1. What are the applications of nanotechnology in defence and space sectors? Discuss.
रक्षा और अंतरिक्ष क्षेत्रों में नैनो तकनीक के अनुप्रयोग क्या हैं? चर्चा करें।
Nanotechnology is manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale. This technology is emerging as an ‘industrial force’ worldwide. It has the potential to reduce costs with its multiple applications and the inherent ability to produce new materials like non-corroding and flexible iron.
Nanotechnology: Definition and concept
- NT has two different but important meanings. One is a broad, stretched version that includes any technology dealing with something less than 100 nanometres in size.
- The other is the original meaning and refers to designing and building machines in which every atom and chemical bond is specified precisely.
- NT is technology that operates anywhere within the nanometre length of scale. One nanometre is one billionth (10-9) of a metre. This is the realm of the atom, the smallest unit of an element.
- NT mainly consists of the ‘processing, separation, consolidation, and deformation of materials by one atom or one molecule’.
- The most important aspect of nanotechnology-enabled products is the miniaturization of devices and the diverse functionalities that can be integrated within a singular system.
Nanotech in defence sector
Nanotechnology is an area of science and technology that holds highly promising prospects for military applications, considering its wide applicability in defensive as well as offensive operations.
- Electronics is one area in which NT is making great strides. The use of NT applications will drastically reduce the cost and increase the performance of memory, displays, processors, solar powered components, and embedded intelligence systems.
- Miniaturization is expected to help microprocessors run much faster, thereby enabling computations at far greater speeds.
- In sensor manufacturing, NT has larger utility because it allows the production of smaller sensors down to the size of micrometres.
- Typical applications for such sensors are smoke detectors, ice detectors on aircraft wings, automobile engine performance sensors, etc.
- From a military point of view, the utility of NT in the field of electronics, computers, and sensors would essentially revolve around reducing the size of existing gadgetry and making them more efficient.
- NT is fast emerging as a new frontier in bio-defence. Currently, NT is primarily being used in the development of bio-sensors.
- Some countries are working on extremely small machines and tools that can enter the human body.
- By using a person’s saliva, body fluids, or blood, nanobiosensors can be created to reliably work with pathogens such as viruses.
- Drug and virus development costs can be reduced by using nanochips to test various medications or a combination of chemicals and vaccines.
- Treatment and faster recovery of injuries is possible through nanotech.
- Presently, NT is showing immense promise in the development of various direct and indirect applications useful for bio-defence purposes.
- In the arena of chemical weapons terrorism, NT offers solutions against the usage of chemical agents like VX, HD, GD, and GB. Some nanoparticle oxides like CaO, Al2O3, and MgO interact with such chemicals much faster than microparticles and are ideally suited for fast decomposition of such chemicals.
- A sensing device for detection of nerve-gas agents in the atmosphere has been developed based on NT applications.
- NT-based stronger and lighter materials would allow the building of conventional barrel-type weapons with reduced mass.
- It is conceivable that small arms and light weapons could use barrels, locks etc. made of nanofibre composites.
- Even in respect of ballistic and air-breathing missiles, the reduced mass could translate into a marked increase in speed, range, or payload as well as a reduction in carrier size.
- Micro and nanoscale electronic packages are likely to maintain reliability under extremely harsh conditions resulting from concurrently acting vibrations, high-current density, high-power and high-temperature loads.
- Products such as functionally graded nanocomposites are exciting examples of the potential for NT to bring innovations from the bench to the fleet, while also providing an opportunity for reducing costs.
- Experts are of the view that nanoparticles can be used to mark ships, fishing boats, navigable channels, and delimiting safe heavens.
- The crystals are soluble in paints, fuel, lubricants, speciality chemicals, glues, etc. but cannot be easily counterfeited, removed, or altered by anyone except the authorised agency which designed them.
Aerospace and other defence applications
- Less vulnerable corrosive material is helpful in satellite manufacturing as well.
- Also, such structural materials and the miniaturization as such achieved by NT is likely to play a vital role in designing the next generation of unmanned aerial vehicles/unmannedcombat aerial vehicles.
Space applications of Nanotech
- The life of satellites, to a large extent, is determined by the amount of fuel they can carry on board.
- Onboard ignitors wear out quickly and cease to perform effectively.
- Nanomaterials, such as nanocrsytalline tungsten-titanium diboride-copper composite, are potential candidates for enhancing ignitors’ life and performance characteristics.
Light weight solar panels/cells
- Apart from onboard fuel, satellites in outer space use solar power as a power source for various activities.
- Satellite designers are continuously working on finding the means to reduce the weight of such solar cells.
- Space scientists are trying to adopt nanomaterials as alternative materials to their conventional counterparts.
Applications of aerogels in space craft
- Lighter nanoporous materials like aerogels are found to have wider applicability in spacecraft manufacturing.
- Even some special lightweight suits, jackets etc. could be made using aerogels.
- Aerogels are a low-density solid-state material derived from gel in which the liquid component of the gel has been replaced with gas. The result is an extremely low-density solid with several remarkable properties, most notably its effectiveness as an insulator.
- They are porous and extremely lightweight, yet they can withstand 100 times their weight.
Space weather forecasting
- Knowledge of space weather in the near Earth and solar space environment is critical for space research.
- Nanostructured sensors are expected to play a fundamental role in obtaining information on the ionosphere and other regions of space.
Nanotech in India’s Space and defence sector
- The Government of India initiated a Nanomaterials Science and Technology Mission (NSTM). However, Indian investments in NT are not very encouraging.
- In the defence arena, India’s Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) is working on areas like sensors, high-energy applications, stealth and camouflage, Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical (NBC) attack protection devices, structural applications, nanoelectronics, and characterization.
- Currently, its major focus is on developing various types of sensors, NBC protection/detection devices and developing paint with camouflage characteristics.
- ISRO also launched Nanosatellites, marking a milestone in space research and developments.
Concerns and way forward
- NT applications may harm human health or the environment.
- Such legitimate concerns demand the formulation of tools to handle issues arising out of both civilian and military applications of NT.
- NT could suddenly change the regional/global ‘military balance’. This would increase threat and reduce stability.
- To prevent or at least reduce such risks and instability, limitations can be agreed upon in advance before new weapons or technology are deployed, acting mainly at the stages of development and/or testing, and sometimes at the research stage.
- In the years to come, some non-state actors could also develop or otherwise acquire military-related NTs.
- Since the exact status of technology at this juncture is not known, some of these technologies when developed to their full capability may or may not come under existing export control regulations.
- It is argued that nanomedicine is one field where violation of laws designed under BTWC and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is likely to take place.
- Cost reduction will encourage more and more nanotech designed satelltie launches and may lead to further increase in space traffic and debries.
- Military and space applications of NT are here to stay. States are likely to invest more and more into this technology for exploiting the dual-use nature of this technology. NT offers vital and varied pplications as discussed above.
- For India, nanosensors would have a great potential for real-time border surveillance through wireless networking.
- Certain areas of NT, particularly molecular NT, are still in a nascent form of development and it is difficult to clearly identify their specific uses in defence and space.
- Considering the leader in space reaserach in South Asia, there is huge potential for India in applications of nanotechnology.
(Note: This synopsis has been made detailed to cover all possible applications, you can write some of them.)
Best Answer: SID