Saturday March 30, 2013 AT 1:00 PM on CBC-TV
Welcome to the Nano Revolution.
It’s a universe where scientists explore matter on a scale 80,000 times smaller than a human hair. It’s a gigantic global laboratory where scientists converge from all disciplines, and dedicate themselves to observing and manipulating the smallest particles in the natural world.
Thirty years ago, new microscopes first opened the doors to this new dimension and allowed scientists to begin moving individual atoms and molecules .This science of the miniscule is already opening up a new world of possibilities.
Nanotechnology has been called “the next technological revolution”. It is said to provide groundbreaking solutions to the most serious problems that threaten our future –it promises faster computers, improved security, longer healthier lives and a cleaner earth.
In a series of short dramas, that are interspersed with the documentary content, The Nano Revolution also speculates the philosophical, political and ethical complexities that might arise as the science continues to evolve. How will the new science impact people’s lives 30 or 40 years from now?
The invisible revolution of nano technology is already at work in our lives... In this first episode Professor Jim Gimzewski from UCLA introduces us to the world of nanomaterials: to photocatalytic coatings that coat walls and windows, so they automatically clean themselves, and to a manmade nano fibre that is stronger yet lighter than steel .
The episode then explores nano’s potential role as invisible intelligence in security devices and the impact of ultimate miniaturization, and networking in computers. In Korea,we meet scientists who are working on nano-electronic tags that will revolutionise the tracking of consumer goods. Japanese physicist Dr. Masakazu Aono, is one of the world’s leading nanomaterials scientists and he is now collaborating with Professor Jim Gimzewski in an extraordinarily ambitious project- that seems closer to science fiction than contemporary science-the building of artificial neural systems.
Here again, nanotechnology is promoted as an enabling technology. Nano devices can provide a way to automate routine laboratory tests. They can deliver active treatment directly to affected cells, and that means fewer side effects with increased efficiency. Dr. Chad Mirkin is the Director of the International Institute for Nanotechnology at North Western University and he shows how with the new diagnostic devices a single sample allows doctors to do multiple tests. At the Dana Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard, we learn how nano devices can be used to destroy specific cancer cells. Through nanotechnology, the practice of medicine is evolving from treating disease and illness to a practice that is predictive, personalized, and pre-emptive.
There is a medical future where permanent nano-devices can roam the body to monitor, and provide early diagnosis and take action against diseases. Nanotechnology is a powerful tool for advancing tissue engineering and stem cell therapy. Significant results have been obtained in creating artificial functioning interfaces between nerve fibers and electronic contact electrodes. This opens the way to control prosthetics and all kinds of implants.
The Earth’s environment faces some great challenges, and it doesn’t take much to realize there’s no time to waste. In the third episode of The Nano Revolution, Will Nano save the Planet, we meet scientists who believe that nanotechnology may be the key to overcoming the biosphere’s environmental problems. Dr Vicki Colvin from Rice University field tests a simple low cost technique that could help the developing world clean arsenic out of contaminated ground water . The University of Toronto’s Professor Ted Sargent outlines his research into nano solar cells that would make solar power cheaper and more efficient by capturing the sun’s infrared rays. Professor Peter Dobson from Oxford University, describes how adding cerium oxide in nano form to diesel fuel can make it both more efficient and clean up emissions. At the University of Western Ontario, Dr Dennis O’Carroll demonstrates nano remediation of contaminated soil .
But are we creating pollutants that are more dangerous than the ones we already have? What happens when nano-structured materials decay?The episode also visits Duke University in North Carolina, where Professor Mark Wiesner’s team is investigating the possible environmental impact of silver nanoparticles already being used as anti-bacterial in consumer products. So,will nanotechnology save the Earth’s environment? Or will it provide another way in which humans can harm nature?