What is Nanotechnology?
The prefix Nano in the words Nanofabrication and Nanotechnology comes from the word nanometer (nm) which is the term for one billionth of a meter. Hence the words refer to making and using "things" which are in this nanometer size range. In its broadest usage, the term nanotechnology covers making structures in the range of 1 nm to 100 nm. These are truly small sizes as can be realized by noting that something one nanometer in length is only about five atoms long. Nanofabrication and nanotechnology are engineering at the atomic length scale - a size range which until recently was only available to nature. Being able to engineer such small things opens the door to a multitude of new opportunities. These include making extremely fine diameter but incredibly strong fibers atom by atom, making extremely small probes that can look at individual strands of DNA for uses such as disease detection, and making man-made capillary systems to bring nutrients to man-made replacement organs.
Nanofabrication also includes creating structures to hold molecules that change their electrical conducting properties in the presence of toxins opening the door to new chemical and biological substance detectors. It includes creating electrically "wired-up" molecules that change their electrical conducting properties in the presence of charge opening the door to a new class of transistors and molecular electronics. Today even semiconductor electronics is really nanoelectronics since a state-of-the-art conventional transistor is now only about 100 nanometers in length.
To finally be useful, all of these nano-engineered "things" have to be macro-engineered into systems. For example, the atomic level fibers have to be assembled into materials to allow the creation of structural members of incredible strength and the molecular transistors have to be assembled into circuits to allow the creation of computers of incredible speed and memory capacity.
Nanotechnology Links and Resources
National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN) Sites:
Nanotechnology Industry News Sites:
Government Nanotechnology Sites:
Nanotechnology Education Resources: