What is Nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology is the study and application of extremely small things. It spans all scientific disciplines, including chemistry, biology, physics, materials science and engineering.

Researchers in nanotechnology work on the nanoscale, which is about 1 to 100 nanometers. At this size, materials take on distinctive characteristics and quantum properties. Nanotechnology enables scientists to utilize these unique physical, chemical, mechanical, and optical properties to find solutions to many complex issues.

How big is a nanometer?

One nanometer is one billionth of a meter. Here are a few ways to think about just how small that is:

  • There are 25,400,000 nanometers in one inch.
  • A dime is approximately 1,000,000 nanometers thick.
  • The width of a human hair is approximately 100,000 nanometers.
  • The width of a cell membrane is approximately 10 nanometers.
  • If everyone on earth were only one nanometer tall, we could all fit inside of a Hot Wheels car.

How is nanotechnology used?

Nanotechnology is everywhere! Undoubtedly, you have used something that utilized nanomaterials today.

  • Nanoscale thin films on eyeglasses, computer and camera displays, windows, and other surfaces can make them water-repellent, antireflective, antifog, or scratch resistant.
  • Nanoscale additives help fabrics resist wrinkling, staining, and bacterial growth.
  • Nanoscale materials in cosmetic products provide greater clarity or coverage.
  • Nanomaterials are used to strengthen sporting equipment, such as tennis rackets and hockey sticks.
  • Nanomaterials are used to improve the absorption of some pharmaceutical products.

Looking for more information on nanotechnology? Come visit CINS, or check out the National Nanotechnology Initiative.