Nanorobotics is a field that seeks to create very tiny robots. It combines the engineering requirements of robotics with the scale of nanotechnology to build machines that are as small as the very molecules that make up matter.

In 1959, the famous American physicist Richard Feynman gave a talk entitled, “There’s Room at the Bottom”. In it, he mentioned a device that could write “The Lord’s Prayer” on the head of a pin. Then he asked, “Why can’t we write the entire 24 volumes of the “Encyclopaedia Brittanica” on the head of a pin?” The talk was an eye-opener that inspired many engineers and arguably sparked the beginning of nanorobotics.

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The term “nanorobotics” refers to the discipline of creating and using tiny robots or artificial intelligence (AI)-powered machines to perform tasks. A nanorobot is very small, making it comparable in scale to a molecular component.

History of Nanorobotics

Nanorobotics traces back its roots to physicist Richard Feynman and his infamous 1959 speech, “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom.” His idea was to create miniature devices that could store vast amounts of information.

But, it was only after Eric Drexler published his book, “Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology,” in 1986 that kickstarted the nanorobotics field into full motion. His idea was to create minuscule-sized devices that can work with one another to perform a specific task.

Challenges of Nanorobotics

The global nanotechnology market is currently worth US$75 billion. However, like any market, the nanorobotics industry also faces challenges. The size of nanorobots, for instance, makes them hard to design due in large part to the lack of small tools. Nanorobots also need to be built on a massive scale, as you need billions of nanorobots to perform a single task. That does not mean they aren’t worth creating, though, as they have tons of potential uses.

Promising Nanorobotics Applications

Although gaps and challenges still need to be addressed for nanorobots to become a reality, many foresee possible game-changing applications for them such as:

  • Nanorobots can accurately pinpoint and treat cancer cells, thus lessening the adverse effects of chemotherapy on patients’ healthy cells.
  • They can gather the vast sums of data stored in a gram of DNA.
  • Nanorobots can reduce machines’ energy requirements.
  • They can clean polluted bodies of water if used as microsponges that soak up pesticides and fertilizers.
  • Nanorobots can serve as drug-delivery mechanisms for disease prevention and treatment.
  • They can act as health sensors for the proactive detection of issues with a person’s vital signs such as body temperature, heart rate, and the like.
  • Nanorobots can use super-strong materials so they can aid in building construction.
  • They can connect the human brain to the Internet.
  • Nanorobots can treat genetic diseases by correcting irregularities in genes.
  • They can help in dental procedures such as administering oral anesthesia, repairing hard-to-reach teeth, and so on.