Nanotechnology is one of the most significant tech developments of all time, with the potential to change every element of our lives. The technology really does go “back to basics” and involves the manipulation of the smallest element in the world, the Atom. So how does it work?
The basic building block of everything that we see is the atom, with atoms containing sub-atomic particles known as:
Protons – (which have a positive electric charge)
Neutrons – (which have no charge)
Electrons – (which have a negative electric charge)
Protons and neutrons themselves consists of smaller particles known as quarks. The protons and neutrons are arranged in the nucleus of the atom with the electrons being in outer shells. Molecules are formed from the combination of one or more atoms. For example a water molecule consists of 2 Hydrogen atoms and 1 Oxygen atom bonded together.
Nanotechnology is a branch of science which allows scientists to rearrange the structure of individual atoms, and by adding different atoms together, they can produce any material. Using new techniques (involving the use of pinpoint lasers), scientists have been able to produce a number of examples of the potential of Nanotechnology including :-
- A tiny sculpture of a Bull, which is the size of a single blood cell.
- A prototype of a pill sized robot, which when swallowed is able to transmit information about the body, e.g. Temperature, Acidity, Oxygen Levels etc.
- A working Camera which is housed inside a pill. Again, the camera is able to transmit pictures from inside the body, to an external receiver.
Researchers in the US are currently working on “Nano Smart Bombs”, which can be introduced to the body, and programmed to locate certain cell structures. These “Nano Smart Bombs” are structured in such a way as to evade the body’s natural immune system, allowing them to find and kill dead / diseased cells. This is a major break-through in the battle against diseases such as cancer, and also reduces the side effects from today’s treatments.
This technology has the potential to push back the ultimate variable which is human life. It is well documented that the only reason that life has a natural timespan, is because of the deterioration of certain organs, tissues, cells, etc. So what if you were able to regenerate or “fix” these elements at cell level within the human body? What happens if you could replace dead cells with living cells?
Benjamin Franklin suggested in a famous 1773 letter that it might be possible to preserve human life in a suspended state for centuries. However, the modern era of cryonics began in 1962 when Michigan college physics teacher Robert Ettinger proposed in a privately published book, “The Prospect of Immortality”,that freezing people may be a way to reach future medical technology. Even though freezing a person is apparently fatal, Ettinger argued that what appears to be fatal today may be reversible in the future. He applied the same argument to the process of dying itself, saying that the early stages of clinical death may be reversible in the future. Combining these two ideas, he suggested that freezing recently deceased people may be a way to save lives.
Cryonics is a speculative life support technology that seeks to preserve human life in a state that will be viable and treatable by future medicine. It is expected that future medicine will include mature nanotechnology, and the ability to heal at the cellular and molecular level – Alcor.org – Life Extention Foundation
This is an abstract from a paper entitled “Scenario for Nanotechnological Repair of the Frozen Human Brain” Reprinted from Cryonics: Reaching for Tommorow 1991
Guidelines are suggested for designing realistic and defensible nanotechnological repair scenarios for the frozen human brain. A scenario is developed which is based on a) replacing brain ice with repair networks below Tg, b) carrying out gross structural repairs at temperatures in the range of about -100 to -30 degrees C, and c) carrying out most intracellular repairs at more elevated temperatures, relying in part on ordinary biological self-assembly and self-repair for carrying out much of the work required. The presently suggested scenario is intended as a rough outline that can facilitate rational discussion of the feasibility of repair. No mathematical analysis is attempted in this first specific description of “realistic” approaches to the repair of the frozen human brain. – The full article can be found here
Nanotechnology can produce “tiny” computers to enter the human body, locate damaged cells, and enter these cells for further investigation. It would also be possible to attach minute amounts of “medicine / food” to these computers, and control the release of the medicines. This would allow damaged cells to be boosted / repaired, which will in turn allow life to be prolonged. It is also possible to artificially produce new cells, and transport these into the body, and switch them with the dead cells.
So how will these computers move around the body?
Scientists have already produced a molecular motor which is one fifth of the size of a red blood cell. The motor consist of a protein from E. Coli (E . coli is a common rod-shaped bacteria that helps to keep us healthy) which is attached to a nickel spindle and propeller which are only a few nanometers in width. The motor uses the body’s natural “fuel” ATP, which is used to power all living activities.
While the body can operate at close to 100% efficiency using ATP, the prototype nano motors are only able to operate at between 1 and 4 percent efficiency. Room for improvement, but a great start.
Governments around the world are starting to take Nanotechnology seriously, and have pledged billions of dollars in support. A number of items have already been introduced into the market place, with many more to follow in the near future.
Nantechnology is one of the most amazing discoveries of all time, and really has the potential to touch all aspects all of our lives, as well as the length of our lives.