Nanotechnology is science, engineering, and technology conducted at the nanoscale, which is about 1 to 100 nanometers.
The term was coined in 1974 by Norio Taniguichi of of Tokyo Science University to describe semiconductor processes such as thin-film deposition that deal with control on the order of nanometers. His definition still stands as the basic statement today:
“Nano-technology mainly consists of the processing of separation, consolidation, and deformation of materials by one atom or one molecule.”
A nanometer (nm) is one thousand millionth of a meter. For comparison, a red blood cell is approximately 7,000 nm wide and a water molecule is almost 0.3nm across.
To see where ‘nano’ fits on the scale of things, check out this metric prefix table with examples and an interactive tutorial: View the Milky Way at 10 million light years from the Earth. Then move through space towards the Earth in successive orders of magnitude until you reach a tall oak tree. After that, begin to move from the actual size of a leaf into a microscopic world that reveals leaf cell walls, the cell nucleus, chromatin, DNA and finally, into the subatomic universe of electrons and protons.
Metric Prefixes Table
A metric prefix precedes a basic unit of measure to indicate a decimal multiple or a fraction of that unit. Our metric…
Why Does Nanotechnology Matter?
People are interested in the nanoscale because it is at this scale that the properties of materials can be very different from those at a larger scale.
The bulk properties of materials often change dramatically with nano ingredients. Composites made from particles of nano-size ceramics or metals smaller than 100 nanometers can suddenly become much stronger than predicted by existing materials-science models.
Examples of nanotechnology in modern use are the manufacture of polymers based on molecular structure, and the design of computer chip layouts based on surface science.
Despite the great promise of numerous nanotechnologies such as quantum dots and nanotubes, real commercial applications have mainly used the advantages of colloidal nanoparticles in bulk form, such as suntan lotion, cosmetics, protective coatings, and stain resistant clothing.
Modern synthetic chemistry has reached the point where it is possible to prepare small molecules to almost any structure.
These methods are used today to produce a wide variety of useful chemicals such as pharmaceuticals or commercial polymers.
This ability raises the question of extending this kind of control to the next-larger level, seeking methods to assemble these single molecules into supramolecular assemblies consisting of many molecules arranged in a well defined manner.
These approaches utilize the concepts of molecular self-assembly and/or supramolecular chemistry to automatically arrange themselves into some useful conformation through a bottom-up approach.
The concept of molecular recognition is especially important: molecules can be designed so that a specific conformation or arrangement is favored due to non-covalent intermolecular forces.
It is expected that nanotechnology will change dentistry, health care, and human life more profoundly than many developments of the past. As with all technologies, nanotechnology carries a significant potential for misuse and abuse on a scale and scope never seen before. However, they also have potential to bring about significant benefits, such as improved health, better use of natural resources, and reduced environmental pollution.
Specifically, Nanotech-based products are showing the capability to meet those challenges, including the treatment of life-threatening diseases like cancer.
Thanks for reading this article! Leave a comment below if you have any questions and be sure to sign up for the Nanotechnology newsletter!
Casey Botticello is a partner at Black Edge Consulting. Black Edge Consulting is a strategic communications firm, specializing in online reputation management, digital marketing, and crisis management. Prior to founding Black Edge Consulting, he worked for BGR Group, a bipartisan lobbying and strategic communications firm.
Casey is the founder of the Cryptocurrency Alliance, an independent expenditure-only committee (Super PAC) dedicated to cryptocurrency and blockchain advocacy. He is also the editor of several Medium publications, including Medium Blogging Guide, Strategic Communications, K Street, Wall Street, FAANG, and Escaping the 9 to 5. He is a graduate of The University of Pennsylvania, where he received his B.A. in Urban Studies.