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Biomolecular Nanotechnology is the term coined for synthetic technology based on the principles and chemical pathways of living organisms, ranging from genetic-engineered microbes to custom-made organic molecules. It encompasses the study, creation, and illumination of the connections between structural molecular biology and molecular nanotechnology, since the development of nano-machinery might be guided by studying the structure and function of the natural nano-machines found in living cells. Bionanotechnology seeks to modify and find technological uses of natural nano-components like the nano-motors of ATP synthase and things like using the scaffold of the enzyme complex of cellulosomes for adding new enzymes to make "nanosomes".
In 1965, Gordon Moore, one of the founders of Intel Corporation, made the astounding prediction that the number of transistors that could be fit in a given area would double every 18 months for the next ten years. This it did and the phenomenon became known as Moore's Law. This trend has continued far past the predicted 10 years until this day, going from just over 2000 transistors in the original 4004 processors of 1971 to over 40,000,000 transistors in the Pentium 4. There has, of course, been a corresponding decrease in the size of individual electronic elements, going from millimeters in the 60's to hundreds of nanometers in modern circuitry.
At the same time, the chemistry, biochemistry and molecular genetics communities have been moving in the other direction. Over much the same period, it has become possible to direct the synthesis, either in the test tube or in modified living organisms, of larger and larger and more and more complex molecular structures, up to tens or hundreds of nanometers in size. Enzymes are the molecular devices that drive life and in recent years it has both become possible to manipulate the structures and functions of these systems in vivo and to build complex biomimetic analogues in vitro.
Finally, the last quarter of a century has seen tremendous advances in our ability to control and manipulate light. Solid state lasers are now available for less than the price of a hamburger. We can generate light pulses as short as a few femtoseconds (1 fs = 10−15 s). We can image light with computers. And we can send information almost noiselessly along fiber optics at bandwidths of many gigabytes. Light too has a size and this size is also on the hundred nanometer scale.
Thus now, at the beginning of a new century, three powerful technologies have met on a common scale — the nanoscale — with the promise of revolutionizing both the worlds of electronics and of biology. This new field, which we refer to as biomolecular nanotechnology, holds many possibilities from fundamental research in molecular biology and biophysics to applications in biosensing, biocontrol, bioinformatics, genomics, medicine, computing, information storage and energy conversion.
- Oxford University Bionanotechnology
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