NanoWonderland Blot

As the lights are turned on, you opened your eyes. All the things that you see seem to be in high definition, like those in the movies. With your head released high, you go in circles. After that, you roam around the paradise and feel the texture of each of the trees that are green and flaring as it’s struck straight by the sun. Not only that, you make yourself full by eating the fruits that the trees bear. Flowers of various kinds blossom like everything’s fresh and new. Also, your nose can’t help but inhale like there’s no tomorrow, the fresh air, albeit smelling like the sweet aroma of your preference. Freely, you jump and lie on the soft bed of grasses that rescues you from any hurt you may feel upon enjoying this paradise. It seems like everything that you look for is in here, that going away from this place is unthinkable. In this place, everything seems to be just fine, fun, and fitting.

This paradise could be what nanotechnology could offer you. Maybe you haven’t heard of this word yet, but surely you’ll get fascinated with this thing. According to the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (2002-2008), nanotechnology is “the engineering of functional system at the molecular scale” (p. 1). To give you a concrete view, in nanotechnology, various kinds of particles are compressed in a small device—a phone for example—to make the device more efficient. It is just like gathering all students with varying skills into a group so their team has lots of chances to win in a competition. Because particles are in small sizes, diverse kinds of particles can be intact in a device. The size of these particles are measured by nanometers, which is equal to one-billionth of a meter (.000000001 m), or in a more concrete sense, according to the Nanocyl (2014), it is equal to “one ten-thousandth of the thickness of a human hair” (p.1). Nanoparticles may come from human activities like fuel combustion, and from natural occurrence like volcanic eruptions. Examples of nanoparticles are carbon nanotubes, fullerenes, and Multi-walled nanotubes.

Nanotechnology has a social impact in the economy. What comes after every innovation like nanotechnology, for instance, is the realization of its economic contribution. This idea is supported by the author of the essay Nanotechnology’s Sociological Effects (2009) who noted that each individual really gets excited when monetary gains are brought about in a story. Because Nano products are sold for low costs, it is found to be economically advantageous to its consumers and its manufacturers. In the first place, nanotechnology’s development is for the betterment of the society’s economy rates and of the challenges the society faces. After finding Nano products convenient, people have changed their ways of life. Compared to the old equipment, many people found computers, electricity and automobiles more enticing to use (Miller et al., 2007).

Out of our knowledge, we are using nanotechnologies in this contemporary world. Your smallest phone—examples of it in the Philippines are phones of Torque and other Kitkat android phones–that has the capacity to hold as much as 32 gigabytes with the same efficiency as other devices, is a nanotechnology. Also, your favorite detergent soap that contains anatase titanium dioxide that can make your stained clothes look newly brought is a product of nanotechnology. When heated by the Sun, anatase titanium dioxide—an example of nanoparticle—decompose and bring with them the stains and the smell on your fabric (WebUrbanist, 2007-2014). Another product of nanotechnology is the Nano sensor that can indicate the presence of oil and gas under the ground (WebUrbanist, 2007-2014).

Photo taken from circuitstoday.com

Photo taken from nanotechelectronics.blogspot.com

Do these things not concern you? How about the field of agriculture? By using Carbon nanotubes, the pesticides and other products that can secure crops’ health can also be a product of nanotechnology. You don’t need to worry about its environmental impacts; your land and your animals’ condition will be oversaw by Nano sensors, anyway (Nanotechnology Industries Association, 2014).

A chemotherapy technique is also a product of nanotechnology. This technique would be a great help to all cancer patients in the country that want to undergo chemotherapy. Because what come after chemotherapy are its undesirable side effects, this technique would exterminate those side effects by coating nanoparticles with drugs. The drugs that will be injected in the patient’s body are 1000 times lower than the drugs used in traditional chemotherapy technique so that the side effects of the treatment will be put to rest (WebUrbanist, 2007-2014). Furthermore, because these drugs are not pure as these are filled with nanoparticles, the tumor of the patient will not gain nutrition. Consequently, the tumor will die. Chemotherapy is successful, and its side effects are wiped out by nanotechnology.

Photo taken from worldhealth.net

Lastly, there is now a nanotechnology that is such an environmentalist as it can get along with contaminants and turn contaminated soil and underground water in areas that are concentrated with chlorine or oil, into a more conducive one. In addition, nanoparticles can go into narrow areas and thoroughly reduce the amount of contamination of certain areas, since nanoparticles have a tiny size (CLU-IN, 2012). This machinery is useful every time there is a natural disaster in the country, and water supply is scarce.

