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How Nanotubes will revolutionize computers and computing



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How were researchers able to develop COVID-19 vaccines so quickly?

The steps that produced the most rapid vaccine rollout in history

The nation’s scientific community also faces another obstacle: convincing the public that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe, and how important it is to get a COVID-19 vaccination in the first place. “Even the most effective vaccine can’t protect us or our loved ones if people are afraid to take it or will not take it,” said Kathleen Mullane, director of infectious disease clinical trials at University of Chicago Medicine. “We know things are moving faster than ever, but the nation’s scientific community has cooperated and collaborated in ways as never before and we are absolutely committed to making sure whatever is ultimately approved works and is safe. I am going to get vaccinated and am recommending vaccination for my family and friends because I believe in the safety and efficacy of these agents.” The rapid progress on a COVID-19 vaccine means that data regarding the long-term safety and durability of these vaccines will still be flowing in long after a vaccine has been approved for emergency use. Nevertheless, those wondering about vaccine safety may be encouraged that despite the speed in which these vaccines have been developed, the important regulatory and evaluation checkpoints designed to protect patients were followed. These milestones help to determine how safe and effective a vaccine will be, and whether or not the benefits are worth any potential risks. Operation Warp Speed Before the COVID-19 pandemic, getting a new vaccine from concept to approval could take 10 years and billions of dollars. With only one in 10 vaccine candidates making it to market, vaccine development is a risky proposition for pharmaceutical manufacturers. For those who are unfamiliar with the methodical process of clinical research, the process can feel torturously slow. First, researchers must study the structure and infectious behavior of a pathogen. Then they figure out how to get the human body to best produce an immune response to fight against it. Next, the vaccine is tested for safety and efficacy—first using cell, animal and mathematical models, and later in human clinical trials involving thousands of participants. Only then can the federal approval process begin.

Dozens of vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 virus are being developed by global pharmaceutical companies, but so far only a handful have reached large-scale, phase 3 clinical trials. In phase 3 trials, tens of thousands of volunteers participate to test the safety and effectiveness of the immunization. So far, 11 phase 3 trials have launched globally, although more are expected in the coming months and years as other research efforts move through the pipeline. They’re getting a boost from Operation Warp Speed, a collaboration between the pharmaceutical industry and the federal government. To offset the cost of the development of the COVID-19 vaccine and to help mobilize approved vaccines as quickly as possible to the American public, the government established nearly $10 billion in federal funds. This has greatly accelerated the timeline for the development of vaccines through clinical trials, FDA review and mass distribution of a vaccine. All of these factors in turn mean that once a vaccine passed critical safety and efficacy milestones and received emergency use approval from the federal government, healthcare organizations were able to start providing the vaccine to patients in a matter of days. For example, the Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA vaccine was approved for emergency use by the FDA on December 10, 2020; healthcare workers were being vaccinated by December 14. More Information: more




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Computer chips from carbon nanotubes, not silicon, mark a milestone

By Maria Temming September 25, 2019 at 5:45 am

A new type of computing chip could be a game-changer. That’s because its transistors are not made of silicon. Transistors are tiny electronic switches that together perform calculations. A new prototype uses carbon nanotubes. It is not yet as speedy or as small as the silicon devices found in today’s computers, phones and more. But these new computer chips may one day give rise to electronics that are faster and use less energy. Researchers describe their advance in the August 29 Nature. This is “a very important milestone in the development of this technology,” observes Qing Cao. He’s a materials scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He was not involved in the work. The heart of every transistor is a semiconductor component. It’s usually made of silicon. This element can act like an electrical conductor. It also can act like an insulator. This lets a transistor have an “on” and an “off” state. When on, current flows through the semiconductor; when off, it doesn’t. And this on/off state is what encodes the 1s and 0s of digital computer data. Max Shulaker is an electrical engineer. He works at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. “We used to get exponential gains in computing every single year,” he says. Computer engineers were able to do so by building smaller and faster silicon transistors. But now, he says, “performance gains have started to level off.” Silicon transistors can’t get much smaller and more efficient than they already are. Carbon nanotubes, though, are almost as thin as an atom. And they ferry electricity well. As a result, they make better semiconductors than silicon. In principle, carbon nanotube processors could run three times faster than silicon ones. And they would consume about one-third as much energy as silicon processors, Shulaker says. But until now, carbon nanotubes have proved too finicky to use in complex computing systems

