8 min readNanotechnology – Counting Millions in the Billionth of a Meter!

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The world of Science has been a Pandora’s box for even the most qualified observers. What was fiction yesterday is reality today. People have seen science with amazement like a wondering audience watching a magicians pull out a rabbit from his hat. Nanotechnology has been one of those concepts from the fictions, which is a reality for the present generation and will a be a driving technology for the future. To be explained in the words of William Powell ‘Nanotechnology is manufacturing with atoms’, the actual technology which lies behind this simple definition is far more complex and holds the secrets of tomorrow.

Nobel laureate physicist Richard Feynman had imagined right, when he said that there is possibility to build machines small enough to manufacture objects with atomic precision during his famous speech “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom” way back in 1959. Today his imaginative discourse is shaping into a technological textbook for the scientist across many domains and is more famously known as Nanotechnology. The impact of nanotechnology has been significant in the area of medicine especially in the highly innovative drug discovery domain.
 
Understanding the Nano World…
Nanotechnology if defined formally is – “research and technology development at the atomic, molecular and macromolecular levels in the length scale of approximately 1 nanometer to 100 nanometer range, to provide a fundamental understanding of phenomena and materials at the nanoscale and to create and use structures, devices and systems that have novel properties and functions because of their small and/or intermediate size.” (as per the definition given by US Government’s National Nanotechnology Initiative). Nanotechnology as such cannot be demarked as an industry as it is a set of tools and techniques that can have an immense impact on many sectors including medical and its affiliated fields. The various technologies can be classified for the sake of their study in relevance to the medical and affiliated fields like drug discovery. The classification is as follow: Nano–enabled tools, Nano-particles, Nano-enabled Dugs, Nano-enabled tools – Some of the tools studied under this are Atomic Force Microscopy, Nano-Mass Spectrometry, Dip-pen Nanolithography, Nano-Arrays.

Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) –
Binng, Quate and Gerber developed this technique in 1986. This is also called Scanning Force Microscopy (SFM). This technique utilizes a sharp probe moving over the surface of a sample in a raster scan. This was one of the first commercial applications of the Nanotechnology. This has been used for greater understanding of the chemical dynamics of how cells react to stimuli, which may prove particularly significant for drug discovery.

 
Dip-Pen Nanolithography:
It is a scanning probe nanopatterning technique in which a scanning force microscopy tip is used to deliver molecules to a surface via a solvent meniscus, which naturally forms in the ambient atmosphere. It is both a fabrication and imaging tool, as the patterned areas can be imaged with clean or ink-coated tips.

Nano Arrays:
This technology helps in effectively screening very small quantities of individual proteins screened against a large set of drug targets.

Nano-particles – Quantum Dots, Nano Shells, Nanobarcode particles, Dendrimers, Colloids.

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