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Review Of: Engineering, Biology, and Nanotechnology

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Essay title: Review Of: Engineering, Biology, and Nanotechnology

Article: Engineering, Biology, and Nanotechnology

Written by Chris Phoenix, CRN Director of Research (CRN stands for Centre for Responsible Nanotechnology)

Date published: April 2004

Source: The Internet

Web page:,


The author thesis statement is to discuss how Engineering and Biology compete and combine to form the relatively new science called Ў§NanotechnologyЎЁ.

The methodology used by the writer, member of CNRЎXCenter for Responsible NanotechnologyЎX, is mostly the exemplification of the concepts, stating differences and similarities between Engineering and Biology to give a clear idea of what is being projected for Nanotechnology.

My interest in the article was born in my curiosity for Nanotechnology. Besides, I was driven to choose this article, for it has information on my future career plans.


At the beginning of the article Phoenix gives an every day analogy between a dog and computer. He compares them to state that none of them is the best. Both have their own advantages in their fields.

The Engineering is committed solve problems with certain accuracy being the mainly goal to solve a matter. In the other hand, Biology attempts to survive and reproduce. Over billions of years the process of trial and error accumulated a huge array of solutions to an astonishing diversity of problems, writes Phoenix.

In this case the Mother Nature has been the only one capable to produce organisms at the nanoscale. These nano-organisms turned out to be very complex and successful in their attempts to survive and reproduce. Ў§The belief that there is something magical or mystical about life is called vitalismЎЁ writes Phoenix. This definition is being turned down by several modern scientists, who according to technical advances have found no true in the mystical implication of vitalism

For instance, Phoenix explains, in the past it was believed that Organic materials could only be synthesised out of inorganic elements by living creatures. Now the scientists have discovered that organic chemical can actually be obtained from Inorganic molecules by engineering process.

The writer disagrees with some modern scientists, who maintain the idea that Biology is magic; by saying that to achieve some Biology-based goal engineers does not need to copy exactly all the Biology steps to achieve a stable and reliable system. A direct copy from Biology is called biomimesis. This is always good in moderation.

Biology has billions of years dealing with structures problems, yet Engineering results to be some times more convenient.

However, he explains that Biology and Engineering already use some similar techniques. It is always easy to put Biology over Engineering, for its capability to health itself; he writes. But in the case of people painting a bridge to avoid rust and the remora-small fishes around big sharks- eating sharkЎ¦s parasites, we can find a sort of analogy. Besides, he writes further, ЎҐEngineering and biology alike are very good at ignoring effects that are irrelevant to their functionЎ¦ (pg3, phr4)

Some facts would never change between Engineering and Biology, because of their nature. Biology plays sometimes with the complexity of its designs in a way simply incomprehensible, to obtain its evolution characteristics. While ЎҐplayingЎ¦ Biology could change the structures completely. Engineering can not allow itself to perform such a technique, because it is suppose to be predictable in a 100% rate. Just imagine, Phoenix says, get cars with five wheels when we want all of them to have 4 wheels.

Which techniques to use when producing nanomachines, nanosystems? Biology has been the only one in producing successful systems at that scale, but should we ЎҐbiomimeЎ¦ everything in their design? Copy everything we find in our path? Phoenix state some scientists in his work, who have proposed build nanosystems using different types of chemicals. Biology uses water in Organic Chemistry to move elements from one place to another. These new idea pretend use inert gases to the same purpose while getting advantages the use of water cannot provide. The inert gases are stronger into certain extent providing at the same time new issues to solve with what we already know ЎVEngineering problem-solving abilities.


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