Carbon computing

One issue comes when a network of carbon nanotubes is deposited onto a computer chip wafer. At that point, the tubes tend to bunch into lumps. This prevents the transistor from working. It’s “like trying to build a brick patio, with a giant boulder in the middle of it,” Shulaker says. His team solved that problem. They spread nanotubes on a chip. Then they used vibrations to gently shake unwanted bundles off the layer of nanotubes.
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The team also faced another problem. Each batch of carbon nanotubes contains about 0.01 percent metallic nanotubes. Metallic nanotubes can’t properly flip between conductive and insulating. So these tubes can muddle a transistor’s readout. Shulaker and colleagues searched for a workaround. To perform different kinds of operations on bits of data, transistors can be configured in various ways. The researchers looked at how metallic nanotubes affected different configurations. They found that defective nanotubes affected the function of some configurations more than others. This is similar to the way a missing letter can make some words illegible, but leave others mostly readable. So the researchers carefully designed the circuitry of their microprocessor. They avoided configurations that were most confused by metallic-nanotube glitches. “One of the biggest things that impressed me about this paper was the cleverness of that circuit design,” says Michael Arnold. He’s a materials scientist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He was not involved in the work. The resulting chip has more than 14,000 carbon-nanotube transistors. It executed a simple program to write the message, “Hello, world!” This is the first program that many newbie computer programmers learn to write. The new chips are not yet ready to unseat silicon ones in modern electronics. Each carbon transistor is about a millionth of a meter across. Current silicon transistors are smaller. They are tens of billionths of a meter across. Each carbon-nanotube transistor in this prototype can flip on and off about a million times a second. Silicon transistors can flicker billions of times per second. That puts nanotube transistors on a par with silicon transistors of the 1980s. Shrinking the nanotube transistors would help electricity zip through them with less resistance. That would allow the devices to switch on and off faster, Arnold says. They could also align the nanotubes in parallel, rather than using a randomly oriented mesh. This could increase the electric current through the transistors. That would further boost processing speeds.

Power Words


align (noun: alignment) To place or organize things in a patterned order, following an apparent line.
atom The basic unit of a chemical element. Atoms are made up of a dense nucleus that contains positively charged protons and uncharged neutrons. The nucleus is orbited by a cloud of negatively charged electrons.
carbon The chemical element having the atomic number 6. It is the physical basis of all life on Earth. Carbon exists freely as graphite and diamond. It is an important part of coal, limestone and petroleum, and is capable of self-bonding, chemically, to form an enormous number of chemically, biologically and commercially important molecules.
carbon nanotube A billionth-of-a-meter scale, tube-shaped material that is made from carbon. It conducts heat and electricity well.
circuit A network that transmits electrical signals. In the body, nerve cells create circuits that relay electrical signals to the brain. In electronics, wires typically route those signals to activate some mechanical, computational or other function.
colleague Someone who works with another; a co-worker or team member.
component Something that is part of something else (such as pieces that go on an electronic circuit board or ingredients that go into a cookie recipe).
computer chip (also integrated circuit) The computer component that processes and stores information.
conductive Able to carry an electric current.
conductor (in physics and engineering) A material through which an electrical current can flow.
current (in electricity) The flow of electricity or the amount of charge moving through some material over a particular period of time.
data For digital information (the type stored by computers), those data typically are numbers stored in a binary code, portrayed as strings of zeros and ones.
digital (in computer science and engineering) An adjective indicating that something has been developed numerically on a computer or on some other electronic device, based on a binary system (where all numbers are displayed using a series of only zeros and ones).
electrical engineer An engineer who designs, builds or analyzes electrical equipment. electric current A flow of electric charge — electricity — usually from the movement of negatively charged particles, called electrons.
electricity A flow of charge, usually from the movement of negatively charged particles, called electrons. electronics Devices that are powered by electricity but whose properties are controlled by the semiconductors or other circuitry that channel or gate the movement of electric charges.
element A building block of some larger structure. (in chemistry) Each of more than one hundred substances for which the smallest unit of each is a single atom. Examples include hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, lithium and uranium.
encode (adj. encoded) To use some code to mask a message.
engineer A person who uses science to solve problems. As a verb, to engineer means to design a device, material or process that will solve some problem or unmet need.
exponential An adjective that describes things that vary (usually increase) by a factor of at least 10.
insulator A substance or device that does not readily conduct electricity.
materials science The study of how the atomic and molecular structure of a material is related to its overall properties. Materials scientists can design new materials or analyze existing ones. Their analyses of a material’s overall properties (such as density, strength and melting point) can help engineers and other researchers select materials that are best suited to a new application. micrometer (sometimes called a micron) One thousandth of a millimeter, or one millionth of a meter. It’s also equivalent to a few one-hundred-thousandths of an inch.
milestone An important step on the road to stated goal or achievement. The term gets its name from the stone markers that communities used to erect along the side of the road to inform travelers how far they still had to go (in miles) before reaching a town.
nanometer A billionth of a meter. network A group of interconnected people or things. (v.) The act of connecting with other people who work in a given area or do similar thing (such as artists, business leaders or medical-support groups), often by going to gatherings where such people would be expected, and then chatting them up. (n. networking)
parallel An adjective that describes two things that are side by side and have the same distance between their parts. In the word “all,” the final two letters are parallel lines. Or two things, events or processes that have much in common if compared side by side. processor (in computing) Also called a central processing unit, or CPU, it’s a part of the computer that performs numerical calculations or other types of data manipulation. It can also be a type of software, or programming, that translates some other program into a form that can be understood by the computer running it.
prototype A first or early model of some device, system or product that still needs to be perfected. resistance (in physics) Something that keeps a physical material (such as a block of wood, flow of water or air) from moving freely, usually because it provides friction to impede its motion. semiconductor A material that sometimes conducts electricity. Semiconductors are important parts of computer chips and certain new electronic technologies, such as light-emitting diodes.
silicon A nonmetal, semiconducting element used in making electronic circuits. Pure silicon exists in a shiny, dark-gray crystalline form and as a shapeless powder.
technology The application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry — or the devices, processes and systems that result from those efforts.
transistor A device that can act like a switch for electrical signals.
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Solution for next generation nanochips comes out of thin air

