Chapter 1


Nanotechnology refers to the development of new techniques, materials and devices that have features on a nanometer size scales, generally considered in the 1–100 nm range. The term was popularized in the 1980’s by K. Eric Drexler, especially in his book, The Engines of Creation (Drexler, 1986), but the term was coined in the context of semiconductor technology (Taniguchi, 1974). One goal of nanotechnologists is to design materials that can be created by combining smaller subunits in a deterministic manner, so called bottom-up assembly. Much of the development in nanotechnology has been accomplished by material scientists, chemists and physicists and the first decade of this century has seen many products with materials containing nanometer-scale features enter the market place (Rejeski, 2009). The subfield of bionanotechnology (or nanobiotechnology), the use of biological systems and materials for nanotechnology or to affect biological systems has also been fruitful. From biological molecules to cells, components of living systems have nanometer-scale features that are created from smaller subunits (amino acids, nucleotides, etc.), examples of bottom-up assembly often cited by nanotechnologists as paradigms of what the field should be capable of achieving. Of especial relevance to the research we will be describing in this monograph is bionanotechnology focusing on four areas: 1) Using whole bacteriophages or components as biological sensors; 2) Use of phage display to develop bacteriophage as guides for material synthesis; 3) Development of nanoparticles (quantum dots) with biological activity; and 4) Use of self-assembling biomolecules. This last includes both protein and nucleic acid systems. We review these briefly here but for more thorough discussions see (Hyman, 2012; Mahasneh, 2013; Niemeyer, 2010; Zelzer and Ulijn, 2010). As well, the August 2014 issue of Current Opinion in Biotechnology (volume 28) is focused in part on nanobiotechnology.

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