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Molecular manufacturing “Nanotechnology” has already touched many parts of our lives, food, clothing, computers, cosmetics and health care. The future promises more of the same but in a much bigger or smaller ways. From self cleaning windows, smart foods, cheap and efficient energy, smart surfaces, faster computers, to changing our basic human appearance and the chance to clean up our world from toxic waste. Nanotechnology is not the yellow brick road leading us to a perfect utopian society. With the power to create at an atomic level in our hands, we will also have that same power to destroy. Future safe guards must be put in place to help us avoid manufacturing ourselves right out of existence.
The next areas will address what the possible near future will hold in the arena of farming, the types of foods that will be available and the methods that farmers will use to get the most out of their efforts.
It has been a long term goal of farmers all over the world to get the most out of their farms while putting the least into them. Over the last decade, nanotechnology has played a major role in helping farmers achieve those goals. That methodology of incorporating nanotechnology in agriculture has been widely adopted in Europe, Japan and the USA under the title of Controlled Environment Agriculture. (Joseph & Morrison, 2006)
The process of delivering pesticides and herbicides in the past has been through broadcast spray dispersal or time released crystals. This system is at best are minimally effective; most of the treatment is washed away or does not make it to the plant. This then requires the farmer to repeatedly treat the crops and that leads to the possible contamination of the soil and water. (Moaveni, Karimi&Valojerdi, 2011)
Examples of target pesticides come from Syngenta, BASF Bayer Crop Science. By harnessing nano-scale materials scientist can create smart delivery systems called “Gutbusters” which are microcapsules that contain the pesticide and will only break open on the inside of the insects stomach that they are targeted to destroy. The pesticide that has been encapsulated will stay inert until then thus reducing the risk of possible contamination of the soil and water. (Lyons, 2010)
Other possibilities exist by the combination of Nano and bio techniques. Improvements in the genetic engineering of plants will create greater control when making new variations of plants and crops. The future prospects beyond that of just tweaking the DNA of plants and animals will be creating brand a new species of plants and animals. (Scrinis& Lyons, 2007)
Future developments in nanotechnology will allow the use of active and intelligent packaging. Food packaging that will alert the buyer of the possibility that the food has spoiled or the detection of toxins, bacteria or allergens. Other possibilities will be packaging that will (Zweep, 2010)
Additional future uses for food and product packaging would be for self-repairing system, which would fix small holes and tears. RFID sensors embedded in Nano-barcodes would alert the customer to potential problems with their product and would allow the product to be tracked after it has left the store. (Joseph & Morrison, 2006) A concern over security is prompting the further developments of nano-sensors to detect viruses and poison. The reason is to increase the security level protection of food and animal feed from manufacturing, to processing, and shipping. Further uses of this technology would be for supermarkets to monitor products and expiration dates and inventory control. (Scrinis& Lyons, 2007)
It has been over the last decade that nanotechnology in the food industry has started to look into the aspect of “On-Demand” or “Smart Foods.” Scientist are looking forward to when foods can be tailored to the customer’s needs and wants. These custom foods can be adjusted to the color, taste and nutritional needs of the consumer. These customized nano foods would remain dormant until released by the customer. (Joseph & Morrison, 2006)
Along with the future customization of foods, we have other smart products like textiles in the clothing industry. A few of the biggest advances that have will be seen in the next few years will be the area of Nano-fibers. These molecular fibers are stronger and lighter than steel which opens up many doors in the manufacturing field. Other aspects of creating products from these carbon nano-fibers are the ability to withstand high temperatures, which makes them great for heat resistant applications. Future products would include active programmable materials, that when used in the manufacture of clothing would allow the consumer to increase or decrease the size as needed and change colors to the colors the consumer desires. Another practical application of these smart materials would appear only when the person was in need of medical care; these nano-materials would be able to provide immediate delivery of medication to the wound. (Forrest, 2010)
This next section will deal mostly in how nanotechnology will impact humanity as a whole. The treatment of disease, surgery, and raises questions as to what constitutes life and how far can or will we go in changing that definition.
