This academic institution is heavily involved in nanotechnology research and hosts the National Science Foundation's Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center on its campus. The Institute is especially active with carbon nanotubes-tiny tubelike structures that possess unique physical, thermal and electrical properties. Visitors can learn about integrating nanotubes into electronics, incorporating nanotubes into composite materials for enhanced strength and forming nanotubes into tiny springs, rods and beams for nanomachines.
Scientists need tools to study, measure and manipulate nanoscale objects. NSRG, a collection of research groups associated with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is poised to develop these tools. The NSRG's work explores three areas: nanoscale sciences, biomedical research and tools research. Information is available on a number of the group's projects, such as work on carbon nanotube paddle oscillators-extremely small actuators for optical switching and sensing technologies.
The day may not be far off when microscopic machines embed a phone in an individual biological cell, decode a human genome or sniff scents with the acuity of the best-trained bloodhound.
Researchers have discovered a class of nanoscale devices that can self-assemble when exposed to light. These sub-microscopic structures may provide new methods for manufacturing electronic components such as photonic devices and memory storage systems for computers. Another potential application for the technology is in splitting water molecules to generate hydrogen for use as fuel.
The science of the very small has big military, economic and security implications for the future. From molecular manufacturing to incredibly smart chemical weapons, the raw materials and ultimate paraphernalia that nanotechnology will enable boggle the imagination of even science fiction aficionados. However, experts who scrutinize the science and significance of nanoscale devices differ on how this kind technology will affect future generations as well as on what should be done today to keep the United States out front in this field.