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Economics will be the major factor influencing introduction & implementation of nanotechnology.























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Nano – tech to most people’s minds is the Frankenstein technology of the third millennium. However, we are only broaching the capabilities of this technology. Much of our thoughts and considerations focus on what can be done.

To be a truly frightening technology, nano – tech requires capacities of which we currently only dream. There is the problem of replication. How do we make our creations capable of building more of themselves, in effect amplifying our investment in their construction?

There is the problem of power. How can we provide energy to enable our creations to undertake the tasks which we assigned to them? And finally there is the problem of control. How can we direct the activities of a single machine and integrate the activity of many nano – tech machines?

  • Replication

  • Power

  • Control

Biological systems (bacteria) have already solved these problems within the constraints of a hostile and demanding physical environment. And all these solutions are based on molecular scale technologies. To achieve these tasks, biological systems must manipulate individual atoms and individual molecules.

Bacteria are Biomachines
Bacteria are Biomachines


The nano – tech world is a very different world to that of the macro world with which we are familiar. Many physical forces have immensely different profiles in the micro world than in the macro world. This demands a total rethink of the ways in which machines work and in which they can be controlled.

When we talk much about the dreams achievable using nanotechnology, the reality is that nanotechnology has competition and constraints. Just because something can be achieved using nanotechnology, does not mean that it cannot be achieved more easily or more cheaply using other methods-  using for example miniaturised manufacturing techniques as in photolithography in the creation of silicon processing chips.

Nanotechnology to be viable must compete economically (cheaply)  as well as simply/easily than alternate methods of construction such as biotech or computerised micro- lithography.

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We have a long way to go. We stand however at the threshold. We have created tools such as the atomic force microscope capable of seeing at the atomic level, and even capable of looking at living biological structures.

Only a few decades ago, the electron microscope could only look at frozen life at the nano level due to the need to “fix” structures to stiffen them up for examination and to enable them to exist within the vacuum required for transmitted electrons to be used for imaging.

Our new tools are an incredible breakthrough. It will take decades for these tools to be applied to the vast expanses of the nano world and to expand our knowledge of this aspect of our universe.

Enzymatic Power Supplies
Enzymatic Power Supplies


 In the nano world, quantum effects predominate and weird science is the norm. While much is made of the ability to store information in molecules such as DNA, it is likely that instability and quantum effects may make such molecular electronics very problematic. In addition to which, engineering new lifeforms may be a very unintended consequence of the use of DNA for information storage.

Nanotechnology has a direction. We can work from the macro down to the micro dimensions (top down). Alternatively we can work from the micro and build the macro (bottom up). This emphasises that nanotechnology may well form simply an adjunct to aspects of many existing technologies and provide different parts for achieving the same ends.

The dangers of nanotechnology may also require much time for us to become familiar with. How toxic are nano particles? How interactive are nano particles? How interruptive are nanoparticles?

Particle size confers specific properties of interaction to many materials. Properties can be quite disparate from those of their macro cousins. Atomic size particles have the capacity to insert themselves into many processes and reactions, perhaps causing unexpected consequences.

To truly understand the technology, requires an understanding of its dangers and problems as well is the possible dreams inherent.

Mechanical Flea Mechanical Flea


Nanomachines can in fact use facets of their environment to generate power, but in ways not available at the macro level. We have begun the first steps in developing nano generators. Is perhaps the hallmark of true technology where efficiency derives from simplicity but hides incredible complexity of understanding in its genesis.

Things that look easy once they are accomplished, require an incredible level of knowledge and understanding to create.


I think the Holy Grail of nano manufacturing is the creation of programmable matter. These nano devices can receive instructions to perform particular tasks. I suppose the long-term issue is to what extent and at what cost such programmable matter can perform operations in contrast to existing biological systems.

From whence is likely to become the frontline in developing nano technology devices?

The most obvious answer is in the military world. Nanotechnology represents a new method of killing and controlling. It represents a new field of warfare to dominate. The field of warfare where economics and finance does not rule. What is important is the achievement of the cost.

 We see the examples of the “cleaning” weapon experienced by Chu-sa Mitsuharu Hadeishi (Captain : Henry R Cornuelle). In the same novel we also see the example of nanomachines absorbing human beings and creating even thinking structures. In military world it is a success that matters, not cost.

Remember that the Internet developed not as a tool to help people, but as a method of maintaining communications in the event of nuclear war destroying communication and control networks.

Best examples From Science Fiction Referring to this Technology:

In the novel Bug Park: James Hogan, we see human beings wrestling with control and fabrication technologies in nanotech. In the micro-world, our normal tools and mechanical principles fail.

In William Gibson: Necromancer we see nanotechnology entering into the biological world and impacting on biological systems. The author makes the comment that it is humans who are inhuman, not machines, the uses to which humans put machines which make them in-human and dangerous.

In this novel we see nanotechnology as being injectable into the average human for all the usual human reasons: good health, blackmail, death and enhancement. The choices one makes, count most of all in the achievements of life. Technology is but a toll to access a higher path to the future.