When it comes to health care, nanotechnology will see the biggest impact. The development of nano-imaging crystals will enable doctors to more accurately detect disease causing microorganisms. They will also make it easier for doctors to detect and track cancerous cells at the very earliest stages of tumors. (Saniotis, 2008) Another direction that Doctors are looking in regards to nanotech health care and that is instead of killing the aberrant cells they are looking at ways to fix the cells one cell at a time. The goal is to preserve and to re-build our organ systems, in lieu of destroy and replace. (Bhowmik, Chiranjib, Tripathi, Kumar, 2010)
Nanotechnology in the medicinal arena will also carry a big impact in how we treat sickness. The devices that we use will be at a molecular level with a high degree of control and precision. Targeted medicines will be created to hit just the sight of disease instead of flooding the entire human system. (Saini, Sharma, 2010) The biggest concern in the medicinal arena is the ability of these nano-machines to cross biological barriers. What happens to these nano-particles once they have penetrated the cell or crossed the blood brain barrier? At what point is toxicity going to be a problem? How many of these nano-machines will the human body tolerate? At this point in time we do not have long term models showing how the human body handles a build up on Nano-particles. (Canavan, 2011)
It has been proposed that the greatest advancements in nanomedicine will happen around 2020. The “Nanorobot”, a complete carbon fiber molecular robot with onboard sensors, motors, power supplies and molecular pincers, will forever change the way we do medical care and surgery in the future. Microbivores could be the sentinels of the blood stream, patrolling and looking for unwanted bacteria and viruses. What used to take weeks and months to cure could take a matter of hours. (Freitas, 2005) Skin treatments and wound care a nano scale will be another area that will see changes. The use of Biopolymers in wound dressing materials and woven fabrics will help in reducing infection and future scaring. Additional features of this technology would also include fluid absorption, blood clotting, and non-allergenic. (Nasir, 2008)
Nanosurgery could be self guided through preprogrammed Nanorobots or guided by a human surgeon. With a various array of nanotools at their disposal, the nanorobot could perform functions such as diagnosis of infected areas, correcting internal bleeding such as ulcers, clearing of clogged arteries, and so on. (Freitas, 2005) The possibility for future uses of Nanosurgery could hold the potential of changing the very physical appearance of a person, in addition to the re-growth of internal and external organs. (Meetoo, 2001)
There are a few things to consider when it comes to treating the human being. At what point do you treat a person using nanotechnology. What do you consider a sickness and what makes us human. How many cells must be of cancerous nature before it is considered cancer? How far do you go in fixing someone? These are the fundamental questions that physicians will have to answer in the future. (Bawa, Johnson, 2007)
This area concerns how the future could look in the manufacturing sector and asks the question, is humanity ready for it? What steps will be required for humanity to set aside the fear of what could happen and instead concentrate on what can happen.
The future of Nanotechnology is pretty straight forward, faster computers, stronger materials, better ways to treat sickness, and manufacturing with minimal waste by-products. When it comes to the manufacturing sector this is another area that will see a tremendous shift in how things are done. Just imagine a product being created one atom at a time through the use of billions of assemblers. This is very different than the manufacturing that we do today. Today we take raw materials and add or take away from that raw material in order to make it do or become something else. Waste in various forms is always a by-product of manufacturing because of the steps necessary to create something from something else.
When you arrange on the atomic scale a product you are building from either the ground up or the top down at a quality and repeatability level that is unheard of today. This method leaves very little if any wastes and the quality is near perfect. (Drexler, 2006)
The progression of nanotechnology is based on the availability of the tools and technology we have on hand right now. In order to constructed on a molecular level you have to first have the tools to do so. As better tools are created, the further the advance in nano-manufacturing will occur. Our first steps really began between 2000 and 2005 where we took the first steps of passive nano-structures; which means we created usable structures on a molecular scale. We then took another step from 2005 – 2010 and started to create active nano-structures, smart systems that could be programmed to do mundane tasks and report back information gathered. What can we expect in 2010 – 2015 – and beyond? Nano-tools that build machines that will build intelligent atomic devices, a true melding of human-machine interface. (Saxton, 2007)
Nanotechnologies run amuck? Grey Goo was first termed back in 1986 by Eric Drexler “Engines of Creation” is a term that denotes a technological process by which nanorobots self-replicate. In order to self-replicate they require raw materials and those raw materials are found all around us, the resulting process creates grey goo (or a nanobot swarm). The nightmare scenario is that we would create a runaway self-replicating machine that would turn into a plague and destroy all life, turning everything into Grey Goo. (Jones, 2004)
Change is not always accepted nor is it quick to enter the market. So it has been with the acceptance of Nanotechnology. Genetically modified (GM) foods are one such advancement that has had problems entering the worlds food markets, with some countries outright banning the sale of GM foods. Early education showing future, tangible benefits will be key in the whole sale acceptance of these new technologies. It will be the lack of these tangible benefits that will keep the public hesitant in accepting nanotechnology. (Siegrist, 2009) Even though for the most part the US has been accepting of nanotechnology much of Europe has been contained in their acceptance. Most of the reasons behind this division of acceptance were primarily due to the lack of knowledge or the understanding of technology behind nano and the inherent risk that might be associated with it. Still citizens hope that nanomedicine will live up to some of the claims that it will help in the cure of disease and improve the quality of life. (Burri & Bellucci, 2007)
Time, time will be the deciding factor of nanotechnology and how far we will go, how much we will create and what we will change. The fear mongering of 10 years ago, “Grey Goo” nano-machines run amuck is only based at this point on our lack of understanding. Nature has already shown us the way through the natural process of decay and corrosion. Nothing is absolutely immune to the effects of decay and corrosion, but with nano-machines (dis-assemblers) we can do it faster. No more land filled public parks to worry about, all that un-tapped disposable waste waiting to be useful again.
