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What is Nanotechnology?


Physicist Richard Feynman first suggested that nanotechnology was theoretically possible in a 1959 presentation to the American Physical Society stating, "The principles of physics, as far as I can see, do not speak against the possibility of maneuvering things atom by atom." He took it further and said, “It is my intention to offer a prize of $1,000 to the first guy who can take the information on the page of a book, and put it on an area 1/25,000 smaller in linear scale, in such manner that it can be read by an electron microscope.” The Pease group at Stanford won the prize in 1985 for writing a page of text in a 6 micron square. Feynman’s vision of building materials from atoms “up” is sometimes called “molecular manufacturing” or “MNT” (molecular nanotechnology).


Nanotechnology, as defined in current terms, exploits the observation that things happen differently at the nanoscale. Whereas at the macro scale, traditional physics explains most of what we see (e.g. gravity, mass, acceleration), as we approach the nanoscale, van der Waals and Brownian effects, and finally powerful Quantum effects play an increasing role.

Nanotechnology is the study, design, creation, synthesis, manipulation, and application of functional materials, devices, and systems through control of matter and energy at the nanometer scale. Further it entails the exploitation of novel phenomena, including the properties of matter, energy, and information at the molecular, atomic, and sub atomic levels.

Or more simply, Nanotechnology is the array of technologies that use properties of materials that are unique to structures at the nanoscale.


Fabrication methods are also important in Nanotechnology. As described by the Institute of Nanotechnology, “The two fundamentally different approaches to nanotechnology are graphically termed 'top down' and 'bottom up'. 'Top-down' refers to making nanoscale structures by machining and etching techniques, whereas 'bottom-up', or molecular nanotechnology, applies to building organic and inorganic structures atom-by-atom, or molecule-by-molecule. Top-down or bottom-up is a measure of the level of advancement of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology, as applied today, is still in the main at what may be considered the more primitive 'top-down' stage.”

Nanotechnology Applications

Some applications of Nanotechnology have been in use for decades, such as the science of catalysis and the design and manufacture of catalysts for processing, refining and automotive uses. Other uses are in sun screen, corrosion resistance, solar conversion and materials sciences. Promising future uses are in advanced electronics, solar conversion, drug delivery, implantable sensors, and sensory aids, among others.

SmallTech can consult with you to help improve and extend your Nanotechnology devices - and we can help you evaluate whether new Nanotechnology application areas would make sense for your company.

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