PUBLIC RELEASE: 19-NOV-2018 The secret ingredient for the next generation of more powerful electronics could be air, according to new research RMIT UNIVERSITY

Researchers at RMIT University have engineered a new type of transistor, the building block for all electronics. Instead of sending electrical currents through silicon, these transistors send electrons through narrow air gaps, where they can travel unimpeded as if in space. The device unveiled in material sciences journal Nano Letters, eliminates the use of any semiconductor at all, making it faster and less prone to heating up. Lead author and PhD candidate in RMIT's Functional Materials and Microsystems Research Group, Ms Shruti Nirantar, said this promising proof-of-concept design for nanochips as a combination of metal and air gaps could revolutionise electronics. "Every computer and phone has millions to billions of electronic transistors made from silicon, but this technology is reaching its physical limits where the silicon atoms get in the way of the current flow, limiting speed and causing heat," Nirantar said. "Our air channel transistor technology has the current flowing through air, so there are no collisions to slow it down and no resistance in the material to produce heat." The power of computer chips - or number of transistors squeezed onto a silicon chip - has increased on a predictable path for decades, roughly doubling every two years. But this rate of progress, known as Moore's Law, has slowed in recent years as engineers struggle to make transistor parts, which are already smaller than the tiniest viruses, smaller still. Nirantar says their research is a promising way forward for nano electronics in response to the limitation of silicon-based electronics. "This technology simply takes a different pathway to the miniaturisation of a transistor in an effort to uphold Moore's Law for several more decades," Shruti said. Research team leader Associate Professor Sharath Sriram said the design solved a major flaw in traditional solid channel transistors - they are packed with atoms - which meant electrons passing through them collided, slowed down and wasted energy as heat. "Imagine walking on a densely crowded street in an effort to get from point A to B. The crowd slows your progress and drains your energy," Sriram said. "Travelling in a vacuum on the other hand is like an empty highway where you can drive faster with higher energy efficiency." But while this concept is obvious, vacuum packaging solutions around transistors to make them faster would also make them much bigger, so are not viable. "We address this by creating a nanoscale gap between two metal points. The gap is only a few tens of nanometers, or 50,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair, but it's enough to fool electrons into thinking that they are travelling through a vacuum and re-create a virtual outer-space for electrons within the nanoscale air gap," he said. The nanoscale device is designed to be compatible with modern industry fabrication and development processes. It also has applications in space - both as electronics resistant to radiation and to use electron emission for steering and positioning 'nano-satellites'. "This is a step towards an exciting technology which aims to create something out of nothing to significantly increase speed of electronics and maintain pace of rapid technological progress," Sriram said. ### This work was undertaken at RMIT University's cutting-edge Micro Nano Research Facility and with support of the Victorian node of the Australian National Fabrication Facility. The article is now available online DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.8b02849