Vernor Vinge: A Deepness in the Sky. This author creates a new eerie and in fact disturbing concept. Human brain functions can be modified through the use of nano bots programmed by MRI machines. The humans become “focused”.

They do what they are told, without rest, without tiring – to the point of ignoring all their own most basic needs such as food, water or toileting; and forget what they are told to forget .

The promises and pain inherent in this tool are explored. Humans can achieve so much more. Humans can be trapped and enslaved so much longer. Humans can be abused.
The eeriness arises from the fact that it seems almost doable today. We use MRI for imaging, but certainly signalling and relocation data could be transmitted to nano-semi-autonomous bots in brain tissue.

PhamTrinliGovernorCanberra SigmaPsiPham Trinli


Thomas Harlan: A Wasteland of Flint. Here we are faced with cell growth control issues, but with nano bots not biological organisms. The nano bots are capable of subsuming biologicals: in effect taking over and copying many of the macro- functions of biological organisms. I suppose an example of cell growth control / differentiation in the mechanical world.
Captain Chu-sa Hadeishi SigmaPsiCaptain Chu-sa Hadeishi

The nanobots can also form nano-bot “bio-film” composites. These can analyse and copy any structure, subsuming even its memories and intelligence. Nano-mechanisms cannot form organic structures such as “fuel”.

 They can however generate or extract “fuel” if so programmed. Nano-bots form an infection/infestation on their own behalf. They are capable of consuming and subsuming other materials on the planet to form more of themselves.

The book is somewhat disturbing in the insidious nature in which the nano-tech subsumes the humans exploring the planet. Perhaps a laser fence may form some sort of defence against flying nano-bots, and may help to limit the spread of this agent.

What does a planet size nano- tech machine have in the way of weather? How does technology on this scale change the energy profile of the world and how a world functions?

Climate control is not the focus of this novel, but it does raise questions of to what extent weather or climate is altered within large scale human constructs. Where nano-mechanisms form a substantial part of the environment, they would create heat signatures that even mega-cities would be proud of.



What does this technology remind me of in Brisbane?

Water Treatment Plant
Water Treatment Plant: full of bacteria at micro size structures.

Not very sexy: but there are some good walks around the Pinkenba foreshore, around the Luggage Point Treatment Works. Don't get quite too close.



Clever New Applications for Nano-Technology:

  • Quantum Electronics and Nano-Electronics.

  • The future of Nano-Imaging: Atomic Force Microscopes

Using multiple parallel probes in AFM can increase scan area size.

AFM Beam deflection technologies can allow faster measurements. Improved cantilever and probe tip design can allow for sharper and/or faster imaging.

Faster scanning in AFM is required to reduce thermal drift for samples and to reduce damage and decay biological samples.

Software filtering of noise/real-time correction software for AFM can improve image quality, and allow adjustment to sample topography during the scan.

And something really weird. Perhaps the development of the quantum force microscope. The interesting concept here is that the sample does not need to be investigated by the transmission of particles such as for example light photons.

One of a pair of photons can be used to test the sample. The reading can be taken from the other photon, at a time or place distant from the point at which the first photon was processed / used.

Although mathematicians have proven that it is impossible to obtain information out of a paired entangled electron system to allow communication, it would seem more likely that triple or quadruple entangled electrons may well bypass this limitation.
Design of an Atomic Force Microscope Design of an Atomic Force Microscope


  •  Nano-medicine includes systems such as developing:

medical applications of nano materials

nano biological devices

nano electronic biosensors

methods for detecting biomolecules

biological machines

drug delivery systems

understanding the toxicity and environmental impact of nano materials


Nono Particle Related Disease
Nono Particle Related Disease



  • Applications include using micelles or liposomes:

To encapsulate materials

To be used as vaccine adjuvants;

To use as vehicles for drug encapsulation, 
liposomes change the charge characteristics of pharmaceuticals by interposing the liposome surface between the pharmaceutical and carriers such as blood


As vehicles for storage and depot formation altering drug pharmacokinetic and elimination profiles.

Many drugs are bonded to oils and injected into the body creating a mechanism for slow-release into the body system. 
Using liposomes creates a different method for release to that of chemical bonding drugs to oils. 

Using a different vehicle to oil may also allow targeting of drugs to different body regions.
Liposomes for example, are commonly used as beauty treatments, in allowing the delayed release of moisturizers to the skin. Lipid bilayer envelopes could be built with specific receptors or antigens making them accessible only to specific tissues.

Liposomes allow a more stable suspension of materials in liquids, preventing layering or precipitation of heavier materials. The high surface area of nanoparticles and their atomic level interaction with molecules in solvents such as water allows particles to remain in suspension, that normally would precipitate out of a solution or suspension.

Pharmaceutical and drug delivery with the ability to control or influence where and what is released is an obvious and important application of nano scale materials such as liposomes and micelles.

Structure of a Micelle
Structure of a Micelle

  • Alternatively DNA origami structures have also been fabricated and used in drug delivery.

Doxorubicin has been intercalated with a DNA origami structure, achieving significant drug transport and delivery in experimental systems.


