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Nanotechnology is the study of tuning materials at atomic, molecular and macromolecular scales to change their properties. Recent years, this revolutionary technology has been applied in multiple fields through an integrated approach. An increasing number of applications and products containing nanomaterials or at least with nano-based claims have become available. This essay will examine the application of nanotechnology in clothing and medicine, together with their social and environmental impact.
Nanotechnology in Clothing:
Nano clothing is an emerging application of nanotechnology that involves dealing with nano fibers at molecular and atomic levels in order to change their properties. This novel technology can produce amazing clothing like antimicrobial underwear, water-proofing outfit and even personal climate control jacket.
First, silver nanoparticles are antimicrobial in nature and it can therefore be used to produce anti-bacteria underwear. Nano-silver has the ability to induce hydroxyl radicals (also produced by some antibiotics) to kill bacterial cells. As shown in the simplified chemical equation below, hydroxyl radicals can break down bacteria and produce water and carbon dioxide as by-product.
Additionally, nanotechnology can provide us with a water proof nano-fabric that does not get wet. Covered with polyester fibers coated with minute silicone filaments, this out is extremely hydrophobic due to the extraordinary water resistance of 40-nm wide silicone nanofilaments. Moreover, the development of a new type of nano-aerogel has opened up new possibilities for insulating clothing. Scientists have come up with a stronger nano-silica by changing the structure of conventional silica, which are originally brittle and fragile. They used polymers, which are mostly strong, to reinforce silica networks and create links within the structure. These cloth can work in all weather conditions where the temperature is between -30 and 50°C (-22 and 122°F), and it keeps the inside temperature 26°C which is the most comfortable temperature for human. As shown in the graph below, nano-silica insulate extreme temperature by forming a heat shield.
Clothes made from nanomaterials are now widely used in aerospace, sports and our daily life. Due to its outstanding properties, we can enjoy clothing with multiple functions to improve our living quality. Here are some functions of nanoclothing :
Negative effect on Human Health:
Despite those novel functions that nano-clothing has, there is still some concerns related to its effects on human health. Take nano-silver clothing as an example, toxic silver ions can cause damage to soil ecosystems when washing them down the drain. In the long term, those toxic silver ions will accumulate in human bodies as we eat plants grew from contaminated soil.
As shown in the graph above, the potential exposure of nano-silver is high when used in food and beverages. Therefore, we should be cautious when choosing to use nanotechnology products.
Nanotechnology in Cancer Therapy:
Apart from that, nanotechnology can also provide viable solution for curing cancer by using nanoparticles to destroy cancer cells directly. First and foremost, due to the small size of nanoparticles, nanomaterials have a high specific surface area in relation to the volume. Consequently, the particle surface energy is increased, making the nanomaterials much more reactive, so they can easily combine with certain parts of cancer cells in order to kill them. Moreover, it is possible to design nanomaterial specifically to destroy cancer cells since its properties are determined by its atomic arrangements. By changing the atomic arrangements of nanomaterials, the electrical and magnetic properties can be tunable. In order to destroy tumors, we can design a special nanomaterial that is able to produce heat, magnetic fields or even X-Rays which are destructive for cancer cells. Additionally, nanomaterials are excellent conductor of heat. Therefore, the induced heat both releases the encapsulated drug and helps destroying the cancer cells, resulting in a combined effect of enhanced delivery and cancer cells eliminating therapy.
Nevertheless, challenges remain with respect to the safety of nanotechnology.
Statics show that nanoparticles can hinder molting of certain types of animals. This effect was determined at concentration of 0.24 mg/liter of water of nano-TiO2. So, nanomaterials can damage the ecosystem by reducing certain type of animals and therefore bring negative impact to our environment.
Nanotechnology can offer benefits in our everyday life and in the development of cancer treatment. However, it should also come to our attention that it can cause pollution and endanger certain species. It is evident that nanotechnology is a double edged swore that requires not only intensify efforts to develop further applications, but also strict regulations to prevent it from harming our environment and health. Nonetheless, nanotechnology is a rising industry which is worth long-term exploration.