According to US National Nanotechnology Initiative (2017), Nanotechnology is “science, engineering, and technology conducted at the nanoscale, which is about 1 to 100 nanometers”. It is also explained as the study and application of extremely small particles across all the science fields, such as chemistry, biology, physics, materials science and engineering.
Thanks to the development of latest microscopes capable of displaying extremely small particles as small as atoms, Electrons Scientists now can see the structure of nano-particles clearly to use in nanoscience and nanotechnology effectively. As reported by UnderstandingNano.com (2012), these developments allow manipulation of properties at a very small scale has opened a world of opportunities in a variety of business industries. For example:
- “Medicine: – Researchers have been developing customized nanoparticles of the size of molecules that can deliver drugs directly to diseased cells in human body.
- Electronics:- Nanotechnology holds some answers for how to increase the capabilities of electronics devices while reducing their weight and power consumption.
- Food:- Nanotechnology is having an impact on several aspects of food science, from how food is grown to how it is packaged.
- Space:- Advancements in nanomaterials make lightweight spacecraft and a cable for the space elevator possible by significantly reducing the amount of rocket fuel required and lowering the cost of reaching orbit.
- Fuels: – Nanotechnology can address the shortage of fossil fuels such as diesel and gasoline by making the production of fuels from low grade raw materials economical, increasing the mileage of engines, and making the production of fuels from normal raw materials more efficient.
- Better Air Quality: Nanotechnology can improve the performance of catalysts used to transform vapors escaping from cars or industrial plants into harmless gasses.
- Cleaner water: Nanotechnology is being used to develop solutions to water quality. As far as removal of industrial wastes is concerned, nanoparticles can be used to convert the contaminating chemicals through a chemical reaction to make it harmless.
- Chemical sensors: Nanotechnology can enable sensors to detect very small amounts of chemical vapors. Various types of detecting elements, such as carbon nanotubes, zinc oxide nanowires or palladium nanoparticles can be used in nanotechnology-based sensors.
- Fabric: Making composite fabric with nano-sized particles or fibers allows improvement of fabric properties without a significant increase in weight, thickness or stiffness as might have been the case with previously-used techniques”.
Apart from the above there are numerous fields nanosecience and technology can be applied and there are varying opinions about exactly how far the nanotechnology can achieve. Some researchers believe nanotechnology can even be used to extend the human lifespan (NanoGlobal, 2014). Another believe nanotechnology can be used only as a tool to help us do what we do now, but faster or better (NanoandSociety, 2014). Whatever the situation is, it has already made a significant impact on lives and confident that the advancement will continue and be steady.
There are concerns with the scientists over how nano-particles may accumulate in the nature and become problematic. With this new technology, however, it is apparent most effects are time dependent. For an example: on the instrumental level, concerns include the possibility of military applications of nanotechnology as well as the possibility of nanotechnology being used to develop chemical weapons that will be more dangerous than present chemical weapons (nanotechnologyforstudents, 2016).
Nano and Sri Lanka
All the opinions about what nanotechnology can help to achieve echo with ethical challenges. Sri Lanka in its context, Slintec.lk (2017), since 2008, has started a new journey in science and technology development by incorporating the Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology (SLINTEC) as a public-private partnership between the Government of Sri Lanka and five leading private sector companies. So far, SLINTEC with its outstanding skilled professionals ( qualified local and foreign) has achieved its milestone results in both its directives of realising success in Nanotechnology Research and Development. With the help of UNESCO, the Nanotechnology Park in Sri Lanka has adopted an open innovation framework based upon Nanotechnology Centre of Excellence (NCE). It aims to attract research and development institutes, multinational companies and small and medium enterprises, both local and international, to take advantage of the research, development and innovation. In addition, Sri Lankan government has committed with 6.5 billion (LKR) for National Nano Initiative according to National Science Foundation (2011) and continuing to invest. This initiative is expected to facilitate drafting appropriate policies and apply nanotechnology in science and technology to achieve progress and competitiveness in the region while offering opportunities for offshore outsourcing investments with the low cost infrastructure, highly educated and specialised skilled workforce.
Nanoscience and nanotechnology are fast emerging as multi disciplinary fields that can revolutionise the emerging economies. In fact, Sri Lanka’s skilled labour and ethical regulations are believed to harness and continue to develop this promising technology while offering effective pathway to bring success to business investments as well as to do good to the living.