nanotechnology today and tomorrow

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  • ISSN 1068798X, Russian Engineering Research, 2010, Vol. 30, No. 4, pp. 396398. Allerton Press, Inc., 2010.Original Russian Text A.S. Vokhidov, L.O. Dobrovolskii, 2010, published in STIN, 2010, No. 1, pp. 811.


    At the beginning of December, the Rusnanotech08 forum was held in Moscow. The forum coincidedwith the onset of the global economic crisis, whichreignited the debate between old antagonists: supporters of globalization as an irresistible trend in humancivilization; and opponents not so much of globalization as of the forced participation of nations in thisprocess. Attempts to create a global economic systemas a kind of overarching superstructure have led todisaster for many national systems, and economicproblems have precipitated political and social crises.

    In these conditions, the diversion of human attention from the macrocosm to the nano scale engenderscertain risks: will new discoveries at the nano level,extended over hundreds and thousands of manufacturers and laboratories, prove harmful to humanity ona global scale? The opposition between humanity,regarded as a closed selforganizing, selfdeveloping,selfregulating, and selfreproducing system, and theenvironment (even at a planetary scale) does notalways play out in humanitys favor.

    Humans are adapted to certain living conditions,but ceaseless attacks by viruses, microbes, molds, andother agents, together with constant natural cataclysms, force us always to be on the defensive. In thiscontext, nanotechnology may change the naturaldevelopment of the human organism. Human activityin the nano realm, together with developments ingenetic engineering, will undoubtedly have evolutionary consequences for the human organism. The fundamental principles of lifethat is, the organizationof exchange processes within the organismmay bemodified by nanotechnology.

    The intensity of such exchange processes varies overthe lifespan: immediately after the creation of a neworganism, its rate of nutritive intake exceeds the rate atwhich the nutrients are broken down. This ensures thanthe organism will grow. By the age of 1719, the rates ofassimilation and discharge even out, and the organismestablishes a dynamic equilibrium between the intakeand output sides of the exchange processes. Subsequently, the growth of the organism essentially stops,but assimilation continues. Between the ages of 25 and60, equilibrium is observed between intake and output:the system is relatively stable.

    Structural changes in the physicochemical components of any organism will occur at the nano level. Thisscale allows the organization (system) to obtain optimal combinations of structural materials, ensuring thereproduction of a naturally programmed model in itssubsequent development. The system itself discardssurplus compounds. Otherwise, any element of thesystem would depart from stable equilibrium, with theappearance of imbalance.

    As yet, human impact on the environment hasremained within natural limits of purity and conservation. Barbaric and illconceived human intrusion at thenano level (especially in biology and medicine) maythrow the environment into imbalance. The response tosuch disruption might be a massive mutation.

    Many nanostructural materials differ sharply fromregular materials in their properties. This offers theopportunity to design and produce new devices, withnew functional capabilities. The construction of a global system on new principles and the creation of a newrelationship between humanity and the nano realm maynot always be conducive to the use of our new knowledge for the betterment of our civilization. This possibility is suggested by the unpredictable interaction ofnatural and artificial nanosystems and the radicalchange in the initial physicochemical properties ofnanoparticles as their structure becomes more complicated.

    Human interventions in the nano realm calls tomind a statement by Feuerbach: Philosophers seekonly to explain the world by various means; our goal isto change it. The use of nanotechnology to createfundamentally new systems (including selforganizingand selfrenewing systems) at the junction of organicand inorganic matter is reshaping specialists ideasregarding physics, chemistry, biology, information science, and related disciplines. As we know, such reconceptualization will lead to efforts to make changes onthe macro scale.

    The infinity of new ideas discovered by pragmatichumans in attempts to comprehend the nano realmresembles the infinity of ideas regarding the cosmos.We are expanding our understanding of such key concepts as determinacy and indeterminacy, finite andinfinite, energy, and the measurement of radiant phenomena.