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Carbon nanotube transistors make the leap from lab to factory floor

Technique paves the way for more energy efficient, 3D microprocessors. Becky Ham | MIT News correspondent Publication Date:June 1, 2020

Carbon nanotube transistors are a step closer to commercial reality, now that MIT researchers have demonstrated that the devices can be made swiftly in commercial facilities, with the same equipment used to manufacture the silicon-based transistors that are the backbone of today’s computing industry. Carbon nanotube field-effect transistors or CNFETs are more energy-efficient than silicon field-effect transistors and could be used to build new types of three-dimensional microprocessors. But until now, they’ve existed mostly in an “artisanal” space, crafted in small quantities in academic laboratories. In a study published June 1 in Nature Electronics, however, scientists show how CNFETs can be fabricated in large quantities on 200-millimeter wafers that are the industry standard in computer chip design. The CNFETs were created in a commercial silicon manufacturing facility and a semiconductor foundry in the United States. After analyzing the deposition technique used to make the CNFETs, Max Shulaker, an MIT assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and his colleagues made some changes to speed up the fabrication process by more than 1,100 times compared to the conventional method, while also reducing the cost of production. The technique deposited carbon nanotubes edge to edge on the wafers, with 14,400 by 14,400 arrays CNFETs distributed across multiple wafers. Shulaker, who has been designing CNFETs since his PhD days, says the new study represents “a giant step forward, to make that leap into production-level facilities.” Bridging the gap between lab and industry is something that researchers “don’t often get a chance to do,” he adds. “But it’s an important litmus test for emerging technologies.” Other MIT researchers on the study include lead author Mindy D. Bishop, a PhD student in the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program, along with Gage Hills, Tathagata Srimani, and Christian Lau. Solving the spaghetti problem For decades, improvements in silicon-based transistor manufacturing have brought down prices and increased energy efficiency in computing. That trend may be nearing its end, however, as increasing numbers of transistors packed into integrated circuits do not appear to be increasing energy efficiency at historic rates. CNFETs are an attractive alternative technology because they are “around an order of magnitude more energy efficient” than silicon-based transistors, says Shulaker. Unlike silicon-based transistors, which are made at temperatures around 450 to 500 degrees Celsius, CNFETs also can be manufactured at near-room temperatures. “This means that you can actually build layers of circuits right on top of previously fabricated layers of circuits, to create a three-dimensional chip,” Shulaker explains. “You can’t do this with silicon-based technology, because you would melt the layers underneath.” A 3D computer chip, which might combine logic and memory functions, is projected to “beat the performance of a state-of-the-art 2D chip made from silicon by orders of magnitude,” he says. One of the most effective ways to build CNFETs in the lab is a method for depositing nanotubes called incubation, where a wafer is submerged in a bath of nanotubes until the nanotubes stick to the wafer’s surface. The performance of the CNFET is dictated in large part by the deposition process, says Bishop, which affects both the number of carbon nanotubes on the surface of the wafer and their orientation. They’re “either stuck onto the wafer in random orientations like cooked spaghetti or all aligned in the same direction like uncooked spaghetti still in the package,” she says. Aligning the nanotubes perfectly in a CNFET leads to ideal performance, but alignment is difficult to obtain. “It’s really hard to lay down billions of tiny 1-nanometer diameter nanotubes in a perfect orientation across a large 200-millimeter wafer,” Bishop explains. “To put these length scales into context, it’s like trying to cover the entire state of New Hampshire in perfectly oriented dry spaghetti.” The incubation method, while practical for industry, doesn’t align the nanotubes at all. They end up on the wafer more like cooked spaghetti, which the researchers initially didn’t think would deliver sufficiently high CNFET performance, Bishop says. After their experiments, however, she and her colleagues concluded that the simple incubation process would work to produce a CNFET that could outperform a silicon-based transistor. CNFETs beyond the beaker Careful observations of the incubation process showed the researchers how to alter the process to make it more viable for industrial production. For instance, they found that dry cycling, a method of intermittently drying out the submerged wafer, could dramatically reduce the incubation time — from 48 hours to 150 seconds. Another new method called ACE (artificial concentration through evaporation) deposited small amounts of nanotube solution on a wafer instead of submerging the wafer in a tank. The slow evaporation of the solution increased the concentration of carbon nanotubes and the overall density of nanotubes deposited on the wafer. These changes were necessary before the process could be tried on an industrial scale, Bishop says: “In our lab, we’re fine to let a wafer sit for a week in a beaker, but for a company, they don’t have that luxury.” The “elegantly simple tests” that helped them understand and improve on the incubation method, she says, “proved really important for addressing concerns that maybe academics don’t have, but certainly industry has, when they look at setting up a new process.” The researchers worked with Analog Devices, a commercial silicon manufacturing facility, and SkyWater Technology, a semiconductor foundry, to fabricate CNFETs using the improved method. They were able to use the same equipment that the two facilities use to make silicon-based wafers, while also ensuring that the nanotube solutions met the strict chemical and contaminant requirements of the facilities. “We were extremely lucky to work closely with our industry collaborators and learn about their requirements and iterate our development with their input,” says Bishop, who noted that the partnership helped them develop an automated, high-volume and low-cost process. The two facilities showed a “serious commitment to research and development and exploring the edge” of emerging technologies, Shulaker adds. “We are excited to continue our work building out the critical infrastructure for enabling commercial market availability of CNFETs. This effort is a pivotal move to bring back manufacturing of leading-edge advanced computing to the U.S.,” said Thomas Sonderman, president of SkyWater. The next steps, already underway, will be to build different types of integrated circuits out of CNFETs in an industrial setting and explore some of the new functions that a 3D chip could offer, he says. “The next goal is for this to transition from being academically interesting to something that will be used by folks, and I think this is a very important step in this direction.”
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Solution for next generation nanochips comes out of thin air

