In some senses, nanoscience and nanotechnologies are not new. Chemists have been making polymers, which are large molecules made up of nanoscale subunits, for many decades and nanotechnologies have been used to create the tiny features on computer chips for the past 20 years.
However, advances in the tools that now allow atoms and molecules to be examined and probed with great precision have enabled the expansion and development of nanoscience and nanotechnologies.
- Nanoscale: having one or more dimensions of the order of 100 nm or less.
- Nanoscience: the study of phenomena and manipulation of materials at atomic, molecular and macromolecular scales, where properties differ significantly from those at a larger scale.
- Nanotechnology: the design, characterization, production and application of structures, devices and systems by controlling shape and size at the nanoscale.
- Nanomaterial: material with one or more external dimensions, or an internal structure, which could exhibit novel characteristics compared to the same material without nanoscale features.
- Nanoparticle: particle with one or more dimensions at the nanoscale. (Note: In the present report, nanoparticles are considered to have two or more dimensions at the nanoscale).
- Nanocomposite: composite in which at least one of the phases has at least one dimension on the nanoscale.
- Nanostructured: having a structure at the nanoscale.
This trend is driven by companies' ongoing quest to improve existing products by creating smaller components and better performance materials, all at a lower cost.
A prime example of an industry where nanoscale manufacturing technologies are employed on a large scale and throughout is the semiconductor industry where device structures have reached the single nanometers scale. Your smartphone, smartwatch or tablet all are containing billions of transistors on a computer chip the size of a finger nail.
The research and development of nanotechnology is very active globally, and nanotechnologies are already used in hundreds of products, including sunscreens, cosmetics, textiles, and sports equipment.
Nanotechnology is also being developed for use in drug delivery, biosensors, and other biomedical applications. Further, nanotechnologies are also being developed for use in environmental applications, e.g., clean-up of environmental pollutants.