    Nanotechnology Today and TomorrowA. S. Vokhidov and L. O. Dobrovolskii

    OOO Avtostankoprom, St Petersburg

    DOI: 10.3103/S1068798X10040180



    Sagatovskii notes:

    The infinite and the finite characterize reality on anyscale, both in breadth (beyond the galaxy, there is ametagalaxy, and so on without end) and in depth(beyond the elementary particles, there are quarks, andso on without end). The electron is finite with respect tothe atom but contains infinity. This infinity, which comesinto being as the electron enters new interactions, isknown as potential infinity. In our simple example, therefinement that becomes possible as the human peers further into the fog is potentially infinite (as, for example, isthe refinement of measurement results).

    The development of nanotechnology permits theanalysis and development of zeroenergy technologyand generating vacuum systems. Such developmentswill lead to fundamental reinterpretations of physicaland chemical processes.

    The international community, as it musters its scientific and productive energies in pursuit of nanotechnology, without changing its basic priorities (energyresources, medicine, environmental health), pursuesnew knowledge regarding objects that range in sizefrom microparticles to atoms. Whereas the worlds ofatoms and of microparticles have been relatively wellstudied, much remains to be done regarding the systematic adaptation of the products of vital processesand space technology. Today, nanotechnology is notvirgin soil: the terrain has been surveyed, and the firstharvest has been gathered. Specialist problems withinthe field are often interwoven with topics in adjacenttheoretical and practical specialties. In our view, themoment is approaching for a philosophical interpretation of the field.

    In ontological terms, the relationship betweenhumanity and the nano realm is characterized by a setof circumstances (both known and unknown as yet)that confirm the existence of various forms of relationship in various conditions. What do humans encounteron entering the nano realm? The search is underwayfor a more complete description of the nano realm thatis confined to particular specialist viewpoints but fullyrepresents the big picture. This description must takeaccount of the consequences of nanotoxicity and theimpact of nanobiotechnologies and other technologies, within the framework of the need for environmental protection.

    The Rosnano forum (Moscow) represents anacknowledgment of the need for specialists in variousfields to develop insights regarding the intersections ofnanotechnology, fundamental science, engineering,and industry and to appraise the problems that mightarise in the near future. The papers presented at theforum covered a wide range of problems, some ofwhich have emerged in the last 1020 years. Only atthe forum could the whole nano elite convene and getan overview of the current research, practical develop

    ments, and problems. All the presentations agreed onthe economic and social value of nanoindustry.

    In social terms, nanoprojects are promisingbecause they demand the latest technological accomplishments and are attracting the interest of theupcoming generation. In fact, nanoprojects are associated with a rethinking of ideas about the world as awhole, since the problems to be solved touch on unresolved areas not only of science and engineering butalso of philosophy, including spiritual philosophy, withfarreaching implications for existence on a planetaryscale and for the relation between humankind and oursurroundings. The reconfiguration of consciousnesswith each new nanoproject must improve our relationswith the natural world. Thus, we may regard nanotechnology as a pipeline delivering new ideas about theworld.

    Any participation in nanoprojects will expand thepopulation interested or involved in these matters butalso willing to intervene on that scale. At the state level,that should be regarded as a benefit, in terms of culturaldevelopment. The destructive action of modern masscommunications on the minds of our youth may bereplaced by the intellectual stimulation that comes withimmersion in nanotechnological problems.

    Nanoprojects should also be of interest to the stateas a means of raising the professional capabilities ofthe workforce to a qualitatively new level. This entailssignificant modification of all existing education programs to accommodate the new developments inphysics, chemistry, physical chemistry, and other disciplines that are being spurred by nanotechnology. Thestate should also give priority to nanotechnology for itsbenefits in terms of national security and the armedforces.

    Another important concern is the nations intellectual security. The exhaustion of gas, oil, timber, andother irreplaceable resources is nothing in comparisonwith the loss of intellectual resources. Even the loss ofhuman resources can be remedied over time. However,the exhaustion of intellectual resources is comparablewith leukemia on a national scale, with all its attendant consequences. Accordingly, social problemsr