Most are probably too young to remember but nanotechnology was supposed to be the most super amazing thing ever.

  • vzq@lemmy.blahaj.zone
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    3 months ago

    It split into two.

    The “very small scale structure manufacturing” part is alive and kicking. You are holding about a trillion perfect nanoscale devices in the palm of your hand right now.

    The “we will make tiny robots that live in your body and fix you” club was always selling snake oil-and they knew it. The technology they were pushing just does not work at atmosphere temperature and pressure and immersed in oxidizing not quite neutral pH fluid.

    Thankfully, there a much better way to make tiny machines that live in your body. That’s making/adapting/causing others to make proteins that do what you need them to do. Proteins are essentially bio-robots that can manipulate their surrounding by changes in their folds (conformation), for example by exposing binding sites in reaction to something binding to another binding site.

    TLDR: nanotech is one of the largest industries in the planet. A lot of promises were made by idiots in the nineties, but biotech, another huge industry, has picked up the slack very well.

    • henfredemars@infosec.pub
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      3 months ago

      This. You just don’t hear the word anymore. For example, it was instrumental in producing the COVID-19 vaccine.

    • Crackhappy@lemmy.world
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      3 months ago

      The reason pencils work as well as they do is because of the way they are constructed, of nanomaterials.

        • Crackhappy@lemmy.world
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          3 months ago

          Well it’s not suddenly a nano material. It’s always been one. We are still exploring it.

          • geekwithsoul@lemm.ee
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            3 months ago

            Much like one of the ways stained glass was colored in the medieval period involved adding materials to the glass that acted as nano materials. For example this one particular shade of red needed gold.

  • Fondots@lemmy.world
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    3 months ago

    I’m no nanotech scientist, so I won’t pretend I know all of the ins and outs here, but I’m sure when most people think about nanotechnology, they’re probably picturing something like the later generation iron man suit from the marvel movies made up of billions of tiny nanobots that can reconfigure themselves and such. If such things will ever be possible, they’re still a long way off

    I have a hunch you probably have some visions in your head of tiny robots similar in size to a red blood cell swimming around in someone’s blood stream, that seemed like a trope that was used by a few different sci Fi series when I was growing up, and certainly the kind of thing I personally picture when I think of nanobots. Problem is, at the nano scale, those kinds of things are kind of huge, a blood cell is a few thousand nanometers across. Most of what we’re doing with nanotechnology is just a handful of nanometers in size, at the scale of a few molecules or even atoms. Eventually we may be able to put some of those parts together to make tiny robots and computers and such, but right now we’re still kind of figuring out how to make the nuts and bolts and gears and such to make those bots out of.

    There’s also a lot of nanotech research that you may not really think of as technology but more as something like material science or chemistry. Any time you hear about new developments with carbon nanotubes or graphene, that’s nanotechnology. Practical applications for stuff like that are still mostly works in progress, we’re probably years, decades, maybe even centuries out before some of those things really come into their own, but when we do work out the bugs, they will absolutely be revolutionary.

    But it’s not all far future stuff, it’s almost guaranteed that you have used and maybe even have in your home or on your person right now something that makes use of nanotech in some way. One example I saw mentioned a lot is sunscreen, there’s a lot of sunblock that makes use of zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide nanoparticles, clothing may contain nanoparticles to help with things like waterproofing, reducing odor, etc. there’s lots of mundane nanotech that you’re probably already taking advantage of.

    • Sethayy@sh.itjust.works
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      3 months ago

      As a nano engineer, youre 100% right - with the added slowdowns of safety research. Many of these particles are entirely different beasts on a nanoscale, an example commonly used is microscopic copper is just copper, nanoscopic will have you dead within the hour if inhaled (dont quote my timeframe on that one).

      That being said many cool materials are still coming out, just aren’t yet at that commercialized availability level yet.

      For example graphene has the potential to replace copper -at least in high performance applications- cause its got some fucked levels of conductivity

      Edit for some more examples cause I’m a nerd about this stuff:

      Carbon nanotubes make vantablack, the material that can absorb 99.9% of visible light (not that exciting beyond a party trick commercially, but in areas trying to minimize electromagnetic noise this is revolutionary).

      Silver nanoparticles have been shown to have passive disinfectant properties, leading to the possibility of a cloth that you could run dirty water through and make it drinkable.

      And my favorite being we’ve already created the carbon based structures (can’t recall if it was nanotubes specifically) with theoretically high enough tensile strength that if made a couple kilometers long could be used to lasso an asteroid and create a space elavator

      • Cethin@lemmy.zip
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        3 months ago

        About the space elevator thing, even with mystical materials, it’d need to be 110.5km long with a counterweight. Assuming it could work at all on Earth (it can’t, but let’s assume it can) the amount of material required would be insane. I can’t find where anyone has calculated the mass of carbon nanotubes needed, but I’m sure it’s out there.

        Assuming the material issue is solved somehow though, it’s still going through the atmosphere. How does it handle those forces? It’s untenable to have on Earth. It’s possible on the moon, which would also require much less material since it has less mass.

        • Sethayy@sh.itjust.works
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          3 months ago

          Thats the coolest part, ie the old thing about a chain only being as strong as its weakest link, and a chain of sufficient length couldn’t even hold a feather due to its own weight.

          The CNT’s (if near perfectly atomically aligned) and give them an INSANE tensile strength, some numbers I just googled puts steel at about 620 MPa (0.62 GPa) whereas the CNT’s that have been made are pushing 80 GPa.

          Obviously something this big is already gonna be a multi-governmental collaboration, but all you need then is to find the easiest reasonable sized meteor to DART our way, and catch that bitch on the way by.

