NANOTECHNOLOGY: Introduction

Introduction

The fast development in the disciplines like biotechnology and bioengineering has transformed agricultural into a modern industry. Nanotechnology, another upcoming discipline has revolutionary applications in pharmaceuticals, electronics, military, manufacturing, and other life sciences. Nanotechnology is the understanding and manipulating matter at scales measurable in nanometers (1-100 nm) at least in one direction (NNI 2007). At nanoscale, the surface area of the particles is very large relative to their small size, which can make them very reactive. Due to the very small size and high reactivity, the fundamental properties of the matter at nano-scale may differ from that of corresponding bulk material. These novel properties may help in the development of revolutionary technologies having application in different fields. For example, carbon in the form of graphite is relatively soft but nano form of carbon nanotubes (made of carbon atoms) is 117 times stronger than steel and 30 times stronger than kevlar (Chang et al. 2010). Thermal behavior of nanoscale materials may also differ from bulk materials (Pivkina et al. 2004). Aluminum in its bulk form does not burn, however, aluminum nanoparticles combusts rapidly and are used as propellant in rocket fuel. Precise use of such novel materials can lead to enormous economic and societal benefits. Thousands of nanotechnology based products are already in the market in the form of medicines, cosmetics, food packaging, formulations, electronics etc. Payday Loans Online

The progressive development of novel nanoscale materials and related technologies has significant applications in food and agriculture systems (Joseph and Morrison 2006). Nanosensors and nanobased formulations of agricultural chemicals (pesticides, herbicides etc.) are some of the current applications of nanotechnology in agriculture. The role of nanoparticles (NPs) has been proposed as low cost technology for purification of drinking water (Yavuz et al. 2006) and mineralization of undesired organic pollutants (Mach 2004). Nanoparticles may be used for the remediation of polluted soil and groundwater (Zhang 2003). Thus through different means or applications, nanomaterial can come in contact with soil and waterbodies. Besides, the advancement in the use of various engineered nanoparticles in commercial products and industries like medicines, cosmetics, electronic appliances etc. is bound to impact agriculture directly indirectly or accidently. The nanomaterials entering water and soil ecological systems might affect soil and plant health and/or might be bioaccumulated through the food chain and finally accumulated in higher-level organisms. Although soil is a rich source of natural nanoparticles, little is known about the impact of engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) on food crops. Furthermore, there is lack of information on the effect/fate of these ENPs in the soil and food chain (Darlington et al. 2009). Accumulation of NPs may affect microbial communities which act as soil health indicators and also interact with plants in different ways. Plants play important role in ecological system and may serve as a potential pathway for NPs transport and a route for bioaccumulation into the food chain (Zhu et al. 2008). How these nanomaterials interact with biological systems at molecular level is not yet known (Maynard 2006). These interactions may be positive, negative or neutral (Fig. 1).

Although, advances in nanotechnology can help in using agricultural inputs more effectively, enhancing agricultural productivity in a sustainable manner, the nanomaterials used in agriculture may also become new environmental hazards themselves. Such technologies may also pose potential risks which may be hidden initially but may be realized at later stages. Asbestos is a current example of use of technology without knowing the consequences, disadvantages of which far outweighed the benefits. The toxic effects of nanoparticles on prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms have been recently summarized (Ostroumov and Kotelevtsev 2011). It is necessary to review effects and possible consequences of nanomaterials related technologies on soil and plant health before expanding the application of this technology in different dimensions.

Nanotechnology Scope and Limitations in_decrypted-2

Figure 1. Interactions of Nano-materials with Biological Systems

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