The emerging field of nanorobotics may still be in its nascent stages, but increasing investments in this technology show promise for the future. Considering all the potential of continued research and development of nanobots, here are a few considerations to take into account for the state of nanorobotics today and its future applications:
The current interest in nanorobotics is immense. But it's understandable why. Nanobots have a high level of durability. Nanobots have the potential to last for decades with some scientists even theorizing a potential to remain operational for hundreds of years.
Today, scientists and engineers worldwide are in the research phases of many of the applications of nanorobotics. Yet, several breakthroughs have given scientists hope for using nanobots in a variety of applications. For instance, scientists have developed nanobots that have shown to cure cancer in lab mice. The autonomous DNA bots avoided clotting the blood as they helped to prevent current blood clots found in the vessel of the lab mice's tumors from cutting off blood supply. While nanorobotics often is tested on lab animals, human trials are expected to occur by 2023 and surgical applications within the next decade.
Scientists also use nanorobots today to store large data. For instance, Harvard's Wyss Institute currently provides licensing for high-density information storage in a single microchip the size of DNA. This form of storage is useful for maintaining large-scale data in a cost-effective way. Nanobots have also played an important role in the development of ocean-cleaning sponges that are useful for cleaning up oil spills and even removing heavy or toxic metals from water.
The Potential for the Future Applications
The future use cases of nanobots have the potential to accelerate processes in medicine and beyond. Some of the potential applications of nanobots include:
- Cancer detection and treatment. Scientists from Arizona State University and China's National Center for Nanoscience and Technology (NCNT) successfully programmed nanorobots to detect and shrink cancerous tumors in the brain. With 25 million nanometers per inch, these miniature robots may provide the extra help that oncologists need to reduce cancer, such as enhancing their capabilities to detect, diagnose and treat cancer cells.
- Medicine and drug delivery. Nanobots known as nanoswimmers have also been developed to mimic the movement of cells to bypass the brain's natural defenses. This may lead to a more effective way to deliver anticancer drugs to the brain for treatment of brain cancer patients.
- Monitoring pipelines. Nanobots also have the potential for monitoring gas and oil pipelines. Researchers from MIT developed these cell-sized robots light, efficient and small enough to float in the air while operating without the need of a battery. This makes nanobots ideal for collecting valuable data via its sensors about the chemicals that may exist in pipelines.
- Smart windows. Nanobots also have the potential to develop consumer goods for the home, such as smart windows. These smart windows have the potential to clean themselves and control room temperature to enhance energy efficiency.
- Instant Email. Google Director of Engineering and futurist Ray Kurzweil believes that nanobots have the potential to sync with the human mind by the 2030s. With the help of nanobots, humans may be able to connect to the cloud and instantly send emails with a thought as opposed to typing and sending emails via a computer.
- Ultrastrong Metamaterial Development. Nanobots are also useful in the development of very strong metamaterials, and researchers at Caltech have developed a way to create these super-strong metamaterials. It's one of the lightest and strongest materials that have potential use for optical tunneling and perfect lensing.
Cancer detection, data storage, and pipeline monitoring offer some of the strongest cases of development using nanorobotics for the future thanks to the rapid development, positive impact on human health and wide applications. Thus, nanorobotics is an ideal field to continue to explore, whether for education or hobby.