          For the atmosphere part, it would have to be an entirely geostationary orbit, and so really you would have the same winds as expected on skyscrapers (plus a bit). All this the tensile strength has more than enough wiggle room for.

          Material costs aren’t too bad too considering its nearly a hydrocarbon, and the strength only requires a fairly thin cable - in equivalent terms imagine the material for a road as long, we’ve got millions of km’s of them, 100 is easy

        • Sethayy@sh.itjust.works
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          3 months ago

          Shit you and us all.

          Worst part of nano is that error is intristic, how much error is where the fun comes in

            • Sethayy@sh.itjust.works
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              3 months ago

              For sure, and thats generally the goal of any engieering - the biggest question is what error are we measuring? Something like vesting a fully autonomous drone, not even close; tubes in a funny shape that trap all light, were already there 99.9%

              • Valmond@lemmy.mindoki.com
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                3 months ago

                IIRC it was around one misplaced atom every century for some throughput. It’s like digital vs analog or so I understood it.

    • CanadaPlus@lemmy.sdf.org
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      3 months ago

      Nanotubes and graphene themselves had a deep hype cycle. They’re super strong… as long as they’re atomically perfect. The second bit just kind of got left out of the popsci stuff circa-2009.

      The biggest thing about technology nobody talks about is manufacturing. The physics was there to design a modern GPU in WWII, it’s just that reliably making a thing with few-hundred-atom switches starting with 1940’s tools is a very hard problem. The correct approach to do so wasn’t even clear until the 70’s or so, and then it took many decades of finetuning and building up ever larger and more expensive fabs that can print features that small in environments that perfect.

      There’s no clear way to place individual atoms of a large object at reasonable price right now. Maybe some kind of biotech will make it possible eventually, or just scaling up current atomic manipulation techniques a lot, but for now CNTs are but high-tech asbestos.

  • colonial@lemmy.world
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    3 months ago

    I mean… you’re surrounded by trillions of perfect nanotech devices. They’re called MOSFETs, and they make literally the entire modern world go round.

    • skillissuer
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      3 months ago

      Booo, get out of there with reasonable and grounded explanations!

      • CanadaPlus@lemmy.sdf.org
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        3 months ago

        I mean, most of the magical uses haven’t materialised. Computers are better, that’s about it. It has a few other commercial applications, but they’re indistinguishable from normal chemistry from a laymen’s perspective.

        • hperrin@lemmy.world
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          3 months ago

          That highly depends on what you mean by “nanotechnology”. There are tons of advancements in medicine that use what most people would consider to be nanotechnology. As well as material science, robotics, energy production and storage, and telecommunications, to name a few.

            • hperrin@lemmy.world
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              3 months ago

              I mean how uninformed of a layman are we talking about? Do they know the difference between a molecule and a micelle?

              • CanadaPlus@lemmy.sdf.org
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                3 months ago

                Honestly I had to look that up, because while I know the concept the term was only vaguely familiar. I would say I know more about this stuff than 99% of people. Relevant XKCD

  • CanadaPlus@lemmy.sdf.org
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    3 months ago

    I’m not sure which era you’re talking about exactly. Graphene and carbon nanotubes can’t currently be made both big and perfect, and are lame when imperfect. Nanoscopic robots have problems with sticking together and jumping around due to brownian forces, and also are just very hard to build. Chemical-based robotics has been a crapshoot because quantum chemistry is hard. The last one has been tackled with machine learning pretty well recently, where natural biological analogues exist.

    As a result, about as far as we’ve gotten is nanoscopically fine dust. It has uses, but it’s only a technology the same way pea gravel is. It’s looking like a lot of the stuff nanobots were supposed to do is going to fall to biotech instead.

    • PresidentCamacho@lemm.ee
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      3 months ago

      Love the phrase “quantum chemistry is hard” because it makes it sound as if it’s difficult for the average person, but I can only imagine it means that the smartest people alive are struggling with it haha.

      • fsxylo@sh.itjust.works
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        3 months ago

        Some Stephen Hawking level intellect is currently in a basement acting like an angry Jim Carrey because his math just chooses not to work.

      • CanadaPlus@lemmy.sdf.org
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        3 months ago

        Even worse. It’s possible some of it can’t be done with any reasonable amount of classical computation at all, regardless of skill or knowledge. Quantum computers are badly overhyped, but that’s one thing they could definitely be good for.

  • shirro@aussie.zone
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    3 months ago

    Micro-electro mechanical systems (MEMS) are extremely successful. You have them in your phone and lots of other devices. It turns out semiconductor manufacturing techniques could be leveraged to make some useful devices but that is about it. There is obviously a lot happening at these scales in biology, semiconductors, materials science etc but the grey goop of nanobots turned out to be a fantasy based on extrapolations that don’t seem to hold up well with physical materials thankfully. One less thing to worry about. Now we only have climate change, pathogens, war etc. Hopefully the machine learning bubble will blow over in a similar fashion, genuinely revolutionary in some areas but increasingly difficult/uneconomical to scale into others.

  • starman@programming.dev
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    3 months ago

    nanotechnology was supposed to be the most super amazing thing ever.

    Like blockchain, 3d-printing, cloud and machine learning?

    • CanadaPlus@lemmy.sdf.org
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      3 months ago

      So we’re on the slope of enlightenment with nanotech, probably just past the peak with neural nets, and maybe right in the trough with cryptocurrencies. (The latter are up right now, but prototype tech Bitcoin still leading the pack tells me we haven’t arrived at any kind of balanced perspective)