Nanotechnologies involve designing and producing objects or structures at a very small scale, on the level of 100 nanometres (100 millionth of a millimetre) or less. Nanomaterials are one of the main products of nanotechnologies – as nano-scale particles, tubes, rods, or fibres. Nanoparticles are normally defined as being smaller that 100 nanometres in at least one dimension.
The main aims of military research into nanotechnology are to improve medical and casualty care for soldiers, and to produce lightweight, strong and multi-functional materials for use in clothing, both for protection and to provide enhanced connectivity. The Ministry of Defence in the UK has predicted that technologies such as medical nanobots and nano-enhanced reconnaissance and communication devices (such as micro-radar for miniature vehicles) will begin to be used from 2030 onwards. Another example of this is sensors – many sensors have already been developed which take advantage of the unique properties of nanomaterials to become smaller and more sensitive, compared to conventional technology.
Another military application of nanotechnology is the development of Nanoweapons. Nanoweapons are any military technology that exploits the power of nanotechnology in the modern battlefield. Nano-weapons may be constructed applying a combination of techniques and materials to produce very small (a nanometer is one-billionth or 10-9 of a meter) mechanical devices or inorganic nano-materials or bio-materials that could interact with, and potentially damage or otherwise alter, a number of different biological or non-biological systems.
Nanotechnology may enable new nuclear weapons (new missile warhead designs featuring pure fusion without a fission trigger), chemical weapons (capsules, active chemical bonding agents employing various vectors for entry into the human body, cells and blood-brain barrier), and biological weapons (capsules, active biological bonding agents for easier entry into body, cells, and brain and an ability to overcome the human body’s immune reaction)
The U.S., Russia and China are believed to be investing billions on nanoweapons research. The Department of Defense (DoD) has shown the feasibility of creating a new class of weaponry – Compact, powerful bombs that use nanometals such as nanoaluminum to create ultra-high burn rate chemical explosives an order of magnitude more powerful than conventional bombs. Nanothermite or “super-thermite” is one example of such a “Metastable Intermolecular Composite” (MIC.)
Just as nano techniques can be designed to deliver medicines to targeted locations within the human body, bioterrorists could use similar techniques to release highly toxic substances to the most vulnerable or desired target areas of the body. According to Del Monte, nanoweapons are much smaller than a strand of human hair and the insect-like nanobots could be programmed to perform various tasks, including injecting toxins into people or contaminating the water supply of a major city. One unsettling prediction Del Monte’s made is that terrorists could get their hands on nanoweapons as early as the late 2020s through black market sources.
As an illustration of the hyper-destructive potential of molecular-manufactured weapons, consider the example of a 200 micron antipersonnel weapon built with nanotechnology that seeks human victims and injects a lethal dose of botulism toxin (100 nanograms or one-hundredth the volume of the antipersonnel weapon); a single suitcase may carry up to 50 billion such weapons – more than enough to destroy the 6.3 billion inhabitants of earth!
“The creation and deployment of nano-weapons represent a potential “existential” threat that could prove to be far more destabilizing to the international system than even nuclear weapons and could even empower non-state actors to wreak havoc and destruction on an unprecedented scale. Any nation, even the United States, would be powerless to resist a foe having a “nanotech advantage” in key areas including battle technology (nano-weapons), physical fitness (nano-enabled biotechnology) and effective command and control (enabled by nano-computing), writes Greg Bonadies in Nano-weapons: Tomorrow’s Global Security Threat
A Cambridge University conference on global catastrophic risk found a 5 percent risk of nanotech weapons causing human extinction before the year 2100. “Nanobots are the real concern about wiping out humanity because they can be weapons of mass destruction,” said Louis Del Monte, a Minnesota-based physicist and futurist. He’s the author of a just released book entitled “Nanoweapons: A Growing Threat To Humanity.”
Conceivable types of nano-weapons are limited only by human imagination and include a variety of agents that may be designed to kill or maim human beings, animals, crops, or attack any of the many environmental systems composing the earth’s fragile ecosystem.
A small sample of the types of potential nanotechnology-based weapons includes the following.
Nano-poisons could be delivered to individual, small group or large group targets, not only to kill or disable, but could also be used to trigger specific brain functions or neural patterns thus effecting a form of mind control, for example, by reducing aggressive impulses or rendering victims pliable and subservient.
“Nano mind erasers” could modify or even erase a person’s memory by inducing a succession of tiny and unnoticeable “micro fields” targeted to certain brain areas creating Alzheimer-like symptoms in its victims.
Nano heart stoppers and stroke inducers would operate by restricting neural or arterial blood flow causing excruciating pain, permanent damage or death to its victims. Invisible nano needles could be projected at victims like bullets from guns at extended distances to arrest victims’ physical movement or otherwise disable them.
Fourth-generation nuclear weapons with nanoscale laser triggers a small thermonuclear fusion bomb using a tritium-deuterium fuel are on the drawing board. Nanotechnology opens up the possibility to manufacture mini-nuke components so small that they are difficult to screen and detect. Furthermore, the weapon (capable of an explosion equivalent to about 100 tons of TNT) could be compact enough to fit into a pocket or purse and weigh about 5 pounds and destroy large buildings or be combined to do greater damage to an area.
In addition to serving as weapons of mass destruction and for targeted assassination, nano devices can operate as “nano-dust spies” for reconnaissance purposes or sentinels in defensive applications. Respiratory, ingestive or dermal exposure to seeming innocuous nano-particles may pose a health hazard depending on the size, surface composition and bioreactivity of the particles and can cause adverse cellular and neural effects.
Is MOAB a nanoweapon?
On 13th April 2017, the United States Military dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat, known as the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) on a network of fortified underground tunnels that ISIS had been using to stage attacks on government forces. On the 15th April, Afghanistan’s defence ministry reported the death of 94 militants including 4 major commanders and that no civilians had been killed in the strike
Although MOAB carries only about 8 tons of explosives, the explosive mixture delivers a destructive impact equivalent of 11 tons of TNT. According to Louis Del Monte , an award winning physicist, inventor, futurist, featured speaker, CEO of Del Monte and Associates, Inc the TNT and powdered aluminum account for over half the explosive payload ( H6),by weight. According to him, “It is highly likely that the “powdered aluminum” is nanoaluminum, since nanoaluminum can enhance the destructive properties of TNT. This argues that H6 is a nano-enhanced explosive, making the MOAB a nanoweapon.”
The United States GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB) was the largest non-nuclear bomb known until Russia detonated the Aviation Thermobaric Bomb of Increased Power, termed the “father of all bombs” (FOAB), in 2007. It is reportedly four times more destructive than the MOAB, even though it carries only 7 tons of explosives versus the 8 tons of the MOAB. Interestingly, the Russians claim to achieve the more destructive punch using nanotechnology.