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Nano-machines are an idea fresh from science fiction, on the verge of science fact. Nanotechonolgy is the concept of machines on the molecular scale being used to do specific jobs. The concept has special appeal particulary for medicine and the semi-conductor industry, but also possibilities in every industy make this technology worth further exploration.

Imagine a machine so small that it could work inside your arteries to remove clots or plaque to prevent strokes and heart attacks. If this idea seems like something out of science fiction, think again. While the concept of machines on a molecular level (made up of only relatively few molecules)is hard to image, research is currently going on to produce them. Molecular computers are already in the experimental stages and companies like Hewlett-Packard, a top computer maker, have already committed research teams to development of nano-machines. The Pentagon is already involved through its Defense Advanced Research Projects agency, and the Clinton administration was even talking about launching a national nanotech initiative. Looking at some of the possibilities, and its easy to understand why there is such interest in the potential of these micro-machines.

Medicine

Nano-machines could be constructed to work after being injected into the body. They would be carried in the blood stream and arrive at a site where they could work to repair a damaged organ, clean a clogged artery, or destroy diseased tissue. The uses for a programable machine that could be injected into the body are almost endless. From non-ivasive surgery to supplementation of the immune system these machines could be programmed to recognize target cells and go to a site and do repairs or attack problem cells. These machines could be used to monitor bodily functions and send warning signals of possible trouble to doctors or hospitals. There are almost unlimited possibilities for changing the fact of medicine using nano-technology.

Industry

The ultimate computer. That is what was thought to be the potential of nano-computers. Microscopic molecular computers could cause a revolution in the world of information technology. Molecular computers could be designed to not only to compute and calculate, but to build other computers by assembling them on the molecular level. In short you could have small molecular micro-computers that would be able to build other computers.

The building of molecular micro-computers is just one of many possibilities. The construction of micro-structures for specific problems holds a tremendous potential. One example is in water purification and desalination.

Nano-machines could be used to build "micro-pipes" of activated carbon only a few billionths of a meter(nanometer) in diameter. These pipes would be activiated by electric charge which would cause them to remove sodium and chloride ions from salt water. These filters made of these tubes would act as highly effecient desalination machines. This research is on-going today at Boston College working with a team of independent inventors and is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a prototype is expected by the end of this year.

Nanotechnology's implications in areas like; structual analysis and inspection, construction, testing and repairs, hold the potential for an explosion in technological development. Imagine the possibilities of being able to build, examine, and repair almost anything on the molecular level. The applications are almost limitless.

A new era could be dawning with the use of nanotechnologies. Just the expansion of knowledge of matter on the molecular level would change the way we view everything in the world. Nanotechnology holds the key to changing the way we view almost everything we know or think we know about science and medicine. There is no industry that will be unaffected by the development of nanotechnology.