#AtoZChallenge – Nanorobotics

Time for N in my Sci-Fi themed A-to-Z Challenge!


Nanorobotics is an emerging field of technology aiming to create machines that are on the scale of a nanometre (10−9 meters); machines that can go into a patient, diagnose, and even treat problems directly. The ultimate goal, as depicted in science-fiction, is for traditional surgery to become unnecessary – after all, there’s no need to cut someone open if you can put a doctor right inside them.

In his 1956 short story The Next Tenants, Arthur C. Clarke described tiny machines at the micrometre scale – this story led to many of the concepts seen in modern depictions of nanotechnology. For Star Trek fans, the most well-known depiction of nanobots is the Borg‘s use of nanoprobes to assimilate people into their collective.

Nanobots are popular MacGuffins in sci-fi, either threatening to tear things apart at the molecular level, or working miracles like curing cancer and terminal illnesses.

The Challenges of Making Nanobots Real

Nanobots have to be small enough to get around the complex circulatory system of a human, and they have to carry their own power. They also have to carry all the tools or medicine they need to perform their tasks. The big challenge is getting all of this technology into such a small package! The most promising research seems to be that into DNA nanobots – molecule-sized robots made of the same basic materials that all living things are made of. Clinical trials are ongoing, and it may not be long before incredible breakthroughs are announced.

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