Unfortunately, nanotechnology goes beyond the understanding of the mass. Only the scientists and engineers can decipher its system. By seeing a person riding a car, playing a computer game, typing in a computer, using a flash drive, texting or calling, watching television programs, and the like, it is apparent that everyone is enjoying nanotechnology’s provisions. But most of them are ignorant of what nanotechnology really means, what it is composed of, and where it is really from. You don’t deeply know the paradise that nanotechnology has let you revel in, but you need to have yourself guarded. You might be blinded by its overwhelming gifts just like when you were blinded by the platforms of the politicians you voted, by the expensive chocolates and roses the man you thought would be your last gave, and by the lies you once believed in.

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Photo taken from nnin.org

Researches made nanotechnology to become eligible to have positive claims before nanopollution, toxic materials and energy consumption. Nanotechnology is thought to be a solution to these phenomena. According to Soutter (2012), a nanotechnology was invented to reduce the amount of pollution—particularly Carbon Dioxide—released by industries. This technology is composed of nanoporous fibres and other nanoparticles that blocks carbon dioxide and other contaminants, and either remove or recycle the said gases, depending on the kind of fibres used in the machine. Because of the tiny size of the fibres, it can still function with high efficiency in tapered areas.

Unminding the toxicity of nanoparticles, it was proven by researchers that carbon nanotubes make your phone as efficient as other devices albeit little in size and heavy in gigabytes carried (Steve, 2007-2014). Lastly, it was stipulated that production efficiencies brought about by nanotechnology result to the reduction in overall energy consumption. It is evident in the development of flat panel display screens that would complement humans’ excessive use of television for entertainment. Most importantly, it is also evident in solar panels that are sold at a low price. Through solar panels, solar cells are environment-friendly alternative to power plants that give off electricity. It is efficient for the reason that it converts sunlight into electrical energy at 92% and it suits to irregularly shaped walls as it can be in small sizes (WebUrbanist, 2007-2014). This kind of nanotechnology is commonly used by people living in central part of Mindanao, wherein electricity is scarce.

Photo taken from plusplasticelectronics.com

Nanotechnology showed the public its façade, by making known its advantages for the environment and for humans. Out of our knowledge, it has negative environmental effects. First drawback of nanotechnology is its rear regarding reduction of energy consumption. In spite of the fact that nanotechnology guarantees reduction in energy consumption, we must consider the energy that is being used up while nanoparticles are manufactured. The manufacturing process of nanoparticles compensates decreased energy consumption of solar panels for the energy it gets from the Sun.

While nanoparticles are manufactured to produce the efficient materials mentioned above, they can either integrate directly in the air and in the water, or have a contact with any substance. Once this substance become waste, nanoparticles will then mix with any ecosystem and the species that inhabit there (Soutter, 2012). This process will then be the cause of nanopollution as most of the nanoparticles used are non-biodegradable. According to Biotechnology Forums (ND), nanopollution refers to the existence of non-biodegradable nanoparticles that undergo the process of manufacturing, which have impacts on the environment that can’t be predicted.  Due to this is the size of nanoparticles that are in nanometers; it’s invisible to humans’ bare eyes. However, even though those who are in power are knowledgeable about this occurrence, they can’t let the cessation of nanotechnology compromise the economic growth it offers the country (Soutter, 2012). Nanopollution, then, is another aftermath of nanotechnology advancement.

Photo taken from earthuntouched.com

                Last but not the least drawback of nanotechnology is the toxicity of its particles. One of the most often used non-biodegradable nanoparticles are the carbon nanotubes. According to Kamat (2006), these particles have properties that are different from “other kinds of carbon like diamond and graphite” (p.1). These particles have several negative impacts on the environment that are mainly due to the toxicity of carbon nanotubes themselves. As what they have found out in their studies, Khanna and his/her colleagues (2008), stated that compared to traditional materials like steel and aluminum, carbon nanotubes are 100 times more causative to environmental problems like “global warming, ozone layer depletion and environmental and human toxicity” (p. 14). The other negative impact of the said particles is its contamination to species like algae and other fishes (Hund-Rinke & Simon, 2006) that are vital to the balance of nature. Furthermore, carbon nanotubes can also impair the reproduction of earthworms (Scott-Fordsman et al., 2008) that play a crucial role in enriching the main source of everything that we consume—the soil. Lastly, according to Lin and his/her colleagues (2009), carbon nanoparticles like C70 fullerenes and multi-walled nanotubes interrupt the flowering of rice plants by “piercing the cell wall of wheat plants’ roots, providing a pipe through which pollutants were transported into living cells” (p.24). To concretize this fact, think of carbon nanoparticles as you who get a straw with a paper, the paper inside a straw as “your” toxicity, and the arm of the person beside you as the rice plants. Blowing the straw towards the arm of a person sitting beside you is just like when carbon nanoparticles share their toxicity with the rice plants. Just like the arm you affected, the rice plants are also affected. Because you as carbon nanotubes already got a straw to be able to hit the arm of a person, you trigger yourself and other pollutants to also constantly touch or affect the arm of the person sitting beside you.

