Monday, March 29, 2004



1. School of Engineering & Technology, Bharathidasan University.

2. Department of Biotechnology, Bharathidasan University.

3. Periyar E.V.R. College, Tiruchirappalli.

Nanotechnology is being heralded as an important technology that will replace most of the existing technologies in use today. In 1974 Noria Taniguchi used the term nanotechnology. It is widely published as a new technology that is going to change every aspect of our life and lead the generation of new capabilities, and new products at new markets. Nanotechnology is multidisciplinary in nature. Its impact in society is going to be widespread and all-pervasive. A number of new firms have been established in recent years with a specific objective of exploiting one or more of the several avenues that this new technology provides.


A nanometer is one thousandth of a micron or one millionth of a millimeter or 10-9 of a meter or is roughly the length occupied by five to ten atoms stacked in a straight line. The hydrogen atom measures 0.1 nanometer, while a virus may be about 100 nanometer in size and an RBC approximately 10,000 nanometer in diameter. The virus is believed to be the most delicate nanocomponent in nature. Nanotechnology represents the convergence of modern chemistry, physics and biology.

The living cells that first emerged over 3.5billion years ago are the best specimens of machines that operate at the nanoscales that performed a host of jobs like generating energy. There is no process that has been engineered by mankind, either chemical biotechnology or mechanical that has been able to reach anywhere near the levels of perfection observed in living cells.


Nanotechnology is defined to be dealing with materials in the range of 0.1 to 100 nanometer. The Scanning Tunneling Microbes (STM) invented in 1981 permitted human beings to see atoms. The Atomic Force Microscope (AFM), scanning probe microscope, optical technique, lithographic tools, nuclear techniques, nuclear magnetic resonance and laser equipment as well as computer modeling techniques are used to work at the scale of nanometers.

It is an emerging science in its infancy, nanotechnology is more descriptively known as molecular manufacturing at atomic scale. Nanotechnology is a bottom-up approach (defect free structures) whereas manufacturing of silicon chips is the top-down approach. It is a field at the function of chemistry, physics, biology, computer science and engineering.

Impact of nanotechnology in our life.

  1. Clean and abundant energy
  2. Pollution free and inexpensive materials.
  3. Defect free materials.
  4. Environmental restoration and clean up.
  5. Safe space travel and colonization.
  6. Advancement in medicine.
  7. Carries hydrophilicity and surface charge.
  8. Nanoparticle coated (tween 80) AZT was more in Liver, lung, and spleen compared to noncoated AZT. Nanoparticles are able to target drugs to certain organs. They are promising in AIDS therapy.
  9. Heating up the tumor (45oC) (Hypothermia) at precise points (Nanospheres sugar coated magnetic iron-dioxide particles- ferrofluids) help fight against targeted cancer cells.
  10. Atomic Force Micoscope is used as tools to grab individual atoms and molecules and reposition them.
  11. In nanotubes considerable quantities of hydrogen has been stored (Future energy carriers).
  12. Nanoshell-polymer (acrylamide) composite drug delivery material when optically absorbing gold nanoshells are embedded in a matrix, illuminating them at resonance wavelength causes the nanoshells to transfer heat to the local environment. Remote control drug release can be effected.

Text Box: BSA release

Biosynthesis of nanoparticles using Fungi and Actinomycete

1. Microorganisms can be used in the synthesis of inorganic nanoparticles (metal nanoparticles).

2. Bacteria, yeasts, algae, fungi and actinomycetes.

3. Viable alternative to chemical methods.

4. Extracellular secretion of enzymes for Nanoparticle synthesis (Nanoparticles are formed as by-products of reduction process).

5. Nanoparticle of different chemical composition different shapes and sizes.

6. Genetically organisms can be engineered for this purpose.

7. Natural nanofactories.

8. Cd2+, Ag+, AuCl4-, SO4- (Reduced sulphates to sulphides).

Nanotechnology development

Government spending on Nanotechnology (2002)

Country Amount (Millions of US dollars)

Japan 750

China 200

Taiwan 111

Korea 150

Singapore 40

US Government focus areas in Nanotechnology

Amount (Millions of US dollars)

Research and Development 221

Defence 201

Energy 139

Standards 44

Health 43

Space 51


There is a projected worldwide market size over $1 trillion annually in the next 10 to 15 years. Nanomaterials can create a wealth of new business opportunities.There is a general consensus that nanotechnology will be a big and dominant industry. A large number of firms have opened up units devoted to nanotechnology. Of these firms, around 100 are public firms; large multinationals and the remaining are private firms. Companies such as Dupont, DOW, BASF are among the large companies that are focusing on nanomaterials research for specific applications related to semiconductor chemicals, LCD panels and automobile parts focusing on new nanomaterials. Other large companies such as IBM, Hewlett Packard and Bell Labs are focusing on electronic components and memory. Several leading biotechnology companies including Amgen. Genetech &Pharmacopoeia are turning their focus towards health-related nanotechnology applications.


