Nanotechnology is defined as an engineering science and technology conducted at the nanoscale (from 1 to 100 nanometers) that studies the application of minute things. Nanotechnology is also used in many other science fields, including chemistry, biology, physics, materials science, and engineering.
How it Started
The physicist Richard Feynman in his talk titled "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom" first introduced the fundamental ideas and concepts nanoscience and nanotechnology are based on at an American Physical Society meeting at the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) on December 29, 1959. This happened long before the term nanotechnology was used. In his talk, Feynman focused on a process would allow scientists to manipulate and control individual atoms and molecules. More than ten years later, Professor Norio Taniguchi who was working at ultraprecision machining, coined the term nanotechnology. But modern nanotechnology as a science began in 1981, when the scanning tunneling microscope that could "spot" individual atoms was created.
Fundamental Concepts in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology
To realize just how small nanotechnology is consider the following facts.
- One nanometer is a billionth of a meter, or 10-9 of a meter.
- A sheet of newspaper is about 100,000 nanometers thick.
- An inch consists of 25,400,000 nanometers.
- If we assume that marble were a nanometer, one meter would be the size of the Earth.
Nanoscience and nanotechnology enable scientists to see and control individual atoms and molecules. Everything on Earth consists of atoms, including our own bodies, the food we eat, the apparel we wear, the houses we live in. But it's impossible to see an atom with the naked eye, and even with the microscopes used in a high school science classes. Such super power microscopes that could see very small things at the nanoscale were invented only 30 years ago. As soon as scientists obtained the right tools, the scanning tunneling microscope (STM) and the atomic force microscope (AFM), the age of nanotechnology began.
Even though modern nanoscience and nanotechnology are quite young, people have been using nanoscale materials for centuries. Medieval artists used alternate-sized gold and silver particles to create colors in the stained glass windows that adorned churches hundreds of years ago. The artists were just unaware then that the technique they employed actually caused the changes in the composition of the materials they were using to create those amazing pieces of art.
These days scientists and engineers are deliberately searching for methods to make materials at the nanoscale to benefit from their enhanced properties like lighter weight, higher strength, increased control of light spectrum, and greater chemical reactivity compared to their larger-scale counterparts.