                As supported by previous studies, the paradise-like place that nanotechnology gives you is not perfect. This is not to pop your bubbles, but nanotechnology can also add to the long list of environmental problems. This fact should concern you since you are one of the main victims of the environmental problems nanotechnology can bring. But, because there is a reaction to every action, we can never deny the fact that what come after any advancement in the technology are its drawbacks. With or without nanotechnology, or any kind of technological advancement, environmental problems will always be present. This means that it’s not necessary for nanotechnology to be brought to a halt. Instead, what is necessary is balancing nanotechnology’s advantages and drawbacks. This can be made successful through the efforts of those who are in authority, scientists and researchers to conduct more researches on how to maintain the environment’s sustainability while taking steps to innovation. But on your own little way, you can guard yourself against the aftermath of nanotechnology, oh you, guard of innovation. Also, you can help to sustain the environment by minimizing your usage of any product of nanotechnology you know, so as to lessen the supply of nanotechnology manufactured by many industries. Doing this does not mean you are going to regress and act the way primitive people do. In this case, to minimize means to regulate your usage by setting aside your wants and prioritizing your needs instead.

References:

Biotechnology Forums. (ND). Nanotoxicology and Nanopollution.

Center for Responsible Nanotechnology. (2002-2008). What is Nanotechnology?

CLU-IN. (2012). Nanotechnology: Applications for Environmental Remediations.

Hund-Rinke, K., Simon, M. (2006). Ecotoxic Effect Photocatalytic Active Nanoparticles (TiO2) on Algae and Daphnids, Environ Sci Poll Res, 13 (4), pp. 394-410. Retrieved from International POPs Elimination Network’s Nanotechnology Working Group. (ND). Nanotechnology and the Environment: A Mismatch between Claims and Reality.

International POPs Elimination Network’s Nanotechnology Working Group. (ND). Nanotechnology and the Environment: A Mismatch between Claims and Reality.

Kamat, P. (2006). Carbon Nanomaterials: Building Blocks in Energy Conversion Devices.

Khanna, V., Bakshi, B., Lee, L. (2008). Carbon Nanofiber Production: Life Cycle Energy Consumption and Environmental Impact, J Indust Icol, 12 (3), pp. 1132-1137. Retrieved from International POPs Elimination Network’s Nanotechnology Working Group. (ND). Nanotechnology and the Environment: A Mismatch between Claims and Reality.

Lin, S., Reppert, J., Hu, Q., Hudson, J., Reid, M., Ratrikova, T., Rao, A., Luo, H., Ke, P., (2009). Uptake, Translocation and Transmission of Carbon Nanomaterials in Rice Plants. Small 5(10): 1128-1132. Retrieved from International POPs Elimination Network’s Nanotechnology Working Group. (ND). Nanotechnology and the Environment: A Mismatch between Claims and Reality.

Miller, C., Guston, D., Barben, D., Wetmore, C. S., Fisher, E. (2007). Nanotechnology & Society: Ideas for Education and Public Engagement. p.3. Retrieved from International POPs Elimination Network’s Nanotechnology Working Group. (ND). Nanotechnology and the Environment: A Mismatch between Claims and Reality.

Nanotechnology Industries Association. (2014). Agriculture, Pesticides & Biocides.

Scott-Fordsman, J., Krogh, P., Schaefer, M., and Johansen, A. (2008). The Toxicity of Testing of Double-Walled Nanotubes-Contaminated Food to Eisenia Veneta Earthworms, Ecotoxicol Enviro Safety 71(3), pp. 616-619. Retrieved from International POPs Elimination Network’s Nanotechnology Working Group. (ND). Nanotechnology and the Environment: A Mismatch between Claims and Reality.

WebUrbanist. (2007-2014). Conceptual & Futuristic in the Technology, 15 Astonishing Real-Life Applications of Nanotechnology.

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