December 29 was an ordinary day in the year 1959 until professor “Richard Feynman,” A theoretical physicist, introduced a revolutionary concept to the world. His notable work on Quantum Electrodynamics in the early 1940s earned him a share in the Noble prize. American Physical Society of California Institute of Technology invited professor to deliver a lecture.
He titled his talk, “There’s plenty of room at the bottom,” and introduced the world to Nanotechnology. Although, the word ‘Nanotechnology’ was not introduced then. Feynman put forward his vision of manipulating matter on the nanoscale in the talk. He went on to discuss the recent achievement of writing the lord’s prayer on pin’s back. Also, he was sure that the entire Encyclopedia Britannica could be written in the same place, and entire literature could be written as a computer code in a material that is of size same as a grain of dust. Feynman strongly believed in the idea of miniaturizing computers. He was sure that manipulating materials at the atomic scale could open doors to a new range of properties.
Wondering what the actual words of Richard Feynman were?
Here they are:
“What could we do with layered structures with just the right layers? What would the properties of materials be if we could really arrange the atoms the way we want them? They would be very interesting to investigate theoretically. I can’t see exactly what would happen, but I can hardly doubt that when we have some control of the arrangement of things on a small scale, we will get an enormously greater range of possible properties that substances can have and of different things that we can do.”
After Feynman’s lecture, many scientists developed an interest in manipulating materials at the nanoscale and developed two approaches for synthesizing nanomaterials which are:
Top-down approach – This includes breaking down the bulk material using advanced techniques such as precision engineering and lithography and developing nanomaterials.
Bottom-up approach: The bottom-up approach refers to building up the nanostructures atom-by-atom or molecule-by-molecule. It can be done by physical and chemical methods ranging in nanoscale range by using controlled manipulation of atoms and molecules.
Feynman’s vision and predictions were proven correct; that’s why he is called the ‘Father of Nanotechnology.’ Exactly after 15 years of Feynman’s revolutionary lecture, it was Norio Taniguchi, A Japanese scientist introduced and provided a definition for the term, ‘Nanotechnology.’ He stated, “Nanotechnology mainly consists of the processing of separation, consolidation, and deformation of materials by one atom or one molecule.”
K. Eric Drexler’s first book on Nanotechnology, “Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology” popularized Molecular engineering. In his book, he described the building up of complex machines from individual atoms that can manipulate atoms and molecules and produce nanostructures. He went on publishing another book titled “Unbounding the Future: the Nanotechnology Revolution” with Peterson and Pergamit. Their book used the terms’ nanobots,’ ‘assemblers,’ for nano processes, and ‘nanomedicine’ for the first time.
Fast forward to 2022, Nanotechnology is now being utilized in every field, majorly in medicine, energy, and Agriculture. It is reasonable to say that one man’s vision and perspective have provided new lenses to view limitless possibilities and resolutions to the earlier unsolvable problems.