One of the key scientific discoveries of the last fifty years is the difference between the effects of physics at macro scale, or everyday reality scale, vs. the effects of physics at the molecular and atomic scale. Physics operate differently at very small scales, and that has given some manufacturing and some materials science processes advantages in creating machines that can operate in microscopic environments. These machines became the Nanobot.
Nano is the prefix for a number divided into billions. Where a millimeter is one-thousandth of a meter and a micrometer is one millionth, a nanometer is one billionth. The nanometer is frequently used to describe the electronic circuits in modern microprocessors. Now, it is being used to describe mechanisms that can operate at the cellular level in the human body.
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From the standpoint of medical science, the concept of a machine that can be suspended in a patient’s bloodstream and directed to perform surgical procedures, identify compounds and move from location to location without expending much energy has so many applications it is difficult to imagine them all. Working alongside the formidable biological mechanisms in the human body, a nano-scale machine could completely replace some kinds of medicine and render almost all surgical procedures obsolete.
Although medical science could benefit tremendously from a molecular machine, the fields of engineering and construction would become more economical, faster and far safer with the involvement of mechanisms that could alter the structure of matter at a molecular level. Consider for a moment the use of cement, which is allowed to harden in whatever form it takes after being poured out of a hose or mixer. What if cement could be infused with a better molecular structure to increase its resiliency? A material could be engineered that would be nearly impossible to damage through any conventional means. It would also outlast anything possible today.
Like the space program, any serious scientific or engineering effort directed at making better nano-scale machines is likely to produce far-reaching benefits, especially in the field of materials science. A good example of this kind of advance is the discovery of graphene. Now touted as one of the strongest materials known to science, graphene has so many beneficial properties there are entire scientific disciplines devoted to studying it. It is likely only the beginning of what will be possible through the study of the Nanobot.
It is also discoveries like these that should encourage both governments and private companies to renew their efforts towards research and development. There is no telling how many great discoveries may be only a small investment away from producing breakthroughs in dozens of industries and academic fields. Even if the Nanobot never finds a practical use, which is unlikely, what we learn by developing the field may lead to an even more powerful discovery.
While nano-scale machines are still in their infancy, the future of this kind of synthesis between science and engineering will no doubt prove to be both beneficial and profitable for society and industry.