  • Applications for nanoparticles include:

Iron nanoparticles or gold nano shells have been used to mark cancers and to carry drugs into cancer tissues.

nano particles of drugs for example nano particle albumin bound paclitaxel, have been used to carry oncology drugs to cancers

Nano particles such as  fluorescent dye loaded silica nanoparticles used to mark tumour cells,

micro particles developed from the cell walls of specially developed mutated bacteria used to carry anti-cancer agents to phagocytic cells

Atomic scale ball bearing like lubricants- reducing friction



  • Green nanotechnology.

Green nanotechnology states the goal of producing nano materials is to minimise harm to human health and minimise harm to the environment. It also seeks to improve manufacturing processes so that they are more environmentally friendly and to improve recycling methods.
Suggested roles include,

Developing catalysts to improve efficiency and reduced waste for many chemical processes

Developing sensors

Developing photovoltaic technology, LEDs and fuel cells,

Producing products that require less maintenance (avoiding the production of materials that are less environmentally friendly).

Water desalination technology, technology for treatment of groundwater and wastewater

Reducing heavy metal scattering in the environment

Developing nano- biocides for the control of bacteria and other microorganisms, perhaps even insect pests. (Combination of a sensor with a mechanism could allow identification of problem insects and their exclusive execution, allowing harmless or beneficial insects to survive – unlike pesticides.


  • Nano- technological synthesis of molecules or mechanical mechanisms:
    Molecular nanotechnology (MNT).
    NanoMachines NanoMachines

The challenge in synthesising molecules using molecular nano technology can be thought of as being simply about yield.

In Mechano-synthesis mechanical constraints on chemical reactions direct reactive molecules to specific molecular sites to form specific molecules. Most chemical reactions occur at random, with the specific energy of the reaction being the driving force for the chemical process. 

To date, the only existing example which introduces purpose in atomic construction is the atomic placement of atoms using the scanning tunnelling microscope.
In practice, getting exactly one molecule to a known place on the microscope's tip is possible, but has proven difficult to automate.

Since practical products require at least several hundred million atoms, this technique has not yet proven practical in forming a real product.

Molecular Gear System Molecular Gear System

Of course biological systems of enzymes and cofactors do this type of interaction frequently and with unparalleled efficiency. The challenge for humanity is to copy the actions of biologicals in a non-carbon based atomic/molecular system. Silicon and iron perhaps beckon as the chemical basis of new reaction platforms

You could in fact say that many of the developments in nano-tech relate to the use of materials such as silicon or iron as the basis of new nano-machine platforms. Biologicals would seem to have the carbon molecular platform covered very well.

Molecular printers: current technology is embracing 3-D printing to the macro scale. However nano scale offers the opportunity to custom design functional molecules in molecular structures, piece by piece. This may become very important in biological research and in individualizing bio-therapies in the future.

  • Nano-engineering is the science of performing engineering tasks in nanoscale dimensions.

Nano engineering emphasizes the engineering and production aspects of science, rather than just the achievements of the technology itself.

  • Nano robotics aka other names such as Nubotnanobotsnanoidsnanitesnanomachines, or nanomites 



  • The main approaches for machines producing power at nano-scales are:

Piezoelectric: main subtypes: VING and LING and NEG: both generate AC current

Triboelectric: an organic method for harvesting mechanical energy




  • New computer hard disk drives using giant magneto resistance technology

could well substantially increase the density of memory storage possible, in the next generation of computer technology.

  • Carbon nanotubes can function as myomers.

When a carbon nanotube is placed in an ionic solution, it absorbs the ions, and will expand and or coil up. If these irons are removed, the carbon nanotubes will uncoil. This feature mimics the action of muscle fibres (myomers).
Perhaps the day of the MechWarrior will soon be here.

  • Nanostructures can be fabricated to provide super hydrophobicity.

Water droplets collected on such surfaces will roll down the surface without bonding to the surface.
This is the technology of the water collection devices in the sci-fi planet “Dune”.

The Fremen were able to collect water from the desert using special polymers which lost their heat extremely quickly and gathered condensate water. A technology which may have substantial application in the arid areas of our world today.

  • Nano-Fibres

Other applications include weaving nano fibres together to form fabric. These fibres can have some unusual properties, depending on their structure. (Carbon nanotubes are resistant to stains bonding to them. Fibres made of nano layers of charged material can repel many other chemicals).

Properties may include stain resistance, water resistance, and an ability to carry chemicals or pharmaceutical agents, and biodegradability.

Nano polymers can be fabricated in such a way that when a material is damaged, nano monomers leach out and then combine to repair the damaged area.

Electricity generating nano devices or virus-like particles can be incorporated to generate energy for incorporated sensors, as for example in clothing.

Stretchable gold: gold has different properties as a nano material than as a bulk material. These different properties of matter can well be taken advantage of in constructing new devices.



  • Programmable Matter

I think the Holy Grail of nano manufacturing is the creation of programmable matter. These nano devices can receive instructions to perform particular tasks. I suppose the long-term issue is to what extent and at what cost such programmable matter can perform operations in contrast to existing biological systems.

Holy Grail Nano Tech Holy Grail Nano Tech