Defining Nanotechnology

Defining Nanotechnology


  • Nanotechnology: Involves the manipulation, control and integration of atoms and molecules to form materials, structures, and systems at the nanoscale (one billionth of a metre).
  • The prefix ‘nano’ comes from the Greek word for ‘dwarf’.

The Nanoscale

  • At the scale of approximately 1 to 100 nanometres, novel properties can be observed, which don’t exist at larger scales.
  • These properties can be physical, chemical or biological in nature.
  • Examples include increased strength, changed colour, and altered conductivity.


  • Nanomaterials are substances constructed at the nanoscale, such as nanoparticles, nanotubes or nanofibers.
  • These materials can exhibit different properties compared to the same material at a larger scale due to their high surface area to volume ratio and quantum effects.

Applications of Nanotechnology

  • Nanotechnology has a wide range of potential applications, impacting sectors like medicine (nanomedicine), electronics, energy, and materials science.
  • In materials science it is often used to create nanostructured materials, where controlling the structure at the nanoscale can realise enhanced material properties.

Health and Safety of Nanotechnology

  • Due to their small size, nanoparticles can be inhaled or absorbed through skin, leading to potential health risks.
  • Responsible handling of nanomaterials is critical, even though the health and environmental impacts are not yet fully understood.
  • Therefore, safety guidelines are a crucial aspect of nanotechnology research and application.