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Nano Facts

  • The word nano is from the Greek word 'Nanos' meaning Dwarf. It is a prefix used to describe "one billionth" of something.
  • A nanometre (nm) is a billionth of a metre, or a millionth of a millimetre.
  • 1 nanometre is about 8 times the radius of an atom and 100 times smaller than a bacterial cell. At this scale matter reacts differently, for example, a material's melting point may change or it may become more reactive.
  • A human hair is 80,000 nm in diameter.
  • Nanoscience works on a scale 1000 times smaller than anything that can be seen with an optical microscope.
  • We are already surrounded by billions of nano-particles, such as wind borne sea salt and chemicals generated by oceanic plankton.
  • A new form of carbon with a cylindrical nanostructure - the nanotube - was discovered in 1991.
  • Nanotubes have novel properties including extraordinary strength and unique electrical properties.
  • These mechanical and electrical properties make nanotubes potentially useful in many applications from electronics to everyday items like clothes and sports gear
  • The discovery of another nanoscale carbon form, C60, called the buckyball, brought the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Robert Curl, Sir Harold Kroto, and Richard Smalley. It started an avalanche of research into other nanoscale materials.
  • Nanotechnology is already applied commercially in products ranging from mobile phones, computer discs, tennis rackets and golf clubs to sunscreens and cosmetics.
  • L'Oreal have developed nanosize vesicles called nanosomes. They are used to transport active ingredients such as pure Vitamin E through the skin
  • Nanoscience is not just one science. It is a platform that includes biology, chemistry, physics, materials science and engineering.
  • Nanotechnology was first introduced in 1959 by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman. He proposed using normal-sized robots to construct smaller replicas of themselves and then using the new set to manufacture an even smaller set, and so on, until the molecular scale is reached.
  • It is widely accepted that nanotechnology could revolutionize our lives over the next 20 years. Particular fields include disease identification and cure, drug discovery and delivery, environmentally friendly renewable energy sources, and ultra-high speed mobile telecommunications.
  • Nanotechnology is multidisciplinary. Materials scientists, mechanical and electronic engineers and medical researchers are teaming up with biologists, physicists and chemists. Research at the nanoscale is unified by the need to pool knowledge on tools and techniques and to share expertise.
  • Nanotechnology is already having an impact on novel foods, medical devices, chemical coatings, personal health testing kits, sensors for security systems, water purification units for manned space craft, displays for hand-held computer games, and high-resolution cinema screens.
  • Self-assembly at the scale of molecules is commonly employed by nature within every living cell but it is very rarely used in engineering procedures.
  • Nanotechnology enables new developments in electronics, medicine, healthcare and in many consumer products.
  • Nanotechnology will change our lives in many ways. It is important that it is developed responsibly and that it also addresses the concerns of citizens.
  • At the Nano level the differences between scientific disciplines fade. Nanotechnology needs new approaches that cross the tradition boundaries between physics, chemistry, biology and engineering.
  • The challenge of nanotechnology is to produce useful new materials with customised properties.
  • Nanostructures can be created by a 'bottom-up' assembly of individual atoms and molecules. Nature has been using bottom-up nanotechnology in the biological processes of all living things for billions of years.
  • To turn nanoscience into successful technologies will require integration of the sciences and a new type of researcher with a broad interdisciplinary view.
  • Nanobiotechnology combines nano-scale engineering with biology in order to manipulate living systems and to build biologically inspired materials at the molecular level.
  • Nanomaterials are created by precisely controlling structure at the nanoscale dimensions to produce new materials.
  • Nanoelectronics continues from the development in microelectronics, especially for computers, but now at significantly smaller size-scales.

Last updated 19 September 2013