This work has outlined the requisite strategies for realizing the ultimate goal of nanotechnology: to benefit the human condition. Fundamental studies in the nanosciences have provided the building blocks on which nanotechnology will drive the creation of novel devices with applications in energetics, electronics, materials, medicine, and beyond. These systems will address the differences between being integration- or fusion-based by possessing embedded intelligence through a series of nanoscale sensors and actuators. The example of coordinated smart dust activity provides a promising demonstration of basic emergent behavior. Future work will seek to dramatically increase the amounts of information contained within fabricated systems to provide progressively advanced outputs in response to various impulses. For example, by inputting a specific stimulus (such as sunlight) into these devices, an autonomous reactivity (peptide-driven energy transduction) will ultimately produce a usable output (electricity).
Bridging the elements of nanotechnology with beneficial larger-scale systems will parallel current and continued advancements in methodologies with which nanotechnology will develop. These will include the handling abilities to enable us to see and manipulate nanoparticles with the goal of characterizing them. Manufacturing strategies will transition single-molecule studies toward large-scale fabrication of systems that possess increasing information content. Finally, the realization of systems based on the fusion of biology, nanotechnology, and informatics will result in truly emergent, or biomimetic, systems that combine sensors and actuators that respond to specific stimuli.
Although the nanotechnology industry is in a nascent stage, rapid advancements and a streamlined road map of progress ensure that the future is quite promising. The realization of this industry's potential will have revolutionary and compelling impacts upon humankind. For example, the fruition of rapid DNA screening and diagnosis modalities will open the gateway to designing custom therapeutics tailored to individuals based on their genetic makeup. An achievement of this magnitude would serve dual roles. First, nanotechnology would be cemented as the visionary industry for the next millennium. Second, the true benefits for humankind enabled by the maturation of this technology will have been realized.
However, to reach this point in the road map, we must address in depth several key areas previously outlined. Through the use of emerging technologies and methodologies for discoverysuch as the use of superlens material for direct imagery of nanoscale processes or the enhancements of single-molecule manipulation abilitieswe will achieve an unprecedented, more complex level of control of biological processes. This, in turn, will give us a deeper understanding of how these biomolecules and their respective activities contribute to a global functionality (such as the systemic performance of the human body) to create an emergent behavior in nature. In this way, nanotechnology will then be poised to reproduce this behavior to combat disease, to produce advanced energy sources, and to support other advancements that will redefine the way we live.
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