according to Merriam-Webster is: noun the science of manipulating materials on an atomic or molecular scale especially to build microscopic devices.
But what does that really mean?
Nanotechnology is work that is done on the nanoscale which is a very small unit between 3 to 6 atoms across depending on which atoms are used. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. To put it into perspective a sheet of paper is roughly 100,000 nanometers thick, a human hair is about 80,000 nanometers in diameter and your finger nails grow one nanometer a second. To see this small you have to use a scanning probe microscope (which was invented in 1981). What nanotechnology aims to do is to build on that scale and we have begun. This would take manufacturing to a level the likes we have never seen before because atoms are what everything is made of, therefore everything could be impacted and improved.
Nanotechnology was first proposed by Nobel laureate physicist Richard Feynman during his now famous lecture "There's plenty of room at the bottom" at the American Physical Meeting Society at Cal Tech in 1959. He suggested that it could be possible to build nanoscale machines that could "arrange the atoms the way we want”. He also talked about “swallowing the doctor” to repair illnesses, however unlike the film “Fantastic Voyage” there wouldn’t be people inside ones body but rather small nanorobots. Feynman offered cash prizes to inspire the public to create on the nanoscale but interest didn’t really take off until much later.
In 1974 Professor Norio Taniguchi from the University of Tokyo coined the term nanotechnology in his paper “On the Basic
Concept of Nanotechnology" and in 1986 K. Eric Drexler wrote the first book that fully developed and popularized the idea of nanotechnology, "Engines of Creation". Several years later he followed that up with a detailed technical book "Nanosystems" based on his MIT thesis about nanotechnology.
In 1989 IBM became the first to move and control atoms spelling IBM with 35 xenon atoms. In 2001 President Clinton established the National Nanotechnology Initiative or NNI to support nanotechnology research. A lot of research is being done, nanotechnology products are now available and we are making a lot of progress. But this is still a new frontier for us, nanotechnology is at it’s dawn and the future possibilities of nanotechnology are very exciting.
What's the BIG deal about this TINY technology?
The possible future applications could be INCREDIBLY beneficial.
Click the images below to read a brief introduction about each topic, below the expanded images.
Please visit the papers page for more in depth information about these topics and more.
With continued funding and research one day we could see nanotechnology expand to become a major benefit to humanity and the earth.