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Everything You Need to Know About Nanotechnology

Discover some of the potential applications of nanotechnology below.

As the years pass, technological advancements seem to get more and more futuristic. Artificial intelligence (AI) is considered a normal part of many people’s daily lives. It’s used with voice assistance, facial recognition software, and even social media. Virtual reality is gaining traction as the most popular source of gaming entertainment and smartphones with large, interactive screens can be folded without damage. As things continue to advance, one key feature of ongoing efficiency and development is nanotechnology. Nanotechnology can be applied to all fields. It plays an essential role in the cyronics industry, as it may hold the key to making revival a real possibility. Finally, it could help us build a more sustainable future, which is important for life after revival. To learn more about what nanotechnology is and how it will shape our future, check out the article below. 

The nanometer scale, showing that one atom is about one million times smaller than a single strand of hair (IMG Source 1)

What is Nanotechnology? 

Nanotechnology is a branch of technology so inconceivably small, that it could manipulate the individual atoms of an object or living being. It’s a subset of nanoscience, which involves design, synthesis, characterization, and application of organic and inorganic material at the nanometer scale. For an idea of how small this really is, one of the “largest” objects on the nanometer scale is a single strand of human hair and the smallest is one individual atom. When you compare the two, one individual atom is about one million times smaller than the thickest strand of human hair! This would allow for alterations to molecular structures of materials, thus completely changing their innate properties. 

The Origins of Nanotechnology 

Nanotechnology was first introduced to the world in 1959, by the American Nobel prize and physicist Richard Feynman. He conceptualized that technology would someday be able to manipulate particles so small that it could strengthen or repair molecular bonds, thus having limitless potential for applications across several fields. While he delivered an interesting speech about this “theory” at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), the topic quickly fluttered out of the scientific community. 

The idea of nanotechnology didn’t reemerge until 1977, when K. Eric Drexler began to imagine the possibilities that could be achieved if tiny, minuscule robots could move molecules quickly with exact precision were to exist. This vision eventually led to his 1986 book, Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology. In this text, Drexler spoke about the potential applications of nanotechnology using a more scientific approach that began to gather attention. He is responsible for the term “nanotechnology” (sometimes referred to as “molecular technology”) as we know it today. However, his name has largely been forgotten, as global initiatives and big science has taken over the push towards nanotechnology. Fun fact: K. Eric Drexler is currently signed up for cryopreservation!

Although the origins of nanotechnology stem back decades, global interest has recently begun to rise exponentially. In fact, according to the Global Nanotechnology Market report, it’s expected that the global market for nanotechnology will exceed 125 billion USD by the year 2024 [1]. While it may have seemed like an impossible feat back in 1959, today’s technological advancements give scientists hope. Eventually, with enough research and development, more advanced nanotechnology may not only be possible, but could also be developed sooner than ever imagined.  

Nanotechnology could construct or deconstruct materials on a molecular level

Different Classifications of Nanotechnology

Although the basic premise of nanotechnology is the same (manipulating things on a molecular level), there are a few different classifications. The first classification refers to how nanotechnology proceeds from start to finish, which can either be top-down or bottom-up. 

  • Top-Down (Descending): in this approach, a larger structure, mechanism, or set of materials is reduced to sizes that can be measured on the nanometric spectrum or structure. This can be compared to carving a statue out of a block of marble. Some examples of this in the scientific world include UV lithography, electron-beam lithography, nano-imprint lithography, and scanning probe lithography. 

  • Bottom-Up (Ascending): this takes the opposite approach, and creates larger structures, mechanisms, or sets of materials by constructing them atom by atom, or molecule by molecule. This can be compared to the process of building a castle out of Legos. Some examples of this in the scientific world include technological (or molecular) self-assembly and natural self-assembly (i.e., protein folding). 

Nanotechnology can be further classified based on what medium it works in. As you can probably guess, the two options for this classification are either dry or wet. 

  • Dry Nanotechnology: this refers to any type of nanotechnology that’s used in dry materials or types of semiconductors that only work in dry conditions without humidity. 

  • Wet Nanotechnology: this refers to any type of nanotechnology that’s used for application in more “wet” environments such as organic materials, genetic material, cells and membranes, enzymes, tissues, organs, etc. 

Either process of nanotechnology can work in both wet and dry conditions, which leads to four possibilities: top-down/dry, top-down/wet, bottom-up/dry, and bottom-up/wet nanotechnology. Cryonics would benefit from both top-down/wet and bottom-up/wet nanotechnology. From a top-down perspective, foreign cells or diseased structures could be carved away. From a bottom-up perspective, new cells or mechanisms (such as telomeres) could be constructed within the body and nanowarming could be deployed. 

Nanotechnology could help improve efficiency of sustainable energy sources

Potential Applications of Nanotechnology

Since nanotechnology would be operating in such an inconceivably small space, the applications of use are endless. From contemporary sciences and AI to environmental revolutions, nanotechnology could be a small (literally) solution to several much larger challenges industries face today. Although there are some areas where nanotechnology is already used (to a degree), there are several other industries that could experience some pretty impressive benefits. Let’s explore some potential applications below. 

Energy 

Nanotechnology-based materials have the possibility to be embedded into existing products and materials in order to improve their efficiency and overall capacity. Higher energy efficiency in the energy sector could be seen through things like greater capacity of solar cells, insulation materials, batteries, or other sources of renewable energy. This could allow for more reliable usage of sustainable energy sources across the world, especially in relation to solar, wind, water, and geothermal energy. For example, a solar panel with nanotechnology properties made by Kyoto University has the potential to double the amount of electricity that’s produced from sunlight [2]. 

