Start Thinking in Nano's
Breaking things down to the smallest units, namely the atom, is creating a whole new way of thinking. If we can change matter itself, then this changes how we make everything from soda pop to skyscrapers. This whole phenomenon is referred to as Nanotechnology. Although one can argue that Nanotechnology is still years away, it's starting to creep into many products – nano-particles that make clothing resistant to stains and automobile bumpers that are twice as strong with half the weight. Therefore, everyone in business better start thinking at the nano-level.
The term “nanotechnology” was popularized by K. Eric Drexler back in the 1980's. Drexler conveyed a vision of building things atom by atom, moving away from a world dominated by bulk manufacturing technologies. Although one can argue that Drexler's vision is still years away, nanotechnology is starting to take hold in numerous ways, giving rise to everything from nanomedicene to nanobombs.
For businesses, nanotechnology is not just about making new products, but also about making all products in a different way. Manufacturing processes will be radically more accurate on the atomic scale. This will unleash more flexibility in how we build things. Production systems will go from the current macro-level to a new micro-level. Therefore, nanotechnology will lead to much lower production costs and much faster production times. And since nanotechnology has the potential to impact almost every product type, it is labeled as a “general-purpose technology.”
“Nanotechnology will require you to radically rethink what your core business is, who your competitors are, what skills your workforce needs, how to train your employees, and how to think strategically about the future. The buzz surrounding nanotech is comparable to that at the dawn of the digital revolution, which changed the face of how business operates. Unlike the internet, however, which applied new technology to many old processes and businesses, nanotech is about creating entirely new materials, products, and systems (and therefore markets), as well as making existing products faster, stronger, and better.”
- The Next Big Thing is Really Small: How Nanotechnology will Change the Future of Your Business by Jack Uldrich with Deb Newberry
Nano is defined as one-billionth of a meter (less than the thickness of a hair). With continued advances in science and technology, this micro-level world is now measurable. And now that we can measure things at such a basic level, we can understand it and manipulate it – giving birth to a whole new industry called Nanotechnology. Over 1,000 start-up companies have entered into the nano hunt, creating a flurry of patents for new materials in everything we buy.
Nanotechnology will touch almost everyone in some way – from the use of small-scale machines implanted into our bodies for treating cancer to the use of micro scrubbers for cleaning our air and water. In the future, we will build things with the fundamental building blocks that exist in the natural world, reducing all manufacturing costs down to essentially raw materials and energy. And now that things are moving rapidly from the lab to the marketplace, we all must begin to think in terms of nano's.
“The future of Nanotechnology? It may seem strange now, but within a decade or so the term is likely to vanish from syllabuses and portfolios and remain part of company names only as a vestige of the past. After all, nano denotes only size. Once work on that scale becomes routine, that buzzword will fade. But the physical world – medicines, metals, and even the roles the elements play – will be utterly changed by this revolution, all brought about by bits far too small for the eye to see.”
- The Business of NanoTech by Stephen Baker and Adam Aston – BusinessWeek, February 14, 2005