Frequently Asked Questions
Nanotechnology is the manipulation of materials at a very tiny scale- essentially at the atomic and molecular levels. The definition most frequently used by government and industry involves structures, devices, and systems having novel properties and functions due to the arrangement of their atoms on the 1 to 100 nanometer scale. For example, a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter. A sheet of paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick; a single gold atom is about a third of a nanometer in diameter.
Many fields of endeavor contribute to nanotechnology, including molecular physics, materials science, chemistry, biology, computer science, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering.
The goal of nanotechnology is to improve our control over how we build things, so that our products can be of the highest quality and while causing the lowest environmental impact. Nanotech is even expected to help us heal the damage our past cruder and dirtier technologies have caused to the biosphere.
Nanotechnology has been identified as essential in solving many of the problems facing humanity. Specifically, it is the key to addressing the following challenges:
- Providing Renewable Clean Energy
- Supplying Clean Water Globally
- Improving Health and Longevity
- Healing and Preserving the Environment
- Making Information Technology Available To All
- Enabling Space Development
Nanoscale materials have been used for over a millennium. For example, nanoscale gold was used in stained glass in Medieval Europe and nanotubes were found in blades of swords made in Damascus. However, ten centuries passed before high-powered microscopes were invented, allowing us to see things at the nanoscale and begin working with materials at the nanoscale.
Nanotechnology as we now know it began about 30 years ago, when our tools to image and measure extended into the nanoscale. Around the turn of the millennium, government research managers in the United States and other countries observed that physicists, biologists, chemists, electrical engineers, optical engineers, and materials scientists were working on overlapping issues emerging at the nanoscale.
Nanotechnology is used in many commercial products and processes, for example, nanomaterials are used to manufacture lightweight, strong materials for applications such as boat hulls, sporting equipment, and automotive parts.
Nanomaterials are also used in sunscreens and cosmetics.
Nanostructured products are used to produce space-saving insulators which are useful when size and weight is at a premium-for example, when insulating long pipelines in remote places, or trying to reduce heat loss from an old house. Nanostructured catalysts make chemical manufacturing processes more efficient, by saving energy and reducing waste.
In healthcare, nanoceramics are used in some dental implants or to fill holes in diseased bones, because their mechanical and chemical properties can be "tuned" to attract bone cells from the surrounding tissue to make new bone. Some pharmaceutical products have been reformulated with nanosized particles to improve their absorption and make them easier to administer.
Opticians apply nanocoatings to eyeglasses to make them easier to keep clean and harder to scratch and nanoenabled coatings are used on fabrics to make clothing stain-resistant and easy to care for.
Almost all high-performance electronic devices manufactured in the past decade use some nanomaterials. Nanotechnology helps build new transistor structures and interconnects for the fastest, most advanced computing chips.
Exciting new nanotechnology-based medicines are now in clinical trials, which may be available soon to treat patients. Some use nanoparticles to deliver toxic anti-cancer drugs targeted directly to tumors, minimizing drug damage to other parts of the body. Others help medical imaging tools, like MRIs and CAT scans, work better and more safely.
Nanotechnology is helping scientists make our homes, cars, and businesses more energy-efficient through new fuel cells, batteries, and solar panels. It is also helping to find ways to purify drinking water and to detect and clean up environmental waste and damage.
Nanomaterials are being tested for use in food packaging to greatly improve shelf life and safety.
Nanosensors to detect food-borne pathogens are also being developed for food packaging.
New nanomaterials will be stronger, lighter, and more durable than the materials we use today in buildings, bridges, automobiles, and more. Scientists have experimented with nanomaterials that bend light in unique ways that may enable the development of an "invisibility cloak." The possibilities seem limitless, and the future of nanotechnology holds great potential.
Based on the definition of nanotech given above, biotech can be thought of as a subset of nanotech - "nature's nanotechnology." Biotech uses the molecular structures, devices, and systems found in plants and animals to create new molecular products.
Nanotech is more general, not being limited to existing natural structures, devices, and systems, and instead designing and building new, non-biological ones. These can be quite different: harder, stronger, tougher, and able to survive a dry or hot environment, unlike biology.
Concerns have been raised regarding potential health and environmental effects of the passive nanostructures termed "nanoparticles." Regulatory agencies and standards bodies are beginning to look at these issues, though significantly more funding for these efforts is required. NanoMalaysia is working with the relevant authorities to address these concerns.
Work related to nanotechnology falls into two broad areas: the study of nanotechnology itself (which will remain theoretical, for the time being) and research on enabling technologies leading toward assemblers and nanotechnology (which can be theoretical in part, but which also have an experimental, developmental component).
The theoretical study of nanotechnology involves exploratory engineering work in a number of areas. It includes basic studies in nanomechanical engineering (the study of molecular machines) and nanoelectrical engineering (the study of molecular and atomically-precise nanometer scale electronic systems). It also includes studies of complex systems, such as assemblers, replicators, and nanocomputers. More broadly, it includes studies of non-nanoscale applications, such as large systems built by teams of assemblers.
Inevitably, more resources will go into development than into theory, because technology development will yield practical, short-term results on the way to long-term objectives. It makes no practical sense to try to build an assembler today, but it does make sense to build tools today that will make it easier to build assemblers tomorrow. These tools are termed "enabling technologies."
Promising enabling technologies fall into several familiar categories. These include:
- Protein engineering (involving efforts to develop techniques for designing molecular devices made of protein);
- General macromolecular engineering (involving efforts to develop techniques for designing and synthesizing molecular devices made of more tractable materials);
- Micromanipulation techniques (involving efforts to extend the technology of scanning tunnelling and atomic force microscopy to chemical synthesis, and then to the construction of molecular devices).
NMB is not a funding program; funding is provided through the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation and agencies. There are various mechanisms for funding research through these agencies. For detailed information on funding programs, please contact us for consultancy.
Malaysia has been developing nanotechnology scientists and the technology since early 2000. Currently, Malaysia has nearly 300 multi-disciplined researchers actively participating in the nanotechnology R&D in various public and private research institutions. This depicts the strength and potential of the Malaysian nanotechnology capability that is currently available.
Interested companies may contact us at NanoMalaysia. Our team will provides a series of consultancy in facilitation of investment in nanotechnology, nanotech landscaping and business opportunities in Malaysia.
Various assistance from the government through the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI), Ministry of Education (MOE), Science fund, Techno fund, and etc.
Malaysia has a series of research centres in key areas such as nanoelectronics, nanobiotechnology and nanomaterial science. The NanoMalaysia Centres of Excellence (CoEs) support nanotechnology R&D and provide shared facilities and human capital training. The CoEs are:
- Institute of Nanoelectronic and Engineering (INEEE), UNIMAP
- Centre for Innovative Nanostructures and Nanodevices (COINN), UTP
- Institute of Micro Engineering and Nanoelectronics (IMEN), UKM
- Enabling Science and Nanotechnology Research, IbnuSina Institute for Fundamental Science Studies (IIS), UTM
- NEMS/MEMS Research Laboratory, MIMOS
These user facilities are generally available both to local-based researchers and industry players.
The main challenge is to identify whether the technology invested is really nanotechnology or not. In order to solve this issue, NMB provides technology due diligence to verify the technology for the investors.