Nanotechnology. Challenges and Opportunities

Seminar Paper 2019 12 Pages

Physics - Applied physics


Table of Contents

Nanotechnology - A Technology will change the World in the Future

Brief Introduction & History to Nanotechnology

Types of Nanorobotics

Applications, Functionality & Research Tests

Groups of Interest & Nanotech-Startups

Challenges & Opportunities




Nanotechnology - A Technology will change the World in the Future

Artificial intelligence and small devices are part of our daily life. According to Elon Musk, a serial entrepreneur, artificial intelligence continues to advance and humans will be subordinated. Avoiding this scenario, humans need a digital layer of intelligence mad by nanotechnology on their brains (D’Onfro, J., 2016). The digital layer allows people to link their brains to a computer which let them imagine living in a virtual world, to send messages to their friends and to transmit thoughts to a wireless cloud. Phones and smartwatches are becoming redundant (Muoio, D., 2016 & Powell, D., 2015). Besides the implementation of a digital layer on our brains to make us super-humans, nanotechnology can also help our bodies to be hyper- healthy

The American science fiction movie ‘Fantasic Voyage’ from 1966 was on point by showing a futuristic scene about a miniaturized submarine crew that was injected into a body to fix a blood clot in the brain (Dvorsky, G., 2017).

In ten years researchers predict, nanorobots will be injected into our bloodstreams to improve our living and to connect our brain to the internet. They will ensure a good and long life as well as protect our biological system (English, T., 2017 & Diamandis, P., 2016).

“If nanobot injection becomes an option, will you volunteer to take the first steps to becoming a cyborg? Are you open to this kind of a change? (English, T., 2017).”

In this paper, it describes nanotechnology as a technology that will change the world. This technology is briefly explained to get a general understanding of the term and its origins. The second chapter states the different types of nanorobotics, their functionality and where they have been invented. The third chapter states the essential applications of nanotechnology and their research progress. The following chapter describes groups of interests and three well- known nanotechnology startups. The fifth chapter contrasts the challenges and opportunities of this technology. The conclusion summarizes the paper and ends with a personal opinion.

Brief Introduction & History to Nanotechnology

The next chapter presents a brief introduction to nanotechnologies and nanorobots which is followed by a brief capture of nanotechnology’s historical beginnings.

The field of nanotechnologies [short: nanotech] studies phenomena at the nanometer scale, 1 to 100 nanometers (Akrout, M., 2018). A sheet of paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick. It describes the manipulation and the control of materials at the molecular and atomic level (Diamandis, P., 2016). The nanotechnologies which are the engineering know-how and the nanosciences which are the interweaving of scientific knowledge is artificial at this scale. The ability of nanotech comes from the quantum effects that are associated with the scale which lead to certain properties (Akrout, M., 2018).

A nanorobotic [short: nanobots or nanorobots] is a machine that builds and manipulates objects at an atomic level from atomic building blocks. It can be imagined similar to Lego bricks which can be plugged, picked and placed like atoms. Humans consist of countless nanobots that operate within our cells and keep them alive. Each of them has a specific function such as creating a unique structure made of proteins or DNA. Nanobots can also build an assembler which is a machine that can create any kind of structure at a nanoscale that is thermodynamically stable (Diamandis, P., 2016).

In 1959, the concept of nanotechnology was first mentioned in the physicist Richard Feynman’s speech ‘There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom’. He imagined the miniaturization of machines and the encodement of information in minuscule spaces. Nanotechnology would lay the foundation for disruptive technological developments in his mind (Diamandis, P., 2016).

In 1986, K. Eric Drexler published the book ‘Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology’ and gained public’s attention. He writes about the idea that programmable machines can replicate themselves or build whatever they are programmed for. The machines can pull apart or construct any kind of material such as soil, water or air. Drexler imagined a world where a chip the size of a sugar cube could fit the entire Library of Congress and where pollutants from the air could be cleared by environmental scrubbers (Diamandis, P., 2016).

Types of Nanorobotics

The next chapter presents eight selected types of nanorobotics. They are presented due to different functionalities, constructions or source of power. It also presents the origin of the researches and gives an idea of the nanotechnology centers in the world.

(1) The smallest Engine

The smallest engine was built from one single atom by a team of physicists from the University of Mainz in Germany. It converts heat energy into movements at an atomic level. The atom is in a cone of electromagnetic energy. Surrounded lasers heat it up and cool it down which causes the movements in the cone and let it work as an engine.

