Building sensors, but on a Nanoscale.

The various sensors within a car. Source retrieved from Research Gate.

But before I get into anything deeper, we need to first understand what nanosensors are.

Nanosensors work just like any other sensor: Their job is to detect and process signals from their surrounding environment. However, unlike the car and washing machine sensor, they are really, really, REALLY, small.

Nanosensors: A Disruptive Innovation in Nanotechnology.
Nanosensors: A Disruptive Innovation in Nanotechnology.
Nanosensors: A Disruptive Innovation in Nanotechnology. (A larger type of nanosensor that is actually visible). Source retrieved from Medium.com.

But how small is this “nanoscale” exactly? How about one nanometer?

Nevertheless, I know that it’s simply hard to imagine just how small nanotechnology is. Let’s put this into perspective:

  • A human hair is approximately 100,000 nanometers wide
  • On a comparative scale, if a marble were a nanometer, then one meter would be the size of the Earth!
Various things at the nanoscale: Putting things into perspective. Source retrieved from Intro to Nanotechnology.

Nanosensors seems pretty awesome, but why should I learn more about them?

There are a whole variety of reasons.

  1. They are extremely sensitive and can give really accurate responses.
  2. They are incredibly effective and powerful!
  • Their extra surface area allows these sensors to retrieve data from more points of view on their surfaces= more accurate results
A mathematical representation of the change in the surface area to volume ratios as the size of the cube enlarges/decreases. Source retrieved from OBEN Science.

Saving lives, one nanosensor at a time.

Cancer detectors:

  1. Rearranging DNA molecules on the nanosensor into a circle! (this is a new way that has been recently discovered)
Nanosensors, injecting drug medicine into a cell. Source retrieved from Medical News Today.

Now, nanosensors don’t work magically— so how do they really function?

To be honest, this is a complicated question. There are countless different types of nanosensors, which are all used to measure different things (the small world is extremely large after all), and there are so many more to come and new discoveries to be made. However, I can tell you one similarity that ultimately lies true among all the nanosensors: They work by measuring electrical changes.

Electrical signals detected by the nanosensors (in the liquid) are converted into data visible at the macroscopic level (the computer). Source retrieved from Science Direct.
  • Many nanomaterials have incredibly high electrical conductivity, which can often cause a movement/any sort of physical change → is something detectable that can be measured with a nanosensor.
  • Nanosensors are what detect change on its external surface, and this change is reported to other internal parts called nanocomponents.
  1. Mechanical nanosensors
A cell phone chemical nanosensor. Source retrieved from NASA.
A mechanical nanosensor. Source retrieved from Medium.com.

But how it is possible to create such TINY things? There must be a way.

Well, of course there’s a way or else the term “nanosensors” would simply be something unreal and that wouldn’t be great.

Nanofabrication is the manufacture of nanotechnology with nanometer dimensions.

There are several ways that nanofabrication might be done:

  1. The Bottom Up strategy (includes self and molecular assembly)
The Bronze David, carved by Donatello. Source retrieved from Algernon.
  • Dust and other particles that turn into galaxies
  • Different weathers
A nanofactory working to piece together carbon atoms one by one. Source retrieved from Responsible Nanotechnology.

Nanofabrication seems really cool, but it’s still not perfect…yet.

There is still a long way left to go in our journey of developing nanosensors; we are still in the early stages of developing this nanotechnology and its various applications. There are still many exciting problems left to solve and many more to come on the way!

Top-down vs. bottom-up methods: A visual diagram. Source retrieved from Article1000.com.

Some of my own advice

After looking into the broad topic of nanosensors, nanofabrication, and the issues with nanofabrication, it has inspired me to think about my own ways of how I might approach the arising issues in the development of nanotechnology and the efforts in how we can make the manufacturing process more effective. It’s not just the super smart scientists that try and solve these problems, you can help too!

  1. Remember the self-assembly methods? Maybe we should focus more on those.

Want to learn more? Here’s something interesting to look into!

Recently, as of 2020, scientists have found a way to use nanosensors to detect aquatic toxins in water! Led by Dr. Jonathan Claussen, ISU researchers are using a specifically designed nanosensor that can detect damaging chemicals called organophosphates (which can be found in herbicides and pesticides) at levels 40 times smaller than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommendations!

A graphene-based nanosensor detecting microscopic contaminants in a sample of water. Source retrieved from Graphene Info.

Final Thoughts

Well there you have it! Now you know about nanosensors more than you did before! Nevertheless, it is evident that nanosensors are on a path to change the world from healthcare, to agriculture, to climate change, to society as a whole. It can help us solve complex issues on a global scale which are affecting large masses of the world’s population and are causing extremely negative impacts. Using this new nanotechnology we can learn more about this “invisible” dimension of Earth which the world is built upon, atom by atom. Who knows what else we can find using nanosensors or other ways that we can apply it to human life? After all, the future of nanosensors is still yet to be uncovered.

A 15 year old innovator, just wanting to share some cool stuff I research :)

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