Tuesday, July 19, 2016

WEEK 5: Nanotechnology & Art

Perhaps the biggest upcoming field in technology is actually very small: Nanotechnology. Norio Taniguchi came up with the term “nanotechnology,” but it was Richard Feynman who realized the revolutionary power this microscopic world possessed. Eric Drexler introduced engineering based nanotech, including the assembler concept. Essentially, a factory style machine could take pieces of individual molecules and reassemble them in any desired formation. Thus, this would allow one object to be reinvented into something totally different, like dirt into a hamburger, as UCLA professor Jim Gimzewski discussed.

A molecular assembler is able to take one object and reassemble its molecules into something entirely new. Though this is an extensive process, it is miraculous that we have the ability to do this. 
Though assembling something molecule by molecule proves to be inefficient, I still find nanotechnology to be an artistic subject matter. The intricate patterns are perfectly orchestrated microscopically. These patterns at the quantum level denote the convergence of chemistry, physics, and engineering, and, though small, have “real potential to impact every aspect of our lives” (Gimzewski & Vesna).  While in recent years there have been new uses for nanotechnology, the Romans have used it since 400 BC. Utilizing nano-sized particles of gold, the Lycurgus Cup is transformed from green in natural lighting to red, once illuminated from the inside. Nanotechnology was also used for artistic and aesthetic purposes like this one in stained glass windows and glazes of pottery to achieve vibrant colors.

The Lycurgus Cup has a thin layer of gold nanoparticles that change its color depending on lighting.
Today, however, nanoparticles aren’t used for just aesthetic purposes. They engineer everything from textiles to adhesives to pharmaceuticals. Instead of new designs molecule by molecule, research has turned to nanostructures and self-assembly already perfected by nature to design new products for man. I appreciate biomimicry, design driven by the natural world. Though our world continues advance technologically, it is comforting to know that tech still values our environment. Nature has gone under evolution since literally the beginning of time, her designs are the closest to perfection we will probably ever have. In addition, for medical technologies, nanotech has great potential in identifying disease, targeting tumors, and reducing the toxicity of drugs to treat cancer.

Similar to the hydrophobicity of lotus leaves, the textile industry has used nanoparticles to emulate this technology for jeans, such as the pair by Dockers pictured above. Other examples of biomimicry include using nanoparticles h develop adhesives based on gecko feet and to create vibrant colors based on the nano particles in the iridescent wings of the blue morphs butterfly.

Abraxane is an anti-cancer drug to combat breast cancer. Taxel is often used, but requires toxic chemicals to make it soluble. In Abraxane, the nanoparticles are coated with albumin, which greatly reduces toxicity while still maintaining effective treatment.  
There is a new world to be explored below the macroscopic level. From developing products that will increase efficiency, revolutionizing the food and agriculture industry or creating new pharmaceuticals that could save thousands of lives, nanotechnology could be a promising field for the advancement of mankind. It is unclear what the long-term effects are of nanoparticles, but with more research hopefully we will learn more about this microscopic world. Maybe we have all the tools we need to create new products and save lives, we just need to learn how to use them.

Gimzewski, Jim, and Victoria Vesna. "The Nanomeme Syndrome: Blurring of Fact & Fiction in the Construction of a New Science." UCLA, n.d. Web. 19 July 2016.

"What Is Nanotechnology?" Center for Responsible Nanotechnology. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 July 2016.

"KurzweilAI | Accelerating Intelligence." The Future of Nanotechnology Molecular Manufacturing Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 July 2016.

Greenberg, Gary. "The Beautiful Nano Details of Our World." TED | Ideas Worth Spreading. TED, Apr. 2012. Web. 19 July 2016.

"Role of Nanotechnology in Pharmaceutical Product Development." National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 19 July 2016.

Molecular Assembler. N.d. Fundamental Concepts of Nanotechnology. Nanotechnology. Web. 18 July 2016.

Lycurgus Cup. N.d. British Museum, London. Web. 18 July 2016.

Docker's Jeans, Straight Fit. N.d. Dockers.com. Web. 18 July 2016.

Leaf with Water. N.d. Free Photos. Web. 18 July 2016.

Abraxane. N.d. Abraxane for Injectable Suspension. Web. 18 July 2016.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Gina,

    Great post! I liked your clever opening. I thought that nanotechnology was something modern, yet the Lycurgus Cup opened up my eyes to the wisdom of our ancestors. I agree that nanotechnology will become an integral part of our lives, penetrating into every product that we consume; it's without doubt that nanotechnology-engineered materials will transform the art industry as well.