  1. Molecular Electronics

A conventional semiconductor device follow Moore’s law to approach their physical limits Hybrid circuits incorporate conventional as well as molecular components (Quantum dots, single electron transistors) to control electron tunneling to amplify current. Nanotechnology based memory chips (CPUs) are also available.

  1. Sensor

Carbon nanotube carbon di-oxide sensor measures CO2 conc.

  1. Aerospace

High temperature, extreme pressure hard vacuum and higher radiation in aerospace, the development of heat-resistant polymers and other materials, miniature computers, molecular machines based on chemistry that can survive in space and assembly methods compatible with conditions in space will greatly benefit aerospace applications.

Nanomedicines : Nanotechnology makes the construction of Micron-scale machines possible. RESPIROCYTES represent micron-sized diamondoid oxygen storage tanks floating in the blood stream in artificial mechanical RBC.

Delivery of drugs to targeted sites – Techniques for drug release and injection of substances into cells, nanotube syringes have been developed. Nano-engineered prosthetics (artificial bones) have also been developed.

Environment and sanitation: nanotech-based materials, a layer of functional groups can remove heavy metals (Hg) from aqueous and organic liquids. Nanotech machines for water treatment extraction of toxics & detection of pollutants.

Carbon Nanotubes (CNT)

  1. Excellent electron field emitters
  2. High mechanical strength
  3. High thermal conductivity.
  4. Excellent chemical and thermal stability.
  5. Emit electrons at room temperature.
  6. The emission current can be continuous (GHz).

DNA based Molecular nanotechnology

Nucleic acids have the special ability of self-organization. Genomic DNA acts as frame work for the building blocks. First application of DNA Nanoparticle is “chip technology” for identification of DNA molecule.

Gold Nanoparticle bio-conjugate based colorimetric assay.

The characteristic red of gold colloid (mercapto alkyloligo nucleotide) has long been known, which changes to bluish-purple color upon colloid aggregation. Gold-colloid (Red) + SS target oligonucleotide -> target oligonucleotide + conjugated oligonucleotide (dramatic red to blue macroscopic color change). This colorimetric method can be used to detect ~ 10 fmolar of (10-15) an oligonucleotide which is 50 times more sensitive than sandwich hybridization.


Most drugs have pharmacological effects but also exhibit side effects. Therefore, drug targeting becomes necessary. Paul Ehrlich first described “Magic Bullet” which guides a drug directly into target cell and the drug will not affect surrounding cells.

Nanoparticles are solid colloidal particles ranging in size from 10nm to 1000nm. They consist of macromolecular materials in which the active principle (drug or biologically active principle) is dissolved, entrapped or encapsulated.

Requirements of an ideal vector (Nanoparticles) for drug targeting

  1. High stability
  2. Capable of extended circulation in the blood stream.
  3. Small enough to gain excess to target tissues/ target cells.
  4. Flexible tropism (disease targets).
  5. Must be able to deliver active moiety into the cells.
  6. Must be capable of escaping endosome- lysosome processing.
  7. Nanoparticles: Matrix biodegradable in nature.


  1. Nanotechnology is intertwined with biotechnology and information technology.
  2. General funding from government and venture funds should support nanotechnology research.
  3. It is time that India forges a nanotechnology policy in tune with the specific needs of the country.
  4. Nanotechnology will be a dominant force in the days to come.
  5. Institutes like IIT, ISC, CCMB may become Nation’s hub for nanotechnology research in the future.
  6. The myriad number of applications of nanotechnology is diversified fields of industries is highlighted in Fig.1.

The Bead ARray Counter (BARC)

Streptoridin Anthrax

Magnetic Field Sensor

Blowarfare DNA

Probe DNA






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