The Potential of Nanotechnology
Nanotechnology involves the manipulation of matter at atomic and molecular levels (i.e., at a scale of a billionth of a meter) to produce a great variety of materials and devices. At this scale, materials often have unique characteristics.
While the United States is currently leading the way in nanoscience research, many emerging countries have also established strong programs. Applications may include energy storage, production, and conversion; disease diagnosis; drug delivery systems; air and water pollution detection and remediation; and food processing and storage. Most of these applications are being developed for wealthy countries, but many of them have potential applications in developing countries.
One of the most promising applications is the use of nanomembranes, nanosensors, and magnetic nanoparticles for water purification, especially of irrigation water— allowing for desalination, detoxification, remediation, and detection of contaminants and pathogens. Research is in the early stages and many of the products are still too expensive for developing country applications, but the ability to immediately treat even very contaminated water to a high quality, at the source, without the use of electricity, heavy chemical dosages, or high pressure, together with the scale of predicted water shortages, makes it an area worth pursuing.33