The ability to create anything through nano-machines (assemblers) that can be designed without the hassles of traditional manufacturing problems and waste by-products could truly be the next golden age for humanity. From an ethical standpoint are we ready? From a global perspective the better question is, can we afford to wait? Once we have created the machines to build our designs do we then decide what we will build? These are the ethical questions that are being asked throughout the world, and the possibilities are endless. All areas that impact our lives at this moment will be affected. It is no longer a matter of if this will happen but a matter of when.
We have already seen a direct impact from cosmetics applications to water repellant fabrics with patents for many more applications waiting in the wings for development. Countries around the globe are working to see who is first to develop the next best thing or process. If control of this new technology is to be had, then it must come on a global level and with education being the forefront of the process. It is important that the public is educated to the complete picture that nanotechnology is painting. We cannot sit on the side lines and with the attitude of “Don’t worry be happy” (Bobby McFerrin, Sept. 1988) we need to understand the complete picture.

Joseph , T., & Morrison, M. (2006). Nanotechnology in agriculture and food. NanoForum, 4-8. Retrieved from (Joseph & Morrison, 2006)
Lyons, K. (2010). Nanotechnology: Transforming food and the environment. FoodFirst Backgrounder, 16(1), 1-4.
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Scrinis, G., & Lyons, K. (2007). Nanotechnology and the transformation of nature, food and agri-food systems. International Journal of Sociology of Food and Agriculture, 15(2), 23-44.
Moaveni, P., Karimi, K., & Valojerdi, M. (2011). The nanoparticles in plants. Journal of Nanostructure in Chemistry, 2(1), 59-78. (Moaveni, Karimi & Valojerdi, 2011)
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Chaudhry, Q., Watkins, R., & Castle, L. (2010). Nanotechnologies in the food arena: New opportunities, new questions and new concerns. (1 ed., Chapt. 1, pp. 1-17). Sand Hutton, York: The Food and Environment Research Agency,.
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Zweep, C. (2010). Nanotechnology: packaging of the future. Food In Canada, 70(7), 28. Retrieved from 4&hid=8&sid=91620482-7bb2-41cb-bff9 c0eac447767f@sessionmgr12&bdata JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ==
Forrest, D. (2010). Molecular manufacturing for clean, low cost textile production. Retrieved from Institute for molecular manufacturing website:
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Saini, R., Saini, S., & Sharma, S. (2010). Nanotechnology: The future of medicine. Journal of cutaneous and aesthetic surgery, Retrieved from 2077;year=2010;volume=3;issue= 1;spage=32;epage=33;aulast=Saini
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Bhowmik, D., Chiranjib, , Chandira, R., Tripathi, K., & Kumar, S. (2010). Nanomedicine an overview. International Journal of pharmtech, 2(4), 2143-2151. Retrieved from no.4_1_pdf/PT=03 (2143-2151).pdf
Bawa, J., & Johnson, S. (2007). The ethical dimensions of nanomedicine. The medical clinics of north america, 91(5), 881-887. Retrieved from Ethical Dimensions of Nanomedicine 9-07.pdf
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