Nanotechnology and nanorobotics for space applications


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Nanotechnology and nanorobotics for space applications

  1. 1. 1 1. Introduction Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale. It deals with the study of manipulating matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Nanotechnology is very diverse, ranging from extensions of conventional device physics to completely new approaches, from biological activities on earth to space exploration. Nanotechnology has become a major field of research throughout the world and has become a major challenge to many researchers. Nanorobotics is one major field of Nanotechnology due to its wide range of applications in various fields of research. Nanotechnology can best be defined as a description of activities at the level of atoms and molecules that have applications in the real world. Fig.1 Example of a nanorobot A nanometer is a billionth of a meter, that is, about 1/80,000 of the diameter of a human hair, or 10 times the diameter of a hydrogen atom. The size-related challenge is the ability to measure, manipulate, and assemble matter with features on the scale of 1- 100nm. In order to achieve cost-effectiveness in nanotechnology it will be necessary to automate molecular manufacturing. The engineering of molecular products needs to be carried out by robotic devices, which have been termed nanorobots. A nanorobot is essentially a controllable machine at the nano meter or molecular scale that is composed of nano-scale components. The field of nanorobotics studies the design, manufacturing, programming and control of the nano-scale robots.The field of Nanorobotics studies the
  2. 2. 2 design, manufacturing, programming and control of Nano–Scale robots. A Nanorobot is essentially a controllable machine at the nanometer or molecular scale that is composed of nano-scale components. Rather it is a smart structure capable of actuation, sensing, signaling, information processing, intelligence, and swarm behavior at Nano scale. Nanorobots would constitute any passive or active structure (nano scale) capable of actuation, sensing, signaling, information processing, intelligence, swarm behavior at nano scale. These functionalities could be illustrated individually or in combinations by a nano robot (swarm intelligence and co-operative behavior). So, there could be a whole genre of actuation and sensing or information processing nano robots having ability to interact and influence matter at the nano scale Fig.2 nano robot 2. Applications of Nanorobots Nanorobots find their areas applications in various fields. They can be used widely in the field of Medicine and Space technology. They can be used in Heart surgeries, Cancer treatment, Dentistry, etc. In military they can be used as an improved body armor that is capable of self-repair if damaged. Nanorobots will be used in the near future to rapidly injured people and damaged equipment on the Battlefield and as eavesdropping devices that are practically undetectable. The other wider area of application for Nanorobots is in Space technology, which is the main subject of this paper.
  3. 3. 3 3. Characteristic Abilities of Nanorobots Since Nanorobots are capable of actuation, sensing, signaling, information processing, intelligence, some of the characteristic abilities that a Nanorobot should possess are: 1) Swarm Intelligence – Decentralization and distributive intelligence. 2) Cooperative behavior – Emergent and evolutionary behavior. 3) Self assembly and replication – assemblage at nano scale and nano maintenance. 4) Nano information processing and programmability – for programming and controlling nanobots. 5) Nano to Macro world interface architecture – an architecture enabling instant access to the Nanorobots and its control and maintenance. Fig.3 A nono transmitter with camera and antenna 4. Advantages of Nanorobots The major advantage of Nanorobots is thought to be their durability. In theory, they can remain operational for years, decades or centuries. Nanoscale systems can also operate much faster than their larger counterparts because displacements are smaller. This allows mechanical and electrical events to occur in less time at a given speed. The self- replication feature of Nanorobots is another major advantage because of which Nanorobots find applications in various fields. Suppose in a system, a particular part is not functioning properly or it failed, then automatic detection and rectification of problem is required where self-replication comes to rescue. In this way the system works
