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What is Nanotechnology?

The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (“OECD”) defines nanotechnology as “the set of technologies that enables the manipulation, study or exploitation of very small (typically less than 100 nanometres) structures and systems.” In other words, nanotechnology is the technology of materials around the size of atoms and molecules. Nanotechnology involves working with materials at an incredibly fine scale”around the size of the atoms and molecules that they are made of. But the aim is to achieve something new and useful. By working at the nanometer scale”where one nanometer is a mere one billionth of a meter long”it becomes possible to tap into some unique properties of matter. Many of these properties only become apparent when small clumps of atoms and molecules are carefully constructed and used as the building blocks of larger structures. For instance, some materials can be used in new ways when they are engineered at the nanoscale. Other materials behave in strange new ways that enable innovative new uses.

For answers to frequently asked questions about nanotechnology, visit the website of the National Nanotechnology Initiative in the United States, or any one of the following websites:

Related Topics

What are Nanomaterials?

Additional Resources

  • DiscoverNANO – a history of nanotechnologies and more
  • Nano & Me – a site designed to “provide balanced information about nanotechnologies and be the hub of debate for everyone to discuss the important issues which arise from its use”
  • Nano Reisen – an introduction to nanotechnologies available in English, French, German, and Spanish
  • PEN US NanoMetro Map – map showing the locations of companies, universities, government laboratories, and organizations working in nanotechnology around the United States.

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