Next Industrial Revolution with Nanotechnology: Possibilities and Challenges
Nanotechnology is defined as the field of applied science that deals with building things at the atomic or molecular level. The control of matter at this level, which is a billionth of a meter, will give rise to technologies that we have never seen before. Likewise, nanotechnology draws principles and applications from a diverse range of fields like semiconductor physics, quantum mechanics, electrical engineering, and fabrication technologies.
It is not very difficult to imagine the next industrial revolution with nanotechnology. The current manufacturing technologies can only impact materials at the microlevel. With nanotechnology, there will be more than miniaturization. The behaviour of atoms and molecules that goes into building everything we see today is completely different at the nanoscale level.
The concept of nanotechnology was first devised by Richard Feynman in 1959 in his lecture ‘There’s plenty of room at the bottom’. He talked about the possibilities of new discoveries and applications if materials could be built on a tiny scale. Today, big tech companies like IBM, HP, and Samsung have understood the possibilities of the next industrial revolution with nanotechnology. This is why they have invested millions of dollars in research and development. Furthermore, the development of supercomputers has made it possible for researchers to understand the behaviour of particles at the atomic level through simulation.
How Will Nanotechnology Fuel the Next Industrial Revolution?
The next industrial revolution with nanotechnology will be based on the following capabilities.
Powerful Computing Technologies
The next industrial revolution will be based on the application of powerful computers that can handle enormous amounts of data. Technologies like the Internet of things, artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, and digital manufacturing require colossal computing power. Nanotechnology has the ability to build small, fast, and powerful computers as it can manipulate the properties of building materials at the atomic level. Furthermore, energy consumption and heat generation can be significantly reduced. The current computer manufacturing technology is reaching a ceiling of improvement. Gordon Moore, the founder of Intel, stated in 1965 that the number of transistors in an integrated chip doubles every two years while the cost keeps decreasing. This exciting claim has been made possible by chip manufacturers until now. And, nanotechnology will be key in maintaining this claim from now on.
Revolution in Manufacturing Materials
The new industrial revolution with nanotechnology also stands on its ability to build materials that behave differently from what we have now. These new types of materials will be lighter while maintaining extreme strength. Therefore, they can be used in aircraft and automobiles as they consume less fuel. Carbon nanotubes are an example of such types of material. Similarly, materials can be made resistant to extreme heat, corrosion, and chemical degradation. Nanocomposites have been used in oil pipes to resist corrosion. Likewise, nanofibres are being used to make stain and bacteria-resistant clothing and safety wear. Furthermore, the ability of nanotechnology to alter the chemical properties of materials makes it highly useful in chemical manufacturing and storage.
Efficient Energy Storage Devices
While talking about the next industrial revolution with nanotechnology, it is impossible to miss out on efficient batteries and energy storage devices. Energy consumption is one of the worrying factors for industries because it adds costs as well as a greater environmental footprint. Efficient energy sources are the top priority for companies and the government today. With nanotechnology, we can manufacture efficient fuel cells, solar cells, and electrolytes. Furthermore, there are a lot of machines and devices whose development is halted because of a lack of efficient energy storage devices. For example, in electric cars, the efficiency of batteries is still a limitation.
Efficient Waste Treatment
Waste treatment is also one of the major concerns for industries today. There are government regulations that industries must follow in terms of waste production and disposal. With nanotechnology, waste treatment can be made efficient and safe. Chemicals manufactured using nanotechnology have a greater tendency to neutralize potentially dangerous wastes and make them harmless. Furthermore, we can use this same principle to treat harmful gases before releasing them into the air.
What Are the Major Challenges?
Although the next industrial revolution with nanotechnology is inevitable, it is still full of challenges. The major challenges include:
- Use of lethal weapons on mass destruction of life, property, and environment
- Use of miniature devices for spying and unauthorized surveillance.
- Nanoparticles may also have an adverse effect on the environment.
- The use of nanoscale devices and medicine may have negative side effects on the human body. Since they are very tiny, there is a greater possibility of interaction with vital organs and chemicals.
In this blog, we have learned how the next industrial revolution with nanotechnology will be greater than those until now. Likewise, we have also discussed some of the challenges and unethical situations that may arise.
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