PUBLIC RELEASE: 19-NOV-2018 The secret ingredient for the next generation of more powerful electronics could be air, according to new research RMIT UNIVERSITY

Researchers at RMIT University have engineered a new type of transistor, the building block for all electronics. Instead of sending electrical currents through silicon, these transistors send electrons through narrow air gaps, where they can travel unimpeded as if in space. The device unveiled in material sciences journal Nano Letters, eliminates the use of any semiconductor at all, making it faster and less prone to heating up. Lead author and PhD candidate in RMIT's Functional Materials and Microsystems Research Group, Ms Shruti Nirantar, said this promising proof-of-concept design for nanochips as a combination of metal and air gaps could revolutionise electronics. "Every computer and phone has millions to billions of electronic transistors made from silicon, but this technology is reaching its physical limits where the silicon atoms get in the way of the current flow, limiting speed and causing heat," Nirantar said. "Our air channel transistor technology has the current flowing through air, so there are no collisions to slow it down and no resistance in the material to produce heat." The power of computer chips - or number of transistors squeezed onto a silicon chip - has increased on a predictable path for decades, roughly doubling every two years. But this rate of progress, known as Moore's Law, has slowed in recent years as engineers struggle to make transistor parts, which are already smaller than the tiniest viruses, smaller still. Nirantar says their research is a promising way forward for nano electronics in response to the limitation of silicon-based electronics. "This technology simply takes a different pathway to the miniaturisation of a transistor in an effort to uphold Moore's Law for several more decades," Shruti said. Research team leader Associate Professor Sharath Sriram said the design solved a major flaw in traditional solid channel transistors - they are packed with atoms - which meant electrons passing through them collided, slowed down and wasted energy as heat. "Imagine walking on a densely crowded street in an effort to get from point A to B. The crowd slows your progress and drains your energy," Sriram said. "Travelling in a vacuum on the other hand is like an empty highway where you can drive faster with higher energy efficiency." But while this concept is obvious, vacuum packaging solutions around transistors to make them faster would also make them much bigger, so are not viable. "We address this by creating a nanoscale gap between two metal points. The gap is only a few tens of nanometers, or 50,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair, but it's enough to fool electrons into thinking that they are travelling through a vacuum and re-create a virtual outer-space for electrons within the nanoscale air gap," he said. The nanoscale device is designed to be compatible with modern industry fabrication and development processes. It also has applications in space - both as electronics resistant to radiation and to use electron emission for steering and positioning 'nano-satellites'. "This is a step towards an exciting technology which aims to create something out of nothing to significantly increase speed of electronics and maintain pace of rapid technological progress," Sriram said. ### This work was undertaken at RMIT University's cutting-edge Micro Nano Research Facility and with support of the Victorian node of the Australian National Fabrication Facility. The article is now available online DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.8b02849


