Tiny tools for big advancements
Imagine a tree house that can't catch on fire or clothes that can't get dirty no matter how messy you are. It could be possible with nanotechnology!
Researchers can use nanotechnology to make completely new objects by combining atoms in ways not found in nature. The objects - or materials - take on different properties depending on how researchers combine the atoms.
For example, some researchers believe that nanotechnology may be used to make clothes that last forever and do not need to be washed. Maybe then we won't need washing machines anymore, and we won't have to worry about getting our clothes dirty either.
Atoms and molecules
To understand nanotechnology you have to know a little about atoms and molecules. An atom is an extremely small particle. All material in the entire universe is made up of atoms. The cells in your body, the desk you sit at, the soda you drink and the books you read all consist of atoms.
Nano is Greek for dwarf.
Nanotechnology is a kind of tool for working with single atoms or extremely small groups of atoms.
Researchers build objects using atoms like building blocks. The process could almost be compared to building something from LEGOs, only in a more advanced way.
Atoms are nature's own building blocks, and there are more than a hundred different kinds of them. The way that atoms are combined is partially the reason why one object is a book and another is a soda. Atoms are so small that they cannot be seen with the naked eye, and it is impossible to touch a single atom with your hands.
Molecules consist of two or more atoms that are attached. Each cell of the body contains a kind of "nanofactory" which builds thousands of molecules each day.
Researchers can also use nanotechnology to improve human health. They are trying to develop small robots that can be sent into the body to heal diseases, and if they succeed, researchers believe that one day we will not become sick nearly as often and that we will live much longer than we do today. The minute robots could be used, for example, to loosen up gunk in the blood vessels and help to keep us healthy. Thanks to this type of technology, we may not need as many hospitals anymore.
Can you imagine something as small as a millionth of a millimetre? It is almost impossible to imagine something so small. Researchers call this a nanometre. About ten atoms can fit into one nanometre. And one nanometre is 80,000 times thinner than a strand of hair!
Do you think that nanotechnology sounds like science fiction? If researchers can figure out smart ways to use nanotechnology, the whole world may one day be completely different from the way it is now. Very exciting and a little scary, don't you think? Perhaps you and your class can brainstorm about how nanotechnology might be used in the future.
Translated by Connie Stultz
Published in Nysgjerrigper no. 1/03