Nanotechnology could also help reduce the emissions of conventional energy sources, such as with fossil fuels and nuclear fuels.  It has the capacity to enhance energy storage capabilities while simultaneously making them safer. 

Environmental

In addition to the impact that nanotechnology could have on sustainability energy (thus aligning with environmental initiatives), it could also help with water purification. Nanofiltration systems have the capacity to filter out heavy metals and increase the availability of safe drinking water to individuals around the world. This application is already being used to some extent, but it could become more efficient with the ongoing development of this technology. 

Microscopic waste filters could also be used to sift through emissions released by industrial or commercial buildings, thus reducing the impact of combustion on the environment. Nanotechnology could additionally provide the solution for oil spills, ocean wastewater, and more. These environmental benefits are essential to creating a sustainable future environment for life after revival.

The applications of nanotechnology could help improve drug delivery and efficacy

Biomedicine

Molecular nanotechnology (MNT) is a type of nanotechnology that’s primarily being studied for use in the medical field. Due to the size of this technology, nanomaterials integrated into medical devices could help doctors diagnose critical conditions like cancer or neurodegenerative diseases earlier, thus increasing the effect of treatment and subsequent survival rate over the years. Unlike chemotherapy or radiation, nanotechnology could potentially be programmed to attack cancer cells directly, without harming surrounding healthy cells. They could also be used to go in and repair any damages that surrounding cells or tissues have incurred, thus reducing the overall impact of disease on the body. 

Furthermore, nanotechnology could be used in the biomedical field to help with drug discovery, drug delivery, and even protein synthesis or delivery. It could help scientists better understand how the molecules within the body respond to disease and, therefore, how to counteract the traditional response to avoid damage. One day, nanotechnology could help develop an encapsulated drug that releases slowly and in a controlled manner to reduce the time or resources that some patients need to afford to travel long distances for treatment. In reality, there are so many different applications of nanotechnology in the medical field that the opportunities are endless 

Electronics

Have you ever seen those bendable touchscreen phones and wondered how it was possible? The simple answer is nanotechnology. Nanotechnology used in electronics can transform the way that devices are manufactured because they can rearrange the atoms to replicate other, more flexible material (i.e., silicone). This can lead to lighter, stronger, and more conductive materials with unique properties—such as with graphene, the nanoparticle used in flexible touchscreens. 

Nanotechnology is also one of the reasons that our devices keep getting smaller and more portable, while their capacities keep getting larger.  

Cryonics 

Finally, nanotechnology could have far reaching benefits for the cryonics industry. First, it has the potential to treat aging, causes of death, and other diseases. Once developed, this technology could make, repair, or regenerate any organ, tissue, or even individual cells within the body. Nanotechnology could help create a cure for aging. Many causes of death would also be rendered reversible and surgeries could be performed remotely without the need for any major procedures. 

Another application of nanotechnology is treating possible damage caused by the cryoprocedure. The cellular repair, regeneration, and synthesis that it could provide would aid in the revival of cryopreserved patients. In fact, current challenges with cryopreservation become inconsequential and easy to overcome with the use of nanotechnologies. Patients could be revived to full health, likely at a physical age much younger than when they reached legal death. 

In order for patient revival to occur in the first place, an effective rewarming process must be established. During the cryoprocedure, cryoprotectant agents (CPAs) are used to help lower a patient’s core temperature to about -125°C. At this stage, they become officially vitrified, and are further cooled to -196°C to be stored indefinitely. The challenge is that it’s difficult to rewarm cells after cryopreservation. Since the body is made of different tissues and systems, it’s hard to rewarm them at the same speed. This is especially true considering that organisms are normally rewarmed from the outside in. The problem here is that rewarming needs to occur both uniformly throughout the body and at a fast rate to avoid thermal stress. When used during the revival process, microscopic technologies could assist in nanowarming. This would allow for individualized warming rates to be determined to maximize cellular viability. It would also reduce the risk of any ice formation or crystallization during the rewarming process (as the patient transitions from sub-zero temperatures to normal conditions). If used simultaneously with the nanotechnology for cellular repair, the revival process could become not only possible, but reparative. 

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Future Concerns About Nanotechnology

As with any type of technological development, it’s important to be aware of the potential challenges that nanotechnology may bring. The primary hesitation from people who hear about nanotechnology revolves around manufacturing the technology and its impact on the environment. However, all types of manufacturing result in some degree of pollution or byproduct and the potential benefits of nanotechnology on the environment far outweigh the hypothesized disadvantages. The same argument can be applied to those who don’t support nanotechnology because of its potential to decrease job demands. The changes in the production process could actually have the opposite effect and lead to an influx of openings around the world. 

The applications of nanotechnology are endless and could improve remote operations within a variety of industries

Conclusion

Nanotechnology has the potential to help reduce pollutants in the environment and decrease worldwide energy consumption. It could solve previously unachievable health problems, and make the future a place worth living. It’s also an essential component of reviving patients after cryopreservation. 

Even if this type of nanotechnology was developed tomorrow, scientists still have a long way to go before it could be safely used in cryonics. While we’re optimistic about the possibilities of the future, we’re still not sure when this could become a reality. However, cryonics is the best (and only) way of giving yourself the chance to benefit from nanotechnology advancements in the future. To learn more about this process, schedule a call with one of our team members or head to our sign up today. 

Tomorrow Bio is the worlds fastest growing human cryopreservation provider. Our all inclusive cryopreservation plans start at just 45€ per month. Learn more here.