What is Nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology is a collective term encompassing aspects of various scientific fields, such as physics, chemistry, biology, etc. The term 'Nanotechnology' has been receiving substantial coverage in popular media, from news reports to books and adventure/science fiction movies and television.


City street, pin, cells, DNA strand

Nano means 10-9, or 1 billionth. A nanometre in therefore 1 billionth of a metre. This is several hundred times smaller than the wavelength of visible light (10-7m). Nanotechnology, or nanoscience, refers to the science and technology of objects that have dimensions on this length scale. Exact definitions for how small an object has to be to qualify as nano can vary, but it is generally taken to be 100nm or less.

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Carbon nanotube and Indium atomic wires

So what's so special about this? When the dimensions of a material become this small the matarial can behave in unusual or atypical ways. Scientists and engineers can make use of this behaviour in the fabrication of new and exciting electronic devices, medicines and biotechnology, strong materials and coatings, to name but a few. To learn more, click on nanotechnology fundamentals, or uses of nanotechnology.

For further information on how nanotechnological objects are created and manipulated, see fabrication and tools.

To learn more about the evolution of nanotechnology up to present times, see the timeline.