At the scale of a billionth of a metre Nanoscience and nanotechnology encompass not only newer advances and techniques but do cut across the whole spectrum of science from applications in medicine and physics to engineering and chemistry.
Indeed Nanoscience and Nanotechnology has been an idea that most people simply didn't believe and recently I read Richard Schwartz that the “impact of nanotechnology is expected to exceed the impact that the electronics revolution has had on our lives’. Perhaps the first use of the concepts in 'nano-technology' as we know today was by Richard Feynman at Caltech on Dec 29, 1959 in his paper on ‘There is Plenty of Room at the Bottom’ we have come a long way to the watershed publication of ‘Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology’ and the ‘Nanosytems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing and Computation’ in the eighties in the aftermath of the birth of cluster science and the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope that led to the discovery of fullerenes and carbon nanotubes. Simultaneously, the invention of atomic force microscope and the synthesis of semiconductor nanocrystals led to a fast increasing number of metal and metal oxide nanoparticles that contributed to the emergence of nanoelectronics, nanomechanics and nanophotonics.
In our drive from the simple to complex and vice versa and the urge to engineer new constructs in addition to natural ones across the world we have followed to approaches: the bottom up approach and the top down approach using the techniques of DNA nanotechnology for engineered nanosystems and the solid state silicon methods for fabricating microprocessors. As per the project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, today there are over 800 manufacturer-identified nanotech products with new ones hitting the market at a pace of 3–4 per week.
Nonetheless, there are calls for tighter regulation of nanotechnology alongside a growing debate related to the human health and safety risks associated with nanotechnology. A major study published more recently in Nature Nanotechnology suggests that some forms of carbon nanotubes a – a poster child for the “nanotechnology revolution” is as toxic to humans just as was asbestos. Thus we have to explore the societal and economic impact of technical, social and commercial uncertainties as well and formulate a responsible Nanocode in our country.India has established several nanotechnology programs under its five year nanotechnology initiative as the government has recently announced a 987 crore program that includes three national Institutes of Nanoscience and centres of excellence. Presently, India has about 30 nanotechnology startups and about 50 research institutes and can be a world leader in technologies like nano fluid sensors, provided we have more private enterprise and a dedicated venture capital fund for nanotechnology initiatives. I am sure private participation will enthuse both the industries and the academics to the exciting new world of nanobiotechnology, bionics, optical computing with nanophotonic materials, fabrication, characterization and reliability of nanomaterials as also other emerging areas.