Nano-sized operations produce larger than life-sized results

It has been around for years, but nanotechnology is still greatly misunderstood, underused and avoided.

The design behind nanotechnology can be briefly summarized as the idea of scaling down the size of scientific operations, there is a greater surface area that can be utilized. This means that processes can all happen in one area rather than multiple, which allows things to move faster and be more efficient. For example, cell phone companies use nanotechnology to create programs that increase user speed.

The biggest issue people have with with utilizing products on the nanoscopic scale, or “nanoscale” for short, is that there is no real answer or any understanding of what could possibly go wrong. Messing with particles on such a small scale to arrange them for our own uses could be catastrophic, but since the technology effects have been explored so little, there is no saying what could actually happen.

 

 


Let’s not forget, of course, that scaling down operations means having a large increase in cost. There is no getting around the price increase. Working on the nanoscale requires expensive equipment and highly skilled nanotechnologists to properly execute the procedure and perform secure and safe adjustments on particles. Things like this just aren’t cheap. However, in the long run, they save large amounts of money and are far more cost-effective.

Just because we are afraid of the technology and its possible negative outcomes doesn’t mean we should write it off entirely or only use it on practices we have already deemed as “safe” like computers or sunscreen.

There are opportunities that could be missed entirely because the outcomes are unforeseeable — cancer treatment, for one example, could be restructured by using particles of gold to carry medicine through the body.

Maybe more important or relatable to ASU, the use of solar technology could become far more effective. When we look at solar panels what we see is a reflection, meaning that most of the sun energy we are trying to harvest is actually being reflected back and not collected. This is because the current design of solar panels prohibits them from collecting all levels of ultraviolet light.

If instead of using traditional reflective solar panels scientists altered solar cells to use a technology known as quantum dots, all levels of ultraviolet could be harvested. Solar panels would instead appear jet black and solar technology would be 100 percent effective, rather than only being used as an assistant in reducing energy costs.

Utilizing nanotechnology allows us to make leaps and bounds in medicine, solar technology, computers and things as simple as sunscreen. Despite possible risks and undeniably enormous costs, it is worth taking a chance to possibly cure cancer or increase sustainable efforts to save our planet from the imminent destruction we bring upon it on a daily basis.

Reach the columnist at mjrodr11@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @mikayrodr

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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