Nanotechnology (sometimes shortened to "nanotech") is the study of manipulating matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Generally, nanotechnology deals with developing materials, devices, or other structures possessing at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometres. Quantum mechanical effects are important at this quantum-realm scale.
Federal spending on nanotechnology has increased more than 75% in the last five years -- from $849 million in 2004 to more than $1.5 billion proposed for 2009.
After all, nanotech involves rearranging not just DNA and the other building blocks of life — already a source of controversy in biotechnology — but the very atoms and molecules that make up all matter. If that is not messing around in God’s closet, what is?
Technology skeptics have contended that some innovations are being deployed with too little attention to potential negative consequences. Scattered laboratory research programs have suggested that nanoscale particles can lodge in the brain, lungs and other organs, although the effects of that are not known. Tests also show that some may be toxic to plants and other organisms.
Nanotechnology is putting a new spin on the age-old notion of gold as a skin-aging treatment, as researchers with the University of Missouri pursue a new emollient and dermal filler product that boasts gold as a key ingredient.
The product line, dubbed Dermele, is still in the preliminary stage, but the researchers say they have already seen strong enough evidence of skin rejuvenation to take the next step of determining its efficacy in animal studies.
Probably the most visible nanotech product to date are the stain- and wrinkle-resistant slacks developed by Greensboro, North Carolina-based Nano-Tex LLC and sold by Eddie Bauer, Lee Jeans and several other retailers.
Billions of tiny whiskers create a thin cushion of air above the cotton fabric, smoothing out wrinkles and allowing liquids to bead up and roll off without a trace.
A 2006 study by the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice commissioned by the Mid-Atlantic Nanotechnology Alliance (MANA®) showed nanotechnology will potentially affect 7,500 companies in 11 industries, and directly impact over 100,000 jobs in the Mid-Atlantic region alone.
“By 2015, industry analysts estimate that consumer spending on nanotech-enabled products could reach $12.5 trillion annually on upgraded, everyday products, super-electronic communications, and life-saving medical devices,” said Mitch Horowitz, Director of Strategy at the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice.
The evidence suggests that adding a sprinkle of nanoparticles to water can improve its thermal conductivity, and thus its ability to remove heat from something that is in contact with it, by as much as 60%. In a world where the cost of coolth is a significant economic drain (industrial cooling consumes 7% of the electricity generated within the European Union) that offers a worthwhile gain.
"When many people think of nanotechnology, however, they think of other, more exotic kinds of devices: nanomachines or medical applications in which tiny machines circulate in the bloodstream cleaning out fat deposits from our arteries, for example. Such technologies are much further off, probably 25 years at least. In those kinds of applications, the problem often lies as much in defining a useful, appropriate application for nanotechnology as it does in actually building the nanostructure."
It’s hard to imagine just how small nanotechnology is. One nanometer is a billionth of a meter, or 10-9 of a meter. Here are a few illustrative examples:
There are 25,400,000 nanometers in an inch
A sheet of newspaper is about 100,000 nanometers thick
On a comparative scale, if a marble were a nanometer, then one meter would be the size of the Earth
Nanotechnology is science, engineering, and technology conducted at the nanoscale, which is about 1 to 100 nanometers. Nanoscience and nanotechnology are the study and application of extremely small things and can be used across all the other science fields, such as chemistry, biology, physics, materials science, and engineering. Nanotechnology is not just a new field of science and engineering, but a new way of looking at and studying .