Nanotechnology is science, engineering, and technology conducted at the nanoscale, which is about 1 to 100 nanometers. Nanotechnology (or “nanotech“) is manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale. The earliest, widespread description of nanotechnology referred to the particular technological goal of precisely manipulating atoms and molecules for fabrication of macroscale products, also now referred to as molecular nanotechnology. A more generalized description of nanotechnology was subsequently established by the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which defined nanotechnology as the manipulation of matter with at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers. This definition shows the fact that quantum mechanical effects are important at this quantum-realm scale, and so the definition shifted from a particular technological goal to a research category inclusive of all types of research and technologies that deal with the special properties of matter which occur below the given size threshold. It is therefore common to see the plural form “nanotechnologies” as well as “nanoscale technologies” to refer to the broad range of research and applications whose common trait is size.
Nanotechnology as defined by size is naturally broad, including fields of science as diverse as surface science, organic chemistry, molecular biology, semiconductor physics, energy storage, engineering, microfabrication, and molecular engineering. The associated research and applications are equally diverse, ranging from extensions of conventional device physics to completely new approaches based upon molecular self-assembly, from developing new materials with dimensions on the nanoscale to direct control of matter on the atomic scale.
The nanomaterials field includes subfields which develop or study materials having unique properties arising from their nanoscale dimensions.
- Interface and colloid science has given rise to many materials which may be useful in nanotechnology, such as carbon nanotubes and other fullerenes, and various nanoparticles and nanorods.
- Nanoscale materials can also be used for bulk applications; most present commercial applications of nanotechnology are of this flavor.
- Progress has been made in using these materials for medical applications.
- Nanopillars are sometimes used in solar cells which combats the cost of traditional silicon solar cells.
- Development of applications incorporating semiconductor nanoparticles to be used in the next generation of products, such as display technology, lighting, solar cells and biological imaging; see quantum dots.
- Recent applications of nanomaterials include a range of biomedical applications, such as tissue engineering, drug delivery, and biosensors.
It is a highly multidisciplinary field, drawing from fields such as applied physics, materials science, colloidal science, device physics, supramolecular chemistry, and even mechanical and electrical engineering.
Two main approaches are used in nanotechnology.
In the “bottom-up” approach, materials and devices are built from molecular components which assemble themselves chemically by principles of molecular recognition.
In the “top-down” approach, nano-objects are constructed from larger entities without atomic-level control.
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. These methods are used today to produce a wide variety of useful chemicals such as pharmaceuticals or commercial polymers.
The Watson-Crick base pairing rules are a direct result of this, as is the specificity of an enzyme being targeted to a single substrate, or the specific folding of the protein itself. Thus, two or more components can be designed to be complementary and mutually attractive so that they make a more complex and useful whole.
Main tools for nanotechnology are the scanning tunneling microscope (STM) and the atomic force microscope (AFM).
- Everyday Materials and Processes
- Electronics and IT Applications
- Medical and Healthcare Applications
- Energy Applications
- Environmental Remediation
- Research and development of bio tools
- Future Transportation Benefits