Contributed by Lauren Willison
To fix any problem, you have to get to the root of its issue. This is a core concept in nanotechnology, where solutions to some of the world’s most threatening issues can be found on a microscopic level. Until recently, we’ve lacked the technology to study and interact with atoms and molecules. However, thanks to new microscopic tools and a growing nanotechnology field, we’ve gained better insight on the structure of these particles.
Nanotechnology, which is the study of devices on the molecular level, allows scientists to alter the atoms of materials and devices to make them more sustainable. By manipulating the device’s molecular properties, scientists can generate greater strength, lighter weight, increased control of light spectrum, and greater chemical reactivity than the device’s larger-scale counterparts.
Here’s a look at the direction nanotechnology is heading in.
Building a greener future begins with finding a sustainable energy source to replace oil and gas. That’s the focus of some nanotechnology and environmental experts, who continue to invent new sustainable materials, as well as improve existing energy devices. For example, nanotechnologists are improving batteries by increasing their energy density. This results in lightweight batteries with a longer shelf life, allowing users to gain more use from the battery with less recharging.
Cleaner Drinking Water
Another global issue nanotechnology is solving – particularly in third-world nations – is the lack of clean drinking water. This problem affects over 1 billion people every day and is generally due to pollution and pesticides contaminating drinking water. Nanotechnologists are responding with devices that eliminate carcinogens and dangerous chemicals. These cost-effective water filters open access to previously undrinkable water and are cutting down on preventable diseases linked to contaminated water.
Improved Medical Care
The pharmaceutical industry is another major beneficiary of nanotechnology. Researchers have improved faulty drugs and improved healthcare systems to make generic, cost-effective alternatives everyone can afford. These experts are also finding ways to use nanorobots to quickly detect illnesses without harming the patient. By cutting down on the number of tests, scans, and diagnostic procedures, treatments can begin sooner.
Advanced STEM Education
STEM-focused nanotechnology degree (such as at Florida Polytechnic University) programs provide cutting-edge machines and tools, allowing students to experiment with new materials and find solutions for these real-world problems. They are also taught to observe the consequences of their own discoveries to avoid a negative impact on the environment. Through hands-on experience and project-based coursework, these students learn to embrace the responsibilities of nanotechnology in environmental, social and political spheres.
Nanotechnology holds the power to resolve many of our largest problems and create a bright future. By exploring devices on the molecular level, scientists are one step closer to unlocking the full potential of nanotechnology and understanding its world-changing role.
Lauren Willison is the Director of Admissions at Florida Polytechnic University, she is responsible for supporting the Vice Provost of Enrollment in managing recruitment efforts. She develops and coordinates on- and off-campus events, as well as manages the campus visit experience.