What are opportunities and dangers of nanotechnology?

Expert Answers
kapokkid eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The opportunities in some ways are almost unlimited, the ability to craft nano-particles that could, for example, scrub the plaque from the inside of arteries or perform other functions within the body, etc.  The applications are obviously limited by the level of complexity that can be reached at a given size, but nano particles are already in use in all kinds of applications including physics, engineering, medicine, etc.

The idea of the dangers of it is a difficult concept to get one's head around.  The problem with technology is that usually we rush into the new technology because it is sexy, often profitable, etc., without considering the implications of it.  If we look at the previous application within human arteries, does it then lead to people being irresponsible with their health because this new technology can absolve them of the consequences of their poor decisions?

Anytime you replace a current technology or practice with a new one, you are getting rid of something and we rarely stop to consider all the implications of it, ethical or otherwise, and so the dangers usually only appear after the fact.

besure77 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nanotechnology addresses the ability to control matter at an atomic level, or molecular level. It focuses on building things starting from the bottom and then working up.

Opportunities that can arise from nanotechnology are the inventions of new, high tech products. These products may be safer for the environment, better built, and last longer. These products can be used anywhere from homes to hospitals to industry.

Some people are worried that nanotechnology may bring about unwanted consequences. These consequences may be harmful to the environment or harmful to people. Scientists envision high tech molecular machinery, or tiny factories, that can create things on a molecular level. Many worry that this will cause a severe disruption in the economy.

I am all for scientific advancement. I believe that rules and guidelines need to made as we progress through the stages of development of nanotechnology. It has already started but we are still far away from what nanotechnology can offer the scientific community.

krishna-agrawala | Student

Nanotechnology is the study of the controlling of matter on an atomic and molecular scale. It involves developing materials or devices of the size 100 nanometers or smaller in at least one dimension. Nanotechnology field is very diverse, ranging from extensions of conventional physical devices to developing completely new approaches such as of manufacturing and using materials involving molecular self assembly.

Nanotechnology can be used to create many new materials and devices with a vast range of applications in fields such as medicine, electronics and energy production. At the same time, nanotechnology also raises many concerns, as is usual with any introduction of new technology. Possible negative impact of nanotechnology include toxicity and environmental impact of nano materials.

Presently there are about one thousand publicly available nanotechnology products. Most of these products use passive nano materials such as titanium dioxide in sunscreen, cosmetics and some food products; carbon allotropes used to produce gecko tape; silver in food packaging, clothing, disinfectants and household appliances; zinc oxide in sunscreens and cosmetics, surface coatings, paints and outdoor furniture varnishes; and cerium oxide as a fuel catalyst. As yet there are no applications that involve physical devices made by actual arrangement and manipulation of nano scale components.

However nano technology may be used for purposes which could pose threats to people and life. For example, development of untraceable weapons of mass destruction, networked cameras.

The effect of industrial-scale manufacturing and use of nano materials could also have many negative effects on human health and the environment. For example silver nano particles used in socks to reduce foot odor when released released in the wash may destroy beneficial bacteria that help breaking down organic matter in waste treatment plants or farms. Researches have found that nano particles breathed in by rats settle in their brain and lungs, causing significant health problems Another study indicates that nano particles induce skin aging in hairless mice.

Looking at these facts, I believe, nanotechnology is a field with many useful promises for future, and should be developed further and used. However like all new inventions, it also poses many dangers. We must adopt adequate caution and care in developing and using this technology.