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Beyond The Nanosize Conundrum: A Deep Dive into Nano Networks and its Many Applications

by Sidra Zafar about a month ago in future

Nano network is a novel information and communication technology, which is based on the communication of nano-scale devices. Nano network does not merely refer to the reduction in transmitter and receiver size, but it’s the communication protocols between these nanodevices that are novel.

Image Source: H2020 FET projects in nanotechnologies

Article Originally published in Hackernoon

Traditional wired and wireless networking paradigms use electromagnetic signals as a transmission medium. Whereas, nanonetworks utilize message encoded molecules to send and receive messages between nanomachines.

The Nanosize Conundrum

Computer science has always been used to solve real-world problems. The progress in computing machines can be marked with an increase in computational power and a reduction in the size of the machines.

Nanotechnology has made the manufacturing of computing machines possible that are even smaller than human hair and can only be seen under a microscope.

These devices are called nanodevices or nanomachines. Nanomachines are capable of solving real-world problems more efficiently as compared to their macro size counterparts.

When the computing devices are downscaled to nano size, they grow in number and can work more efficiently together as compared to a single big machine.

Image Source: Research gate

The network of nanodevices is analogous to the swarm of bees. One bee is weak and only perform simple chores. But when these bees encounter an attack, they quickly mobilize to form a swarm and attack the predator jointly.

Similarly, nanomachines are resource-constrained devices in terms of computation and power due to their minute size. The full potential of these devices can be explored by interconnecting them into the form of a network.

A nano network will aid in overcoming the constraints of a single nanodevice by allowing it to coordinate, share, and fuse information with other devices in the network.

There are several promising applications of nanonetworks that can provide solutions in the biomedical, industrial, environmental, and military fields.

Nano network applications

Nanonetworks applications are unlimited and are used extensively in almost every field. These are classified into the following broad groups.

Biomedical applications of nanonetworks

Image Source: Medium

The size of nanodevices makes them feasible for several biomedical and health monitoring applications including diagnostics, treatment, and prevention of diseases.

Another advancement in the field of healthcare is the nanomachine being deployed inside the human body which can remotely be controlled from the nanoscale and over the internet by an external user (healthcare provider).

In the diagnostics area nano-sensors, nanophotonics and nano cameras are playing a vital role in the early detection of biological and environmental contaminants in the body.

Connecting the human body with macro-scale devices and networks for data collection is not feasible as 1) the high-frequency electromagnetic waves can interfere with the normal functioning of the body and 2) large devices connected to the body will hinder the mobility of the patient.

Thanks to nanotechnology the size of machines is so small that these can be injected into the bloodstream or even swallowed.

Don’t worry! these machines are non-invasive and made from biocompatible and biodegradable materials. Following are some of the potential biomedical applications:

  • Immune system support
  • Medical implants
  • Drug delivery systems
  • Continuous Health monitoring
  • Correcting genetic disorders
  • Nanomedicine
  • Industrial applications of nanonetworks

Nanodevices are showing potential in a number of industrial and consumer good applications. Interconnected nanomachines are used by the video gaming industry for increased thrill and realistic gaming experience.

Micro-electromechanical System (MEMS) aims at developing small scale systems e-g Lab-on-a-chip (LOC). A LOC is typically a few micrometers to millimeters in size.

It provides the functionality of transporting molecules from one location to another, mixing different types of molecules, and separating specific kinds of molecules from a mixture. Some other industrial and consumer goods applications are listed below

  • Food and water quality control
  • Functionalized materials and fabrics
  • Sports and video gaming
  • Cosmetics
  • Military Applications of nanonetworks

Nanotechnology also has several applications in the military field. Dense deployment of nanonetworks in large areas helps in monitoring and actuation of the battlefield while soldier performance can be monitored by deploying nano-networks in the human body.

Nanodevices such as imperceptible nano cameras, ultrasonic nano phones, and biological nano-sensors are devices that show potential in battlefield monitoring and actuation.

Environmental Applications of Nanodevices

Image Source: Agriculture News

The bio-inspired nature of nanotechnology makes it feasible to detect and sense contaminated materials found in nature.

The problem of handling and dumping garbage is increasing around the world; this problem can be dealt with by a biodegradation process that uses nano-networks.

Animals and biodiversity control process can be realized with nanonetworks using pheromones. This results in interaction with certain animals and also to control their presence in particular areas. Nanonetworks can also be used to monitor air, thus controlling air pollution and nano filters can be developed to improve air quality and remove harmful materials from the air.

ARCHITECTURE OF NANONETWORKS

Nano network is comprised of several nano-scale devices such as nano transmitter, nano receiver, nano router, and other specialized nanodevices to perform exclusive tasks like sensing, actuation, monitoring, and control.

The composition of nanonetworks depends upon the prospective application requirements. For example, a biomedical application like nano surgeries might need specialized nanodevices like nanorobots along with essential components of the nano network.

Nano transmitters, nano receivers, and nano routers are the essential components of nanonetwork, however, a nanonetwork might not necessarily contain all of the below-mentioned nanodevices.

Following is a detailed classification of nanomachines that can be part of nanonetworks according to application requirements.

Nano Transmitters

Nano transmitters are specialized nanomachines that are capable of sending encoded message molecules into the nano network environment. Information molecules can be sent into the environment by two types of nano transmitters, pre-encoded nano transmitters, and generic nano transmitters.

Pre-encoded nano transmitters have encoded molecules stored in their compartment at the time of fabrication. Nanosystems that can be used as pre-encoded nano transmitters are artificially synthesized cells, genetically engineered biological cells, or artificial cells.

For example, lipid-based liposomes (i.e., molecule carrying enclosure) and polymer-based nanospheres and nanocapsules can be used as nano transmitters.

Generic nano transmitters mimic natural cells such as bacteriophage, viruses, etc.

Unlike pre-encoded nano transmitters, the message molecule is synthesized inside the nano transmitter according to the trigger signal. A detailed review of physical design options for nano transmitters has been done by University of Cambridge researchers.

Nano Receiver

A nano receiver detects the transmitted signal from the environment, further processes it, and produces an output signal in response. Same as nano transmitters, nano receivers take up the molecule from the environment, process it via a predefined biochemical algorithm that decodes the signal.

The decoded signal is then used to initiate an appropriate response in the environment e-g, stopping, initiating drug delivery sessions, synthesize or release some molecules, internal reconfiguration, or other biochemical reactions.

Nano Sensor

A nanosensor is a simple nanodevice that senses the environment to detect the presence of biological components or changes in environmental conditions like light, pH level, temperature.

Nanosensors can coordinate the changes in the environment with other nanodevices, which may work as a trigger signal to initiate an appropriate response.

Nano Robot

Nanorobots are nanodevices that have actuation capabilities in addition to the sensing ability. Nanorobot consists of sensors, actuators, information processing unit, memory unit, and power unit that make nanorobots a powerful device.

Nanorobots can manipulate the surrounding environment by performing actuation functionalities like precise delivery of therapeutic molecules to diseased cells.

Nano controller

Nano controllers are specialized nanodevices that are used to monitor and control other devices in the nano network. Their tasks may include monitoring the drug release process to make sure that a controlled amount of drug is released or to initiate/stop a process in the nano network.

Nano Router

Nano routers are more sophisticated nanodevices in terms of power, storage, and computation capacity. They are in charge of aggregating and processing information coming from various nanodevices in the network.

Nanotechnology will let us build computers that are incredibly powerful. We’ll have more power in the volume of a sugar cube than exists in the entire world today — Ralph Merkle

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Sidra Zafar
Sidra Zafar
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