Nano 411



What is Nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology is defined as the manipulation of matter at the nanoscale, which is between 1 and 100 nanometers (a nanometer being one-billionth of a meter). To put that into perspective, a sheet of paper is roughly 100,000 nanometers thick.
Although the study of nanomaterials and the idea of the engineering of materials at an atomic scale have been around since the mid 1900's, consumer products made with the use of nanotechnology only hit the marketplace in the late 90's. With nanotechnology being relatively new on the scene, there is still a lot of room for further development of products with the use of nanotechnology. The United States alone has budgeted $1.5 billion in the 2015 Federal Budget for the National Nanotechnology Initiative. Today it is being used to improve the quality of a large variety of products. In everything from medical equipment to automotive equipment, household items, weapons, clothing, and even toys, you will find products made with the use of nanotechnology.

How is nanotechnology improving the products we buy?

Nanomaterials possess unique physical, chemical, mechanical, and optical properties not seen in materials of a larger scale. Scientists are able to "fine-tune" these unique characteristics that occur at the nanoscale to make many of the products we already use stronger, lighter, more durable, antimicrobial, water and scratch-resistant, anti-reflective, among many other improved characteristics.

Nanomaterials have a surface area that is far greater than larger-scale materials of similar masses. A greater surface area = improved reactivity.  Scientists are able to use this technology for a number of great things. Such as nanoengineered batteries, fuel cells, and catalysts could potentially make producing and storing energy cleaner, safer, and more affordable. Some nanomaterials that are more chemically reactive and reflect light better can also be used for things like ultrasensitive detection and identification of biological and chemical toxins.

Cited Sources:

United States. NSET. Nano. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2014.

For information on consumer products and enviromental, health, and safety research, visit The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies here.