Another aspect of nanotechnology that needs to be considered with regard to HPM is in the realm of biointerfaces. Nanoparticles can be smaller than cells, and this opens the possibility of using them to interact directly on a cellular level by inserting them into the body. A straightforward application is to enhance sensory perception via subdermal nanoparticles. Recently, Nokia filed a patent for a tattoo containing nanoparticles that vibrate when a cell-phone call is received.5 It is easy to imagine how such a consumer device can be applied to the battlefield; for instance, the tattoo could be coupled to chemical sensors to alert soldiers to the presence of toxic gases or explosives.
A more invasive use of nanotechnology for HPM is in the development of neural implants. These devices are implanted directly into the brain to detect electric signaling. To increase the signal-to-noise ratio and resolution, the probes need to be on the same scale as the neurons that they monitor, that is, a few micrometers. Furthermore, they must be made of materials that are biocompatible and produce little or no damage and scarring of the surrounding tissue. To achieve that, sophisticated nanomaterials are being developed.
Although much of the research in nanotechnology began in the United States, continued development for electronics and related applications is taking place globally, spurred largely by the consumer and military markets. U.S. superiority in the development of these and newer technologies cannot be assumed, especially given that a large fraction of the manufacturing of state-of-the-art electronics is taking place in Asia. The United States is a leader in basic research in neural engineering, but laboratories in Europe and in Asia (China in particular) are also active.
4For more information about Google Glasses, see https://plus.google.com/u/0/111626127367496192147/posts. Accessed May 3, 2012.
5For more information, see https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B23n8sehUZyqckhLaG9qZ0hRSXFnQkctYXhDYTY4dw/edit?pli=1. Accessed June 27, 2012.