The Future of Engineering: Nanotechnology: A Mission Into the Microscopic by Sonia Tikoo

Engineering is the quintessential symbol of human achievement. Ask people to select what they believe the most important landmarks or events in the history of mankind are. Ruminate over the subsequent responses and invariably one finds a link to the engineering discipline. From Egypt's pyramids to the latest supercomputer or spaceship, engineering has succeeded in combining the world's accumulated mathematical and scientific knowledge into an innumerable array of buildings, medical treatments, space programs, and millions of other technological applications. As we enter this golden age, we are now presented with the question of what engineering will accomplish next. The answer is rooted in the fundamental building block of matter- the atom. Since the atom was discovered, engineers from all over the world have tackled its mysteries with great success. As a result of this research, nanotechnology has been created. Nanotechnology is the process of manipulating and arranging individual atoms so that the resulting product performs a desired task. Electrical, aerospace, and mechanical engineers are beginning to create nanomachines- infinitesimally small microchips and processors. Such circuits could function at astonishing capacities, even rivaling the human brain (1). One can only imagine what possibilities may arise in the future. Chemical engineers and biochemists are now using nanotechnology and atomic manipulation to create super-drugs. These medicines are custom-arranged so their reactions are targeted for precise treatment effects. Many scientists and engineers propose deploying programmed nanomachines into the human body for a wide variety of reasons ranging from brain enhancement to programmed microbe or tumor assassins. Another promising application lies in genetics. Someday scientists might be able to use nanomachines to repair the composition of DNA molecules, creating gene therapy agents that could forever eliminate negative genetic conditions. These machines would be able to replicate like viruses in order to create enough to cure an ailment (2). The "perfect humans" of sci-fi lore could potentially be created, revolutionizing not only science, but also society. Nanotechnology is currently a lit match waiting for engineers to take the final step and harness its power to start a bonfire of amazing benefits that shall continue to light the path of our civilization for all eternity. We are now on the verge of this achievement, one whose effects would span the many fields of science and engineering. Perhaps we can find an avenue to define mankind's success, for with the applications of nanotechnology, the future symbol of our greatness and technology could very well exist inside ourselves. Sources: 1.Geer, David. "Organic Computing: Life That Computes." TechWorthy.com (2002): 1pp. On-Line. Bedford Communications, 2002. Jan. 11 2003. Available: http://www.techworthy.com/magarchives/scitech/96646.html 2."Miniaturization Fosters Revolutionary Future." Employment Review Online (2001): 1pp. On-Line. Recourse Communications, 2001. Jan. 11 2003. Available: http://www.employmentreview.com/2001-12/features/CNfeat03.asp