(2) 3D-motion Nanomachine from DNA

A group of mechanical engineers at Ohio State University has designed and constructed mechanical parts using DNA origami at a nanoscale which can be used to produce controllable components for future nanobots. It proofs that basic design principles can be applied to typical full-size machine parts and DNA.

(3) Nanoswimmers

A team of researchers of the ETH Zurich and Technion has developed an nanoswimmer which can move through biological fluid environments at almost micrometers per second. It can be used to deliver drugs and to target cancer cells bloodstream.

(4) Nanoengine with 100x Force per Unit Weight

A by University of Cambridge researchers developed nanoengine is capable of a force per unit-weight nearly a hundred times higher than any motor of muscle. It can be used to fight diseases or to enter living cells.

(5) Sperm-inspired Microrobots

A microrobot in the form of sperm has been developed by a team of researchers at the University of Twente and German University in Cairo. It can be controlled by an oscillating weak magnetic field. The microrobot can operate in complex micro-manipulation and help to target therapy tasks.

(6) Bacteria-powered Robots

A team of engineers of the Drexel University has developed a method which helps bacteria-powered robots detecting obstacles in their environment and navigating around them by using electric fields. It can be used to deliver medication, to manipulate stem cells to control their growth or to build a microstructure.

(7) Nanorockets

Several groups of researchers have combined nanoparticles with biological molecules to build a nanoscale version of a rocket which operates on high-speed and is remote-controlled. The development are in an early stage. At a full-developed stage that rocket can be used in any environment (Diamandis, P., 2016).

Applications, Functionality & Research Tests

The next chapter presents selected nanotechnology applications that can change our future. The applications range from medicine over the environment to data storage. Mostly in the medical sector, researchers have started to prove concepts that can be applied in the near future. A few of the research results are presented.

(1) Cancer & Severe Sickness Treatment

Nanorobots are able to identify accurately and destroy effectively cancer cells (Diamandis, P., 2016). It is estimated that medicine is only two to five years away to prevent epileptic seizures (Miles, K., 2017).

People that suffer from severe tremors or uncontrollable muscle spams find relief via electric shocks that are released neural electronic through wires into the brain. Quadriplegics can control prosthetic limbs by using electrodes laid on the brain’s surface or by using chips embedded in their brains. These technologies can only be used in severe cases since they require invasive procedures. The implementation relies on large incisions and surgeries (Powell, D., 2015).

A team of scientists from the Arizona State University and the National Center for Nanoscience and Technology have successfully built fully autonomous nanorobots for drug design and targeted cancer therapy. The robots can shrink all kinds of tumors by cutting off their blood supply since many types of cancer have solid tumor-feeding blood vessels (Arizona State University, 2018).

Nanorobots in form of chips are already the reality in human’s brains. Thousands of Parkinson’s patients and people who are deaf have implemented a brain chip. It enables the patient to control its motoric or to have a hearing (Miles, K., 2017).

(2) Drug Delivery Mechanisms

Nanorobots can target drug delivery mechanism to control diseases and to prevent illnesses (Diamandis, P., 2016). DNA Nanobots were injected into cockroaches. The robots were able to follow instructions and have dispensed drugs into the cockroaches’ bodies. The next step will be to inject nanobots into the stomach lining of mice (Miles, K., 2017).

(3) Medical Imaging

Nanorobots create nanoparticles that are gathered in certain tissues to then scan the body with magnetic resonance imaging. This procedure detects problems such as diabetes (Diamandis, P., 2016).

(4) New Sensing Devices

Nanorobots have limitless customizable sensing properties and are therefore capable of unlocking new sensing capabilities. This feature allows humans to monitor and measure the environment around them (Diamandis, P., 2016).

(5) Information Storage Devices

Nanotechnology allows to store a large volume of data - petabits of data - in a single gram of DNA (Diamandis, P., 2016).

(6) New Energy Systems

Nanorobots can develop more efficient renewable energy systems and build more energy efficient machines that operate at the same or even higher level of capacities (Diamandis, P., 2016).

(7) Super-strong Metamaterials

Nanotechnology enables the discovery of new materials. A group of engineers of Caltech developed a substance out of crisscrossed nanoscale struts which is strong, but one of the lightest materials that were ever made (Diamandis, P., 2016).

(8) Smart Windows and Walls

Smart windows and walls can dynamically change their color to keep rooms and houses energy-efficient, to keep them clean and to control the internal temperature (Diamandis, P., 2016).



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Title: Nanotechnology. Challenges and Opportunities