  4. 4. 4 satisfactorily even if a problem occurs in some part of a system. The other major advantage is due to the small size of Nanorobots, they are very easy to use in space applications and can be easily propelled and can reach required orbits easily and in less time. These advantages make Nanorobots highly efficient systems and thus find wide applications. 5. Design of Nanorobots Designing Nanorobotic systems deal with vast variety of sciences, from quantum molecular dynamics, to kinematic analysis. The rules applicable to Nanorobotics depend upon the type of nano material being used in the design of such systems. Nanorobots can be of two types: Organic and Inorganic Nanorobots. 5.1. Organic Nanorobots Organic Nanorobots are the work on ATP and DNA based molecular machines, also known as bionanorobots. In this case, the idea is the development of ribonucleic acid and adenosine triphosphate devices, and even the use of modified microorganisms to achieve some kind of biomolecular computation, sensing and actuation for Nanorobots. Fig.4 Bio nanorobotics – a truly multidisciplinary field
  5. 5. 5 5.2. Inorganic Nanorobots Inorganic Nanorobots manufacturing is based on tailored Nanoelectronics. In comparison with bionanorobots, it could achieve a considerably higher complexity of nano scale components. Research is going on in this area to build inorganic Nanorobots using diamondoid rigid materials. Fig.5 Example of an inorganic robot 5.3. Nanobhis Some of the researchers of Center for Automation of Nanobiotech proposed a new approach for Nanorobot manufacturing, the Nanobhis (Nano build Hardware Integrated System), a quite effective and feasible methodology to build Nanorobots. Nanobhis is a feasible way of manufacturing Nano devices, which may result in direct impact to achieve Nanorobots. Nanobhis combines traditional and new concepts for manufacturing methodologies to accomplish functional hardware for Nanorobots. 3D computational simulations with integrated embedded Nano devices have been used as a practical way to build Nanorobots. For high precision and a commercial way of producing Nanoelectronics IC design using deep ultraviolet lithography has been used.
  6. 6. 6 6. Nanotechnology in Space Advancements in nanomaterials make lightweight solar sails and a cable for the space elevator possible. By significantly reducing the amount of rocket fuel required, these advances could lower the cost of reaching orbit and traveling in space. Radiation shielding is the area where Nanotechnology makes a major contribution to human space flight. NASA says that the risks of exposure to space radiation are the most significant factor limiting humans’ ability to participate in long duration space missions. Space radiation is qualitatively different from the radiations that humans encounter on the earth’s surface. Once the astronauts leave the protective earth’s protective magnetic field and atmosphere, they become exposed to ionizing radiation in the form of charged atomic particles traveling at close to the speed of light. Highly charged, high – energetic HZA particles pose risk to humans in space. A long-term exposure to this radiation may lead to DNA damage and cancer. To protect their human cargo, spacecrafts will need special shields incorporating materials consisting of lighter elements such as hydrogen, Boron and Lithium. However, extra shielding comes at a significant price in the form of extra weight, more fuel and increased flight costs. 6.1. Nanotubes Materials made from Carbon Nanotubes can be employed to reduce the weight of spaceships or in increasing the structural strength. The Carbon Nanotubes may also be used to make the cable needed for the space elevator, a system that could reduce the cost of sending material into orbit. 6.1.1. Boron Nanotubes Boron Nanotubes have many of the excellent properties of the well-known Carbon Nanotubes because of the same structure. Compared to Carbon Nanotubes, Boron Nanotubes have some better properties such as high chemical stability and high resistance to oxidation at high temperatures. Scientists have found that the isotropically enriched Boron Nitride Nanotubes have excellent radiation shielding property thus opening new doors in the areas of space science. The isotrope boron-10 is an excellent neutron