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t2Nano simply creates a digest of information about the latest nanotechnologies and publishes it on the t2Nano.com website. Our enjoyment is to learn and share the most interesting nanotech articles that we can find. Articles about nanotech that will make a difference in most peoples lives. Nanotechnology or nanotech is the use of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale for industrial purposes. It’s hard to imagine just how small nanotechnology is. One nanometer is a billionth of a meter, or 10-9 of a meter. Here are a few illustrative examples: - There are 25,400,000 nanometers in an inch - A sheet of newspaper is about 100,000 nanometers thick - On a comparative scale, if a marble were a nanometer, then one meter would be the size of the Earth For many decades, nanotechnology has been developed with cooperation from researchers in several fields of studies including physics, chemistry, biology, material science, engineering, and computer science. In this paper, we explore the nanotechnology development community and identify the needs and opportunities of computer science research in nanotechnology. This paper is intended to benefit computer scientists who are keen to contribute their works to the field of nanotechnology and also nanotechnologists from other fields by making them aware of the opportunities from computer science. It is hoped that this may lead to the realisation of our visions. We do research on nanotech and report the findings on a weekly basis. We find the most interesting articles and publish them here. Nanotechnology as defined by size is naturally broad, including fields of science as diverse as surface science, organic chemistry, molecular biology, semiconductor physics, energy storage, engineering, microfabrication, and molecular engineering. Manufacture structures at nanometre scale. As conventional methods to miniaturise the size of transistors in silicon microprocessor chips will soon reach its limit and the modification of today’s top-down technology to produce nanoscale structures is difficult and expensive, a new generation of computer components will be required. Feynman (Richard Feynman) and Drexler proposed a new style of technology, which assembles individual atoms or molecules into a refined product. More recently computer science has become involved in nanotechnology. Such research is wide ranging and includes: software engineering, networking, internet security, image processing, virtual reality, humanmachine interface, artificial intelligence, and intelligent systems. Most work focuses on the development of research tools.

FAQS

Major technology shifts don’t happen overnight; and rarely are they the result of a single breakthrough discovery. Nowhere is this more true than for the vast set of capabilities that we have come to simply call nanotechnology. Nanotechnology is not an industry; nor is it a single technology or a single field of research. What we call nanotechnology consists of sets of enabling technologies applicable to many traditional industries (therefore it is more appropriate to speak of nanotechnologies in the plural). What exactly is nanotechnology? We answer this question in depth in our Introduction to Nanotechnology section

A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. The prefix nano means 'one billionth', or 10-9, in the international system for units of weights and measures. The abbreviation for nanometer is nm. The term nanos comes from the Greek word for dwarf. Also check our metric prefix table and The Scale of Things to see where nano fits in.

Accordingly, in zero-dimensional (0D) nanomaterials all the dimensions are measured within the nanoscale (no dimensions are larger than 100 nm). Most commonly, 0D nanomaterials are nanoparticles. This classification is based on the number of dimensions of a material, which are outside the nanoscale (less than 100 nm) range. In one-dimensional nanomaterials (1D), one dimension is outside the nanoscale. This class includes nanotubes, nanorods, and nanowires. In two-dimensional nanomaterials (2D), two dimensions are outside the nanoscale. This class exhibits plate-like shapes and includes graphene, nanofilms, nanolayers, and nanocoatings. Three-dimensional nanomaterials (3D) are materials that are not confined to the nanoscale in any dimension. This class can contain bulk powders, dispersions of nanoparticles, bundles of nanowires, and nanotubes as well as multi-nanolayers. Classification of nanoscale dimensions. (Source: Tallinn University of Technology)

Nanotechnology is the understanding and control of matter at the nanometer scale, where unique phenomena enable novel applications. Encompassing nanoscale science, engineering, and technology, nanotechnology involves imaging, measuring, modeling, and manipulating matter at this length scale. Nanotechnologies involve the design, characterization, production, and application of nanoscale structures, devices, and systems that produces structures, devices, and systems with at least one novel/superior characteristic or property.

In a nutshell: the mechanical rules that govern the nanoworld are quite different from our everyday, macroworld experience. This allows the fabrication of novel materials and applications that otherwise would not be possible. For more details, read our section on what is so special about nanotech and why it is an issue now.

