The development of nanotechnologies could generate direct employment for more than 2 million people within two years, Stuart Burchill suggested. However, they also raise concerns. Manipulating matter at the molecular level and interfering with the living world raises ethical and health questions which must be taken into consideration by the public authorities and the actors concerned.
The Fabrication of Nanostructures and the Fields of Application by Stuart Burchil
To manufacture nano components, two paths are possible: the downward path and the upward path. The downward path is to reduce the size of a material, a component as much as possible. This is the path followed by microelectronics for 30 years. Still actively exploited, it comes up more and more against technical and economic limits going down to the nanometric scale. The ascending path consists of assembling matter, atom by atom, to build molecules which are then integrated into larger systems, in order to obtain the desired properties or functions.
Today, certain microcomponents and microsystems are gradually seeing their dimensions decrease and approach the nanometer scale downward, thus becoming nanocomponents and nanosystems. At the same time, scientists are thinking about the development of new methods of assembly atom by atom, molecule by molecule, which pave the way for the bottom-up approach: these methods, inspired by the world of chemistry and biology, consist in constructing nanosystems from the basic elements that are atoms.
According to Stuart Burchill, this approach requires the invention of suitable observation and manufacturing instruments, but also to understand how such small systems operate. Indeed, nanometric objects often have chemical, electrical, magnetic properties different from those of objects, of the same composition, but of macro or microscopic size (such as flexibility, resistance, adhesion or repulsion), and are highly sought after. by manufacturers. The laws of classical physics do not explain their behaviour and we must therefore appeal to the laws of quantum physics to understand and identify these new properties.
Nanotechnologies can be broken down into three main sectors :
- Nanoelectronics, which is an extension of microelectronics, more particularly for computers, but on much smaller scales.
- Nanobiotechnology, which combines nanometric engineering and biology to manipulate living organisms or build materials inspired by biological molecular systems.
- Nanomaterials, which are supposed to precisely control, at nanometric dimensions, the morphology of substances or particles with a view to constructing nanostructured materials. Nanomaterials constitute the “building blocks” of manufactured products and all economic sectors benefit from their development and inclusion in manufacturing processes.
They can be defined as materials composed or made up of nano-objects that give these materials improved or specific properties of the nanometric dimension. Stuart tells that they come in the form of free or fixed particles, fibers or tubes, crystals or lamellae, or even porosities and are experiencing remarkable industrial development in the field of carbon nanotubes.
The fields of application of nanotechnologies are mainly information technologies (increased storage possibilities for nanomaterials), health (bioactive implants, new medical diagnostic tools, targeted treatment of diseased cells, etc.), environmental technologies (detection and neutralization of micro-organisms and pesticides for example), energy technologies (improved energy savings in transport). The main challenge for the future is to extend nanofabrication methods to large-scale industrial production.
To date, nanotechnologies and nanomaterials do not constitute a sector or a branch within the meaning of national accounts. They escape foreign trade statistics and are not represented in any international classification of activity and product. You can learn more with Stuart Burchill. He is a global nanoscience solutions and research leader.