Nanotechnology: incredible products predicted for the future

April 10 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 10 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

The late Arthur C. Clarke once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is virtually indistinguishable from magic.” Enter humanity’s newest plunge into magic – nanotechnology.

Imagine a world with billions of desktop-size machines that can create almost anything – clothing, furniture, electronics, and more – in just minutes. Today, such devices are not available, but one day soon, a small nano-factory will sit on your kitchen counter and let you order nearly anything you desire at little or no cost.

…“Computer, make me ham and eggs, home fries, wheat toast, and coffee.”… Although this may sound like something out of Star Trek, according to futurist Ray Kurzweil, nano-factories could be providing you and your family with meals, medicines, and most essentials by as early as mid-2020s.

Nano-factories operate similar to the way life creates its miracles. A plant grabs atoms from dirt, water, and air, and transforms them into a juicy red strawberry. Our bodies rearrange atoms in the food we eat to create new blood cells. And in similar fashion, nano-factories collect raw atoms from something as inexpensive as dirt, air, or seawater and produce clothes, food, medicine, or even another nano-factory. (cont.)

A recent government report, “Nanotechnology: the Future is Coming Sooner Than You Think” outlined when we can expect nano-products to enter the consumer market:

2000-2005 – mostly passive nano items were developed during this period, including sunscreens, tennis rackets, stain/water-resistant clothing, and other high-tech products.

2005-2010 – active products that change states during use are typical for this group. These include materials that sense when a product is strained, such as cars that automatically repair dents; wiper-less windshield cleaners; materials that convert sunlight into electricity to power personal electronics; clothing that changes color and texture on command; and nanofoods such as fat-free donuts, cholesterol-lowering cheeseburgers, and “smart” grocery packaging materials that prevent food from spoiling.

2010-2015 – nanomaterials that self-assemble to achieve a final goal will become available during this period. These include proteins or viruses that build small batteries, nanostructures that create a lattice on which bone or other tissues can grow; “smart” dust strewn over an area that sense the presence of humans and communicates their location; and devices that find and destroy cancer cells without harming neighboring tissues.

2015-2020 – during this time, nanobots will be available that can render hazardous materials harmless, enrich farmlands by placing correct amounts of oxygen and nutrients into the soil, and roam through bodies analyzing vital conditions and displaying health information directly on the skin (like a temporary tattoo). Also in this period, computers will be able to sense and respond to human thoughts; and tissues and organs will be grown inside the body using stem cell and genetic engineering techniques.

2020 and Beyond – tiny computerized nanobots that maintain perfect health in every cell could be available by 2025, and in the 2030s, according to Kurzweil, humanity will begin to transcend its biological limitations and interface directly with machines to absorb huge amounts of intelligence created by powerful supercomputers.

Could this “magical future” become reality in such a short time? Positive futurists believe that most of today’s problems including material scarcity, human health, and environmental degradation can all be solved with tomorrow’s nanotechnology – and in plenty of time to benefit most people alive today.

Which nanotech advance will provide the greatest benefit?

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Comment Thread (5 Responses)

  1. I can’t wait till 2005, I’m so excited about all those great things we’ll have than!

    Posted by: johnfrink   April 10, 2008
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  2. johnfrink, all products mentioned in the 2000-2005 period are in stores now; in fact, I use the new clear nano-sunblock to ward off damage from our Las Vegas sunny weather. Dick

    Posted by: futuretalk   April 10, 2008
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  3. futuretalk, it is 2008, so i want my cholesterol-lowering cheeseburgers, whatever they has to do with nano-products that “change states during use”.

    Posted by: johnfrink   April 10, 2008
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  4. Johnfrink, I’m not sure whether you are just being facetious or are sincere about wanting to try nanofoods. It is my understanding that they are not available in markets yet, but you can get more information from this link, http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2008/mar/26/nanotechnology.food. Dick

    Posted by: futuretalk   April 10, 2008
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  5. JohnFrink, why so negative? Send me to your blog, where you have posted something interesting about nanotechnology, so that I can be enlightened by your genius since you are so obviously superior. This is the kind of stuff that I enjoy. Nanotech has always fascinated me, and I can’t wait until it becomes more integrated into our society. I hope I’ll live long enough for the medical advances that it will bring.

    Posted by: shayalon   April 11, 2008
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