Much of nanoscience and many nanotechnologies is concerned with producing new or enhanced materials. Nanomaterials can be constructed by top down techniques, producing very small structures from larger pieces of material, for example by etching to create circuits on the surface of a silicon microchip. They may also be constructed by bottom up techniques, atom by atom or molecule by molecule. One way of doing this is self-assembly, in which the atoms or molecules arrange themselves into a structure due to their natural properties. Crystals grown for the semiconductor industry provide an example of self assembly, as does chemical synthesis of large molecules. If 50% or more of the constituent particles of a material in the number size distribution have one or more external dimensions in the size range 1 nm to 100 nm, then the material is a nanomaterial. It should be noted that a fraction of 50% with one or more external dimensions between 1 nm and 100 nm in a number size distribution is always less than 50% in any other commonly-used size distribution metric, such as surface area, volume, mass or scattered light intensity. In fact it can be a tiny fraction of the total mass of the material. Even if a product contains nanomaterials, or when it releases nanomaterials during use or ageing, the product itself is not a nanomaterial, unless it is a particulate material itself that meets the criteria of particle size and fraction. The volume specific surface area (VSSA) can be used under specific conditions to indicate that a material is a nanomaterial. VSSA is equal to the sum of the surface areas of all particles divided by the sum of the volumes of all particles. VSSA > 60 m2/cm3 is likely to be a reliable indicator that a material is a nanomaterial unless the particles are porous or have rough surfaces, but many nanomaterials (according to the principal size-based criterion) will have a VSSA of less than 60 m2/cm3. The VSSA > 60 m2/cm3 criterion can therefore only be used to show that a material is a nanomaterial, not vice versa. The VSSA of a sample can be calculated if the particle size distribution and the particle shape(s) are known in detail. The reverse (calculating the size distribution from the VSSA value) is unfeasible. Read our extensive section on nanomaterials for a list of nanomaterials being developed today: films and surfaces; single- and few-layer materials like graphene; nanotubes; nanowires; fullerenes; quantum dots and all kinds of nanoparticles.

Materials engineered to such a small scale are often referred to as engineered nanomaterials (ENMs), which can take on unique optical, magnetic, electrical, and other properties. These emergent properties have the potential for great impacts in electronics, medicine, and other fields. For example, Nanotechnology can be used to design pharmaceuticals that can target specific organs or cells in the body such as cancer cells, and enhance the effectiveness of therapy. Nanomaterials can also be added to cement, cloth and other materials to make them stronger and yet lighter. Their size makes them extremely useful in electronics, and they can also be used in environmental remediation or clean-up to bind with and neutralize toxins. However, while engineered nanomaterials provide great benefits, we know very little about the potential effects on human health and the environment. Even well-known materials, such as silver for example, may pose a hazard when engineered to nano size. Nano-sized particles can enter the human body through inhalation and ingestion and through the skin. Fibrous nanomaterials made of carbon have been shown to induce inflammation in the lungs in ways that are similar to Asbestos .

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is the worst pandemic disease of the current millennium. This disease is caused by the highly contagious severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which first exhibited human-to-human transmission in December 2019 and has infected millions of people within months across 213 different countries. Its ability to be transmitted by asymptomatic carriers has put a massive strain on the currently available testing resources. Currently, there are no clinically proven therapeutic methods that clearly inhibit the effects of this virus, and COVID-19 vaccines are still in the development phase. Strategies need to be explored to expand testing capacities, to develop effective therapeutics, and to develop safe vaccines that provide lasting immunity. Nanoparticles (NPs) have been widely used in many medical applications, such as biosensing, drug delivery, imaging, and antimicrobial treatment. SARS-CoV-2 is an enveloped virus with particle-like characteristics and a diameter of 60–140 nm. Synthetic NPs can closely mimic the virus and interact strongly with its proteins due to their morphological similarities. Hence, NP-based strategies for tackling this virus have immense potential. NPs have been previously found to be effective tools against many viruses, especially against those from the Coronaviridae family. This Review outlines the role of NPs in diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccination for the other two epidemic coronaviruses, the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus and the 2012 Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) virus. We also highlight nanomaterial-based approaches to address other coronaviruses, such as human coronaviruses (HCoVs); feline coronavirus (FCoV); avian coronavirus infectious bronchitis virus (IBV); coronavirus models, such as porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV), porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV), and transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV); and other viruses that share similarities with SARS-CoV-2. This Review combines the salient principles from previous antiviral studies with recent research conducted on SARS-CoV-2 to outline NP-based strategies that can be used to combat COVID-19 and similar pandemics in the future.




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