02 February 2008

Bio-Nano: The Big Future of Small Dimensions

The promise of a nanotech/biotech convergence is coming closer to realisation. In the Netherlands, at the Technical University of Delft, the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience is forming a Department of Bionanoscience.
Bionanoscience is the discipline where biology and nanoscience meet. The molecular building blocks of living cells are the focus of bionanoscience. The nanotechnology toolkit enables the precise depiction, study and control of biological molecules. This creates new insights into the fundamental workings of living cells. Furthermore, it is increasingly possible to use the elements of the cell, to the extent that – in a new disruptive field like synthetic biology – gene regulation systems, artificial biomolecules and nanoparticles can be developed and applied within the cells.

The incorporation of new biological building blocks in cells is highly promising for applications in, for instance, medical science and industrial biotechnology. This link to synthetic biology makes bionanoscience highly relevant in the quest to design dedicated bioconversion organisms for the efficient production of bioproducts and biofuels (more here).

Science at the interface of nanotechnology and biotechnology is also seen as having a wide range of potential applications in agriculture and bioconversion: from nanoprocessing biomass for cellulosic ethanol, to the development of nano-catalysts and nano-channels for plant oil based fuels; from cellulose nano-crystals and fibre-enhanced bioplastics, to the design of micro-dosing technologies for nutrients, fertilisers and pesticides, to intelligent nano-bio-sensors and environmental sensors that improve agriculture and make it more sustainable_____Source


Delft's new department of bionanoscience aims to explore the full range of potential for the interface of the two disciplines. That will be impossible, of course, but it is a very good goal.
There are several areas where bionanoscience could impact on the path to the next level. Certainly bionano tools (almost makes you want to say "banana" tools) will affect the way genetic changes are made to the human genome. Bionano will impact brain-machine interfacing. Bionano sensors will allow remote control by thought, of robotic manipulators in space and undersea environments.

The list of ways that bionano will change our world, and help shape new levels of existence, is too long. It would be premature to try to make such a list.

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