A Nano evolution, a Big innovation
Atomic-scale industry, nano-technology - a set of techniques for working the material atom by atom - have entered our daily lives. Are already being used in DVD players, cars, etc.. The term 'nano' plays a great industrial revolution, and indicates processing at the nanoscale (one billionth of a meter). Open the "frontier of the infinitely small," the physical chemistry of materials, the new technoscience of the matter.
The nano-materials are here, among us, already marketed in the form of nano-tubes, carbon nano-laser DVD players, nano-chips for biological diagnosis ... One thinks of "molecular factories" with carriers, articulated arms, conveyor belts of a hundred thousand times smaller size of the diameter of a hair. Look at the matter, and work on the atomic scale, is a fascinating skyline of promising innovations. The dream is certain to "redo what life has done, but in our own way", in the words of the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1987, Jean-Marie Lehn. There are also those who argue that the technique should take over Darwinian evolution, to take in hand the destiny of humanity ...
In fact, the idea of manipulating atoms, the constituent elements of matter, became a reality. The scanning tunneling microscope, developed in 1982, has allowed this "zoom atom in the universe" that "the Lilliputian engineering ', capable of moving atoms at will. The prospects of a 'molecular manufacturing', ventilated by Eric Drexler in Engines of Creation, we are open.
It begins to manufacture carts, vacuum cleaners, auto molecular transistor in a single atom, quantum computers, etc..
Around the "heart of the trade ', gravity all sorts of other technologies which are derived from or miniaturization, or, this time starting" from below "by a molecular reorganization at the origin of unusual physical and chemical properties. While on a macroscopic scale dominates the collective effect of millions of atoms, isolating nano-objects, made only a few atoms, particular behaviors may occur: increase in the area of exchange (increased reactivity), mechanical strength, functions, optical, electromagnetic or thermal ... More than the chemical nature of the material, the spatial organization of atoms becomes decisive.
Of the unknown potential of emergent properties, some predict the revolution, some continuity. Already, all major manufacturing sectors - electronics, textiles, health, food or energy - are affected by this hurricane technology. The automotive group Daimler-Benz sells cars equipped with reinforcements to the brakes or engine parts made of carbon nano-tubes, a hundred times stronger than steel and six times lighter; the IBM transistor produces a hundred thousand times thinner than a hair , researchers at Cornell University, the United States, or of the Institut Curie in France, produce molecular motors. Even the cosmetic industry for some years, uses nano-particles of zinc oxide to produce more resistant lipsticks, titanium oxide to filter out ultraviolet rays, or powder of zirconium oxide (zirconia) for nail polish.
For many industrial giants, the submicron-scale production (in the one-millionth of a meter) is a condition of survival. Sony as St Microelectronics (associated with Motorola and Philips Semiconductors International BV) have just invested 1.5 billion euro for the production of semi-conductors worked less than 90 nanometers.
In textiles, the projects include metallic fibers that can contain or incorporate energy sensors. The nano-materials can also improve the efficiency of energy systems, allowing the storage of hydrogen or provide effective thermal barriers. As regards health, the nano-beads can be new 'vehicle' of active substance, released in situ infrared heating or magnetic field. Applications in the field of biometrics systems or miniature nomadic information are multiplying, even if they are still on the micrometer scale. Last year, the company Applied Digital has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (the U.S. authority in the field of medicine) for his "medical embedded chip," which became implanted under the skin and transmits, via the RFID (Radio frequency identification, radio frequency identification), the patient's complete medical history.
"The nano-industry is an emerging industry, but a range of means to manipulate matter and materials make existing adaptive (" smart ") and hybrid (electronic acidic half organic and half)," explained economists Stephen Baker and Adam Aston. This should give space to new fields of research, enabling the restructuring of many industries, as has happened with computer science, electronics and biotechnology. First steps will involve bio-materials, catalysts, diagnostics and electronics.
Different disciplines should join forces to do better in the interface between living and inanimate matter, at the junction between chemistry, electronics, genetics and even neuroscience.
The investments are not made to wait. In 2005, the global effort (academic and industrial) for nano-technologies has been estimated at 9 billion dollars by the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) America, according to a nearly uniform distribution between the countries in Asia, Europe and North America. From 1998 to 2003, public investment has been multiplied by six in Europe, eight in the United States and Japan. The world market for these technologies, which was already $ 40 billion in 2001, should reach, according to the National Science Foundation (NSF) U.S. 1,000 billion per year in 2010.
The train of nano-technology is therefore the party.