. No more waiting 24-36 hours for the bacteria culture results. The nano-sensors will identify the type of bacteria, its strength and other factors necessary to minimize the fallout from food poisoning due to bacterial infections.
What is nanotechnology? There are different definitions, but the most basic is this: nanotechnology is the construction of items “from the bottom up” with atomic precision. Or, perhaps more precisely, nanotechnology is scientific engineering at the nanoscale level, i.e., 1-100 nanometers. It is the development of amazingly small items that can be applied across the full spectrum of scientific discovery. How small are these items? Think about this—one nanometer equals one billionth of a meter. An inch is 25,400,000 nanometers! K. Eric Drexler made nanotechnology a household name in the 1980s, although it began much earlier. He spread his vision of small machines, a few nanometers in size that would consist of a motor, robotic limbs and a computer. For more than ten years he faced the stiff opposition of those who accused him of being lost in science fiction.
Fast forward to today. Founder and Co-chairman of the Tel Aviv Nanotechnology Conference, Rafi Koriat, a leader in the nanotechnology industry, said that “nanotechnology will be the face of the next technological revolution, exceeding the impact on society by the last three technological revolutions combined: automobile, microtechnology and optics.” (Arutz 7, Israel News) Israel’s Chief Scientist Avi Hasson told Times of Israel that nanotechnology is now ready to burst onto the scene of commercialization and application, giving the entire world better, more efficient, and more effective products.”
Nanotechnology—definitely not science fiction.