  7. 7. 7 absorber with a very high neutron-capture cross section. Consequently it’s widely used as the inner shielding layer inside the nuclear reactors. 6.2. Propulsion Technology Most of today’s rocket engines rely on chemical propulsion. Researchers and rocket scientists are working on Electric Propulsion (EP) systems that include Field Emission Electric Propulsion (FEEP), colloid thrusters and other versions of Field Emission Thrusters (FETs). EP systems reduce the required propellant mass compared to conventional chemical rockets, allowing to increase the payload capacity or reduce the launch mass. A new EP system proposes to use electrostatically charged and accelerated nanoparticles as propellants. Millions of micron-sized nanoparticles would fit on one square centimeter, allowing the fabrication of highly scalable thruster arrays. Field Emission Thrusters are not suitable for launching spacecrafts into orbits. Their intended purpose is to provide altitude control and acceleration. Orbiting spacecrafts are subjected to a variety of forces while circling an object in space like solar pressure, magnetic streams etc. All these forces must be compensated in order to maintain the desired orbit. The very low and highly controllable thrust levels provided by these Electric Propulsion systems enable a new category of mission which otherwise would not be possible. 7. Nanorobots for Space Technology 7.1. Swarms Swarms are nanorobots that act in unison like bees. They theoretically will act like a flexible cloth like material and being composed of what is called Bucky tubes, this cloth will be as strong as a diamond. If a Nano computer is added to this nano machine, a smart cloth is formed. This smart cloth could be used to keep astronauts from bouncing around inside their spacecraft while they sleep, a problem that arises when the auto pilot computer fires the course correction rockets. The cloth like material will be able to offset the sudden movements and slowly move the astronaut back into position.
  8. 8. 8 Fig.6 Example of an swarms 7.2. Space Colonization Nanorobots can be used in carrying out construction projects in hostile environments. For example with just a handful of self replicating robots, utilizing local material, and local energy it is conceivable that space habitats can be completely constructed by remote control so that the inhabitants need only show up with their suitcases. Colonization of space can be done and an engineer or group of engineers could check up on the construction of the habitats via telepresents utilizing cameras ad sensors created on the surface of the mars by the nano bots all form the comfortable confines of the earth. Venus could be explored with Nano robots too. 8. Challenges The immediate challenge in Nanotechnology is that we need to study more about the properties of materials at nanoscale. Since the elements behave differently at nanoscale than when they are in bulk, there’s a concern that some nanoparticles could be toxic. The design of nanoscale components is very complex. The major challenge in Nanotechnology is up scaling from laboratory work to industrial scale manufacturing.
  9. 9. 9 9. Future Scope The potential of Nanotechnology is huge and can lead to miniaturization in wider areas like space systems, medical diagnostic equipments and drug delivery systems. A high- end research is going on in the area of Nanotechnology and Nanorobotics especially in the fields of medicine and space sciences. Nanotechnology in conjunction with the available microelectronic techniques offers new possibilities of system integration. Clear example of this kind is the integrated optics and integrated fluidics. Nanotechnology also offers new technologies for antennas thus opening new doors for the field of Communications. Research is going on in the field of space science for deploying a network of sensors to search large areas of planets such as Mars for traces of water or other chemicals.
  10. 10. 10 10. Conclusions This subject can create a new revolution in the present world and can change the future of this world. But at the same time this subject can destroy the whole world and create threat to the human life. It is in the hands of the future engineers, researchers and the scientists to use it in a creative manner rather than in destructive manner. Research should be encouraged in the field of Nanotechnology, which can create many miracles in the current science and technology. The below table shows top 10 countries based on emerging technology exploitation factor: Table 1 – Top 10 countries based on Nanotech Impact Factor The above table shows that India is at the bottom in the rankings. Hence the future engineers and researchers of India should be encouraged to do research in this area. Country Nanotech Impact Factor United States 100 China 89 Russia 83 Germany 30 Japan 29 EC 27 South Korea 25 Thaiwan 9 UK 6 India 5
  11. 11. 11 11. References [1] [2] [3] [4] Edno, Morinobu, Riichiro Saito, Mildered S. Dresslhaus,et. Al. “From Carbon Fibers to Nanotubes.” [5] Mintmire, J.W. amd C.T. White. “Carbon Nanotubes: Preparation and properties.” [6] [7] [8] Significance of Nanotechnology for Future wireless devices and communications. [9] [10]