Nano Technology and Nano Ethics - Introduction
Are We on The Brink of a Nano Revolution?
Are we in the beginning stage of a new revolution in
technology: the Nano Revolution? Like the <!g>genome revolution of a decade
ago, will nanotech call for social impact assessment? Will Nano Ethics become
a new field?
By any measure, world attention to nanotechnology indicates
something big is about to happen. In 2004 industries and governments worldwide
invested $10 billion in Research and Development. At least 60 nations now sponsor
national nanotech research programs. In 2006 President George W. Bush budgeted
$1 billion in U.S. federal support for the National Nanotechnology Initiative
(NNI), this on top of $5 billion already spent. This is more than either the
Apollo moon shot or the Human Genome Project.
We use the term nanotechnology to refer to the
manipulation of matter on the scale of atoms and molecules. From the Greek
word, nanos, meaning dwarf, a nanometer (nm) equals one billionth of a
meter. It takes ten atoms of hydrogen side-by-side to equal one nanometer.
Compare this to a <!g>DNA molecule which is 2.5 nm wide, or a human hair which is
80,000 nm thick. Only atomic microscopes are able to see things on the nano
The NNI Reports Some of Their Recent Discoveries:
- Nano-electro-mechanical sensors that can detect and
identify a single molecule of a chemical warfare agent - an essential step
toward realizing practical field sensors.
- Nanocomposite energetic materials for propellants and
explosives that have over twice the energy output of typical high
- Prototype data storage devices based on molecular
electronics with data densities over 100 times that of todays highest
density commercial devices.
- Field demonstration that iron nanoparticles can remove up to
96% of a major contaminant (trichloroethylene) from groundwater at an
more see: http://www.nano.gov/html/about/home_about.html
Looking ahead, we can expect the
field of nanobiotechnology to integrate biological materials with
synthetic materials to build new molecular structures. New living systems may
be built in laboratories out of a synthesis of living and non-living parts
which will be programmed to perform specific tasks in the human body. For
example, nanosized robotic machines - called nanobots or nanites--could
circulate in the human blood stream transporting oxygen or hormones faster and
more efficiently than what nature to date has been able to do. Some nanotechies
such as Ray Kurzweil speculate that if we replace 10 percent of our red blood
cells with these nanobots, we could do an Olympic sprint for 15 minutes without
taking a breath or sit at the bottom of a swimming pool for four hours.
Nanobots could travel inside the body and brain to perform therapeutic
functions as well as enhance our strength and intelligence.
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| Contributed by: Ted Peters